Uzbekistan Human Rights “Appalling” – Watchdog
The government of Uzbekistan continues to deny basic human rights to its citizens, torturing detainees, persecuting the faithful, and forcing children to labor in the cotton fields, Human Rights Watch says in its World Report 2012. In essence, the New York-based watchdog says, nothing has changed and Uzbekistan’s record “remains appalling.”
The charges are nothing new to readers of this blog, but for the record:
Uzbek authorities regularly threaten, imprison, ill-treat, and torture human rights defenders and other peaceful civil society activists. In 2011 the Uzbek government continued to harass activists and interfere with independent civil society.
The Uzbek government holds at least 13 human rights defenders in prison, and has brought charges against others, because of their human rights work. They are: Solijon Abdurakhmanov, Azam Formonov, Nosim Isakov, Gaibullo Jalilov, Alisher Karamatov, Jamshid Karimov, Norboi Kholjigitov, Abdurasul Khudainasarov, Ganihon Mamatkhanov, Habibulla Okpulatov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov, and Akzam Turgunov.
Several are in very poor health and at least seven have been ill-treated or tortured in custody. For example, relatives of imprisoned rights defender Gaibullo Jalilov reported after a January 2011 visit that he had been repeatedly tortured, including being beaten with a stick that left him nearly deaf in both ears.
On the 2005 Andijan massacre:
The Uzbek government also continued to intimidate families of Andijan survivors who have sought refuge abroad. Police subject them to constant surveillance, call them for questioning, and threaten them with criminal charges or home confiscation.
On religious freedom:
Uzbek authorities continued their unrelenting, multi-year campaign of arbitrary detention, arrest, and torture of Muslims who practice their faith outside state controls. Over 100 were arrested or convicted in 2011 on charges related to religious extremism.
On forced child labor:
The government continues to force 1.5 to 2 million schoolchildren as young as nine-years-old to help with the cotton harvest for two months a year. They live in filthy conditions, contract illnesses, miss school, and work daily from early morning until evening for little to no pay. Hunger, exhaustion, and heat stroke are common.
Human Rights Watch is aware of several cases of authorities harassing activists who tried to document forced child labor. In September authorities detained activists Gulshan Karaeva and Nodir Akhatov while they photographed children forced to pick cotton in the Kashkadarya region.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.