This week in Central Asia, opposition parties in Tajikistan have decided not to take part in the presidential polls slated for 6 November in the former Soviet republic, international media reported.
Tajikistan's largest opposition party, the Islamic Revival Party - which was prominent among the mostly Islamic opposition forces that fought against incumbent President Imomali Rahmonov's hard-line secular government during the 1992-1997 civil war - refused to field a candidate stating that its participation could be seen as a sign of tension and a possible threat to peace in the nation, English Politics News reported on Wednesday.
After controversial changes to the constitution in a 2003 referendum, Rahmonov, who has ruled the country since 1992, has the right to stay in power for two further seven-year terms in office, meaning he could rule until 2020.
Two other opposition parties, the Social-Democratic and Democratic parties, which decided to boycott the election on Sunday, said that the upcoming presidential election should be declared 'illegal', AFP reported.
Going to Kazakhstan, the leader of the oil-rich Central Asian state is to meet US President George W. Bush at the White House on Friday.
But Bush, who has made promoting democracy as a centrepiece of his foreign-policy agenda, faces a tough balancing act with Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose autocratic ways have been criticised by human rights groups, Reuters reported.
Nazarbayev has held power since 1989, when Kazakhstan was still a Soviet Republic.
He was elected for a third presidential term last December in a vote judged to be flawed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Washington has been only mildly critical of Kazakhstan's human rights record, despite allegations of corruption and the government's restrictions on the media and political opponents.
Staying in Kazakhstan, five of at least 63 toddlers infected with HIV while receiving medical treatment in southern Kazakhstan have died of AIDS-related diseases, AP reported on Thursday. Experts believe that the toddlers died after receiving injections or blood transfusions in hospitals in Shymkent, a city in Kazakhstan's most densely populated region 1,600 km south of the capital, Astana.
In Uzbekistan, a court has sentenced seven men to between 10 and 13 years in jail in the latest Islamic extremism trial, a human rights activist told AFP on Monday. The head of the Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders, Surat Ikramov, said that the men, allegedly members of the banned Hizbut Tahrir party, might have been mistreated.
They were sentenced in a Tashkent court on 22 September for threatening the constitutional order, organising a banned religious organisation and distributing publications that threatened public order and safety, he said.
"We have information that the defendants had to plead guilty following threats that they received during breaks [in the trial],” Ikramov maintained.
Thousands of people are thought to be in jail in Uzbekistan on extremism charges. Such trials have taken place almost weekly in recent months.
Uzbek authorities say the country faces an Islamic extremist threat from outside its borders, particularly neighbouring Afghanistan. But human rights organisations have accused the authorities of sanctioning repressive measures, including torture, against alleged Islamic extremists.
In Kyrgyzstan, a leading international rights watchdog on Wednesday criticised the government over its inaction to curb domestic violence and the abduction of women for forced marriage to continue with impunity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its first report on human rights violations in the Central Asian country entitled "Reconciled to Violence: State Failure to Stop Domestic Abuse and Abduction of Women in Kyrgyzstan" that despite Kyrgyzstan’s progressive laws on violence against women, police and other authorities were failing to implement them. As a result, women remain in danger and without access to justice, HRW stated.
One-third of all marriages in the impoverished ex-Soviet republic are based on the traditional practice of kidnapping young women and raping them before forcing them into marriage, the New York-based group added.
Also in Kyrgyzstan, an independent local television channel was attacked on Thursday, AP reported. Yevgeny Pechurin, a journalist at the Piramida channel, claimed that the attack was politically motivated and said it was connected with the station's critical coverage of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's government and extensive coverage of opposition activities. Police said they were investigating the attack.
Bakiyev, who came to power following the March 2005 ouster of former President Askar Akayev, has been criticised for his reluctance to carry out political reforms and for deteriorating public security.
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