Uzbekistan Human Rights Record Draws International Criticism
In April 2001, the Uzbekistan Government reported to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) that it has established a system of national human rights institutions and passed more than 100 laws and normative acts dealing with human rights. While acknowledging the fact that Uzbekistan has been progressing toward democracy in theory, the Commission questioned the degree to which these laws and institutions are respected in practice.
Uzbekistan has a pre-established reputation for failing to enforce its human rights laws. In March of 2000, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), a U.S. Government agency, concluded that Uzbekistan's human rights advancements were purely theoretical. "There has been no liberalization of society nor any convincing evidence of serious intentions in that direction," read an introductory statement in the CSCE report.
During its annual New York meeting period, from March 19 to April 6, the HRC heard reports from Uzbekistan and four other countries, all part of the 148 signatory countries that are required to submit five year compliance updates to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. The HRC also meets in the summer and fall each year in Geneva.
Uzbekistan reported that it has set up a host of human rights institutions in an effort to comply with the Convention's international standards, including the Office of the Ombudsman (Commissioner for Human Rights of the Oliy Majlis), the National Center for Human Rights of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the Institute for Monitoring Current Legislation. According to this report, the NGOs in place to monitor human rights in Uzbekistan include the Center for the Study of Public Opinion, the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of the Individual, and various professional associations of judges and lawyers.
"Experience in the development of democracy in Uzbekistan has shown that human rights is (sic) a psychological value of the Uzbek people and an integral part of the national understanding of peace," read a statement in the country's official report. "Independence has shaped society's need for the development of human rights, as reflected in the population's growing social activity."
In its response, the HRC commended Uzbekistan for its effort to bring its legislation "into harmony with its international obligations." However, it also "deplored" Uzbekistan's refusal to reveal how many people have been executed or condemned to death, and added that it was "gravely concerned about consistent allegations of widespread torture by law enforcement officials."
The HRC's concerns were echoed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which conducts its own field research in the country. Cassandra Cavanaugh, an HRW senior researcher for Europe and Central Asia, noted that, at several points, the Uzbekistan report "states
Todd Diamond is a journalist who covers the United Nations.
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