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Amnesty warns of mounting rights violations

Amnesty International on Thursday warned the international community of a possible deterioration in the human rights situation in Central Asia. It said governments there were using the "war against terrorism" as an excuse to further undermine respect for human rights. "We are worried about the Uzbek president's statement on the lack of tolerance on banned groups, given the country's track record on human rights violations," Judit Arenas, spokeswoman for Amnesty International in London, told IRIN on Thursday.

The warning was issued through a report entitled "Central Asia: No excuse for escalating human rights violations", which looks at the situation in the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and, Tajikistan, which border on Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Of particular concern are increasing restrictions on vulnerable groups and individuals, including alleged supporters of banned Islamic opposition parties, independent human rights organisations, Afghan refugees and ethnic minorities.

Governments are intolerant of anyone belonging to two particular groups in Central Asia - the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party), both present in the Ferghana Valley. Also under threat is the Uyghur population in Central Asia, who are increasingly becoming associated with the other banned Islamic groups. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people and predominantly Muslim. They are the largest indigenous group in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, which borders Kyrgyzstan.

Recognising that governments must ensure the safety of their citizens, Amnesty International said measures undertaken in the past to control such movements, particularly in Uzbekistan, were "disproportionate and discriminatory, and contravened international human rights obligations".

Arenas also said Amnesty was urging Central Asian nations to open their borders with Afghanistan and allow refugees in to avert a humanitarian disaster. "If the situation worsens in Afghanistan, people will flee to Tajikistan, and we urge the government and border guards to open borders," she said. Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian countries have closed their borders with the Afghanistan, fearing a major exodus of refugees from the country.

Meanwhile, Amnesty also expressed serious concern over the killing of civilians in Afghanistan under the US-led air strikes since 7 October, and has called for clarification as to the circumstances of civilian deaths in the course of "Operation Enduring Freedom".

Among reports of civilian casualties, the UN has confirmed the deaths of four workers of the UN-funded agency Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), working under the umbrella of the UN Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan. They were killed on 8 October in the collapse of the ATC offices in Kabul, which appear to have been hit by US forces during the bombardment of the city. "We have repeatedly called on all parties to the conflict to take every necessary precaution to avoid civilian casualties," a statement from Amnesty International said.

[Click here to request the full report]

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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