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Human rights situation remains poor

Human rights abuses throughout Central Asia remain common despite some positive developments towards reform, a new report by Amnesty International (AI)said on Tuesday. “There are still a lot of serious issues remaining,” Maisy Weicherding, a researcher for the watchdog group’s Eurasia team, covering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, said from London, citing issues of freedom of expression, slander, libel and arbitrary detention. “In the name of the war on terror, we are seeing more vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities, asylum-seekers, refugees, as well as suspected members of banned Islamic groups or those perceived to be a threat to national security – in all the countries and especially in Uzbekistan – being targeted.” Her comments coincide with the release of Amnesty’s International 2006 report on the state of the world’s human rights, covering some 150 countries. Speaking at its launch, Amnesty’s Secretary-General Irene Khan said in a statement that the security agenda of the powerful and privileged had hijacked the energy and attention of the world away from serious human rights crises elsewhere. “Governments collectively and individually paralysed international institutions and squandered public resources in pursuit of narrow security interests, sacrificed principles in the name of the ‘war on terror’ and turned a blind eye to massive human rights violations,” Khan explained. “As a result, the world has paid a heavy price, in terms of erosion of fundamental principles and the enormous damage done to the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.” That’s a danger throughout the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, where strategic interests often supercede the human rights agenda, Weicherding said. One year after Uzbek security forces violently quelled anti-government protests in the southern city of Andijan, killing up to 1,000 people according to some activists, she noted little respite in the number of recorded human rights abuses. In addition to detaining and imprisoning people perceived to be in some way linked to the 13 May 2005 event, Tashkent continues to curtail all forms of possible criticism, expelling international NGOs and severely restricting freedom of expression, she said, adding: “Really the situation has worsened a lot over the past year in Uzbekistan”. She also noted that any efforts to reform in Uzbekistan were rarely put into practice, while in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan the situation with regard to the worst abuses was a bit better, although beatings by local law enforcement officers were largely accepted as routine. Meanwhile, the human rights situation in largely desert, but energy-rich Turkmenistan remains particularly bleak, with a record described by Amnesty as “appalling”. “The international community tends to let Turkmenistan off the hook,” said Anna Sunder-Plassman, Amnesty researcher specialising in Turkmenistan, citing limited concessions made by the government that fall short of actual reform. “The international community should urge Turkmenistan at every opportunity to protect human rights and act in line with the country's obligations under international human rights law and standards.” [For a complete copy of the 2006 report see: http://web.amnesty.org/]

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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