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Weekly news wrap

Theo van Boven, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the question of torture, completed a two-week fact-finding mission to Uzbekistan on 6 December, according to a UN press release. Issued on Wednesday,
it said he had met many alleged victims of torture, as well as government and NGO representatives. Although he was granted access to some prisons, detention facilities and secure hospitals both in the capital, Tashkent, and elsewhere,
there were regrets that access was denied to the notorious State Security Service lock-up in Tashkent. The mission's report will be made public in March 2003.

The US gave details this week of the aid supplied to Uzbekistan this year. Washington will have provided aid worth nearly US $500 million to Tashkent by the end of 2002, according to a US embassy press release on Wednesday. Of that sum, democracy promotion programmes account for $26.2 million, social services
$45.5 million, law enforcement agencies $79 million and humanitarian aid $53.1m dollars. Additionally, the State Department and Defence Department implemented a $53 million project to modernise hospitals in Fergana, Andizhan and Namangan in eastern Uzbekistan.

The local launch of the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Tajikistan 2003 was held in the capital, Dushanbe, on Tuesday. Matthew Kahane, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Tajikistan, said the Tajikistan appeal needed $62 million to achieve its main strategic goals through 53 projects of seven UN agencies and the Mercy Corps, MERLIN, Oxfam UK and other NGOs. The appeal is in response to needs in the food security, education, child protection, water and emergency preparedness sectors.

The IMF approved a three-year $87 million loan under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) for Dushanbe this week. The PRGF is the IMF's concessional facility for low-income countries. It is intended that PRGF-supported programmes are based on country-owned poverty reduction strategies adopted in a participatory process involving civil society and
development partners. PRGF loans carry an annual interest rate of 0.5 percent, and are repayable over 10 years with a five-and-a-half-year grace period on principal payments.

With Afghan opium production at an all-time high, Russian border guards and Tajik police have seized a total of six mt of drugs this year, including nearly four mt of heroin, Afghan interior ministry officials told AFP on Thursday. Russian border guards, who patrol the 1,200-km Tajik-Afghan border, killed 43 drug traffickers in frontier clashes this year and seized over two mt of heroin. Afghanistan, which is by far the world's biggest producer of opium and heroin, is a favoured point of passage for the country's drugs. Much of the Afghan drug output heads for western European and Russian markets via Tajikistan.

Turkmenistan's media coverage of those accused of trying to assassinate its president recalled Stalin's show trials and was intended to "terrorise" any opposition, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Thursday.

Turkmen Television broadcast footage last week of a suspect asking to be shot, and confessing he had acted on orders from exiles based in Russia to kill President Saparmurat Niyazov, who brooks no opposition and enjoys a ubiquitous personality cult. "Some of the television programmes... remind me of the show trials on Soviet radio and in the newspapers during the 1930s," Freimut Duve, the media rights monitor for the OSCE, told envoys in Vienna. But Niyazov has denied reports of widespread human rights violations following the assassination
attempt, and called for international cooperation in investigating the crime.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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