Uzbekistan's human rights "dire" - Amnesty


http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L28211632.htm

ALMATY, May 28 (Reuters) - Amnesty International on Wednesday reported torture and serious rights abuses across ex-Soviet Central Asia and said the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, a key U.S. ally in the "war on terror", was dire.

Uzbekistan and the other four former Soviet states in the region -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan -- were quick to offer assistance to the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

Washington accepted speedily, basing thousands of troops in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan for operations in nearby Afghanistan, and has greatly increased its contacts with the region, formerly seen as exclusively in Russia's sphere of influence.

But despite heavy U.S. emphasis on rights and democracy and the fact that a string of top level visitors last year stressed rights at length to the region's leaders, Amnesty catalogued repeated abuses.

"The human rights situation remained dire," it said of Uzbekistan. "Several thousand political prisoners remained in jail...Unfair trials, torture and ill-treatment were routinely associated with these cases."

Amnesty says the "war on terror" was used specifically by Uzbekistan, which has been ruled by President Islam Karimov since before independence in 1991, to clamp down on religious and political dissent.

It also noted that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture concluded that Uzbekistan used torture systematically.

Earlier this month Jean Lemierre, head of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, expected Karimov to condemn torture in a speech at the bank's annual meeting in Tashkent. In fact Karimov dismayed the assembly by saying nothing.

Turkmenistan, another Afghan neighbour, saw "a new wave of repression" following an armed attack on President Saparmurat Niyazov in November, the Amnesty report said, adding that a trial of opposition leaders after the attack was grossly unfair and credible reports of torture continued.

Serious rights abuses were also noted in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with Amnesty saying that at least two detainess died in suspicious circumstances in Kazakhstan while executions continued there in large numbers.




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