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Volume 407: debated on Friday 20 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on human rights in Uzbekistan. [119989]

We are deeply concerned by human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. We recognise that the Uzbek Government has taken some limited action to address the situation, including inviting the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture to visit Uzbekistan in December 2002. However, the Uzbek authorities need to do much more. We would like to see greater recognition of independent human rights groups, media organisations, religious groups, and political parties, as well as reform of the criminal justice system.The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mike O'Brien), raised human rights with the Uzbek Foreign Minister on 9 June. In her opening speech at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Annual Meeting, the then International Development Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short), urged President Karimov to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur forthwith. We shall continue to press for tangible improvements in Uzbekistan's human rights record, both bilaterally and in conjunction with our EU partners.