03/17/2010, 00.00
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UN to examine human rights situation in Uzbekistan

UN committee is tasked with making recommendations to Uzbek authorities on how to improve human rights. Human Rights Watch calls on UN agency to demand real action, not simply statements of principle. All independent social actions are persecuted in the country.
Tashkent (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The UN Human Rights Committee held a meeting on 11 and 12 March to assess the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. Many with an interest in the matter are still waiting for its recommendations to be made. In the meantime, Uzbek authorities continue their crackdown on independent human rights activists as well as members of religious communities.

On Monday for example, the Prosecutor’s Office in Parkent District (Tashkent Region) started questioning residents of the village of Novbahor for giving money to local human rights activist Azamat Yakubov to build a gas supply network.

The activist, who was arrested for his activities, is popular among villagers for his work on their behalf. Residents in fact rallied last week outside the Parkent District administration, demanding his release.

Uzbek political analyst, Tashpulat Yuldashev, who currently lives in exile in the United States, said that the Prosecutor’s Office plans to bring charges against those who rallied in Yakubov’s defence. The latter was detained on 10 March for collecting money from residents to build a gas supply network in the village. He collected about 11 million sums (US$ 5,000) and invested 20 million sums (US$ 9,100) of his own money in the project. The authorities want to show he tried to do something else with the money. Conversely, a local newspaper sent a correspondent to the village to write a positive story about the local administration’s work to improve services in rural areas.

In Almalyk at the end of February, a court slapped a 3.8 million sums fine (twice the average monthly salary) on 13 Baptists each for “proselytising”. In January, police had seized from them Christian literature, including copies of the Bible.

The UN Human Rights Committee’s 13th annual meeting, which is under way in Geneva between 1 and 26 March, has a rare chance to influence the situation in Uzbekistan, this according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Committee’s 18 experts will study and assess the situation in Uzbekistan and draft recommendations for Uzbekistan on how it can meet its obligations under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

HRW has called on the committee members to demand the release of activists and stop human rights violations in the country. It has also urged the UN committee not accept at face value plans of action Uzbekistan might present.

For this reason, the human rights group sent the committee a list of 14 human rights activists and journalists who should be released. They include poet Yusuf Juma (pictured) and all were convicted for their professional activities.

HRW pointed out that there still is no freedom of speech and freedom religion in Uzbekistan, that government officials enjoy impunity.

After imposing an embargo, Western nations are now eager to renew contacts and trade links with the energy-rich Central Asian nation in order to avoid leaving the entire field to Russia, China and other nations unconcerned by human rights violations.

"The Human Rights Committee should make clear it is not fooled by such empty measures, and insist on real, meaningful reforms," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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