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Uzbekistan

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations her Department has made to the Uzbek Government following the arrest of journalist Ulugbek Khaidarov on 14 September; (93465)

(2) what information she has received on the whereabouts of Uzbek opposition journalist Djamshid Karimov following his disappearance in that country on 12 September.

Ulugbek Khaidarov and Djamshid Karimov are well known to our embassy in Tashkent. The embassy has met both journalists on numerous occasions. They last met Ulugbek Khaidarov on 21 July in Jizzakh. Our embassy keeps in close contact with the human rights groups who have been to see Ulugbek Khaidarov in custody. We are very disturbed by the sentencing of Ulugbek Khaidarov and concerned for his welfare. Human rights groups have suggested that the charges against him were trumped up. There has been no official confirmation of Djamshid Karimov’s whereabouts from the Uzbek authorities. Press reports suggest that he may be in an asylum.

We have repeatedly and consistently drawn to the attention of the Uzbek authorities our concerns about the freedom of the press and the harassment of journalists. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 2006 Annual Human Rights Report published on 12 October and available on the FCO website at: www.fco.gov.uk draws attention to the difficulties independent journalists experience in Uzbekistan, including in the Jizzakh region.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her most recent assessment is of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. (95203)

The events of 12-13 May 2005 in Andizhan and the Uzbek government's response have dominated the political landscape in Uzbekistan. There have been a series of questionable trials accompanied by a clampdown on civil society, non-governmental organisations and the media. International organisations and media have been forced out of Uzbekistan. However, we welcome the abolition of the death penalty from 1 January 2008.

In response to the Uzbek Government's refusal to allow an international inquiry to clarify what took place in Andizhan, the EU adopted a visa ban and arms embargo against Uzbekistan which came into force in November 2005 for a year. We, and our EU partners, are currently discussing the question of whether these measures will be renewed in November 2006.

More details are available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 2006 Annual Human Rights Report published on 12 October, (chapter 2.19 covers Uzbekistan) on the FCO website: http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/hr_report2006.pdf. Copies of the report are also available in the Library of the House.