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Uzbekistan: Human Rights

Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan; and if he will make a statement. (178652)

The overall human rights situation in Uzbekistan remains bleak, although there have been some positive steps over the last 12 months. On 1 January 2008, Uzbekistan abolished the death penalty and introduced a limited form of ‘habeas corpus’. The EU and Uzbekistan have established a human rights dialogue. These developments are outweighed, however, by continuing concerns in other areas. We continue to receive reports of violations of freedom of expression, religious freedom and the right to a fair trial. Civil society and the media remain under strict control. At least 14 human rights defenders are in prison; others suffer harassment and pressure that has forced some to leave Uzbekistan, or cease their activities. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 2008 Annual Human Rights Report contains a fuller analysis of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan.

We repeatedly and regularly register our concerns about individual cases and the human rights situation in general with the Uzbek authorities, both bilaterally and with EU partners. In Tashkent, the EU discussed a range of human rights issues with senior representatives of the Uzbek Government at the first session of the EU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue in May 2007. In October 2007, EU Foreign Ministers called on Uzbekistan to demonstrate progress in key areas of human rights by May 2008. There will be another session of the dialogue in 2008 and a seminar on media freedom. The EU special representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel, visits Uzbekistan regularly and raises human rights concerns with the Uzbek Government.

Our embassy in Tashkent also maintains regular contact with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and activists throughout Uzbekistan. We have helped hon. Members to make contact with NGOs in Uzbekistan to work on human rights issues and have helped to develop the capacity of NGOs, including to report on human rights violations. We will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Uzbekistan and make our concerns clear through a critical, but constructive, dialogue with the authorities. In November 2007, we funded an NGO to attend the UN Committee on Torture’s examination of Uzbekistan.