Letter to the EP Foreign Affairs Committee chairman ahead of meeting with Uzbek foreign minister
Mr. Elmar Brok
Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Brussels, 17 March 2014
Dear Mr. Brok,
We are writing to you on behalf of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the International Human Rights Association (IHA) Fiery Hearts Club ahead of your scheduled meeting with Uzbek Foreign Minister Kamilov this Tuesday. We would like to urge you to use this opportunity to prominently raise concerns about serious human rights violations taking place in Uzbekistan, in line with the positions adopted by the European Parliament.
The human rights situation in Uzbekistan is highly problematic and the countryâ€™s civil society is subject to wide-ranging pressure. Independent human rights groups cannot operate freely and independent human rights defenders, journalists continue and other critics of the regime face an ever-present risk of persecution, such as denial of exit visas for travel abroad, defamatory articles in regime-loyal media, summoning and questioning by police, dispersal of small-scale peaceful protests and prosecution and imprisonment on trumped-up charges of â€œhooliganismâ€, defamation, extortion and other crimes. Even human rights defenders who have fled their country and now are based in exile face intimidation and harassment because of their efforts to draw attention to human rights violations back home.
We are particularly concerned about the more than two dozen defenders, journalists and opposition figures who are currently imprisoned in Uzbekistan. We urge you to draw particular attention to their plight during your meeting with Mr. Kamilov and to insist on the release of all individuals who are held in prison in retaliation for their peaceful and legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, association and other fundamental rights. The Uzbek government should also be requested to take urgent and adequate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of these individuals as long as they remain behind bars, to promptly investigate any allegations of ill-treatment and torture against them, to grant them access to necessary and adequate medical assistance, to refrain from restricting their contacts with family members and lawyers, and to allow independent monitors to visit them and speak to them privately.
As you know, the European Parliament has repeatedly flagged its concerns about Uzbekistanâ€™s poor human rights record. In particular it blocked a protocol to the current EU-Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement on these grounds[i], and most recently it called for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council dedicated to this country.[ii] The European Parliament has also emphasized that the level and nature of the EU's engagement in Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian countries must depend on measurable human rights progress.[iii] We urge you to use your meeting with Mr. Kamilov to follow-up on these positions, reiterate the concerns expressed by the European Parliament and to call for meaningful steps by Uzbekistanâ€™s government to implement recommendations addressed to it by international human right bodies, including in the context of the Universal Periodic Review held under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council last year.
For your information, we attach a briefing note where concerns about the persecution of independent civil society voices in Uzbekistan are described in some more detail. We thank you for your attention to our letter and the attached document and would be happy to provide additional information should you so request. We wish you a constructive meeting and look forward to learning about the outcome of it.
Brigitte Dufour, IPHR Director
Mutabar Tadjibayeva, President of the IHA Fiery Hearts Club