United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Uzbekistan, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4050.html [accessed 1 February 2015]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
UZBEKISTAN Four years after declaring independence, Uzbekistan has made some progress in the transition from its authoritarian legacy towards democracy. President Islam Karimov and the centralized executive branch which serves him remain the dominant forces in political life. Parliamentary elections in December 1994 and January 1995 represented a step forward in technical implementation of the democratic process at the ballot box but were flawed due to the lack of free speech and press during the campaign. While the elections were technically multiparty, opposition parties were not allowed to participate. The Government continues to repress severely independent opposition parties and movements. It justifies its repressive policy by invoking the specter of Islamic fundamentalism, the civil strife that has plagued neighboring Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and possible opposition preparations for armed struggle. The Constitution provides for an independent judicial authority. However, in political cases, government direction influences the judiciary. On March 26, a referendum was held extending the president's term for an additional 3 years to 2000. The professed reason for this extension was to synchronize the President's and Parliament's 5-year terms. The referendum passed by an almost unanimous margin in a process that was characterized by a lack of public debate and the almost universal practice of one person casting votes for an entire extended family. Even allowing for "family voting," the official participation results could not have been valid. The President said that he would count the extension as a second term, the constitutional limit on presidential terms. However, on August 30, Parliament passed a resolution opposing the President's decision and has decided that the referendum is an extension of his first term. The National Security Service (NSS--formerly the Committee for State Security, or KGB) deals with a broad range of national security questions--including corruption, organized crime, and narcotics control. The NSS is the lead agency when opposition figures are arrested for crimes in these areas. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) prosecutes domestic crimes and often plays the lead role in investigating cases against political opposition figures. Members of the security forces continued to be responsible for serious human rights abuses. Uzbekistan has taken significant steps toward market reform. The economy is based primarily on agriculture and agricultural processing; Uzbekistan is the world's fourth largest producer of cotton and has large deposits of gold, strategic minerals, gas, and oil. The Government has proclaimed its commitment to a gradual transition to a free market economy. It accelerated macroeconomic reforms sharply in the second half of 1994 and continued those reforms throughout 1995. Its reform programs cut inflation, subsidies, and the budget deficit, increased interest rates, and produced a more realistic exchange rate. However, progress on privatization of the large state-owned enterprises that account for the bulk of gross domestic product remained slow and a host of formal and informal barriers continued to constrain the nascent private sector. The Government's respect for citizens' human rights did not significantly improve, although in April President Karimov and other senior officials began to acknowledge that Uzbekistan has not made enough progress on human rights and needs to accelerate democratic reform. Citizens cannot exercise fully their right peacefully to change their government. To control the political arena, the Government continues to deny registration to independent political parties and some other social groups. It continues to suppress unregistered opposition parties and movements and severely limits distribution of opposition literature. It continues to ban unsanctioned public meetings and demonstrations. Security forces detained or arrested opposition activists on false charges in a few cases. Police often beat criminal suspects and detention can be prolonged. Although the Constitution expressly prohibits it, press censorship continues, and freedom of expression is constrained by an atmosphere of repression which makes it difficult to criticize the Government publicly. To counter what it perceives as extremist Islamic views, the Government places some limitations on freedom of religion in certain areas. Despite a constitutional prohibition, there continues to be significant traditional societal discrimination and domestic violence against women.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Extrajudicial Killing
Evidence strongly suggests that local businessman Bakhtiar Yakubov died as a result of beatings he sustained while in custody at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reportedly in connection with a criminal case against opposition leader Ibragim Buriev. The Government is conducting an internal investigation.
According to Islamic activists, the imam of an Andijon mosque was detained at the Tashkent airport by NSS officers on August 30 while enroute to a conference in Moscow. There is no official admission that he has been arrested or detained, and no further information on his whereabouts.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the law prohibits such practices, police beat and otherwise treated detainees abusively to obtain confessions. Police allegedly beat Dimitri Fattakhov, Aleksei Smirnov, and Oleg Gusev in order to obtain their confessions of complicity in a murder. These allegations appear credible. On April 18, opposition leader and former Vice President Shukhrullah Mirsaidov and his son were abducted and beaten by unidentified persons. The elder Mirsaidov was drugged in what appeared to be a blackmail attempt. Ministry of Internal Affairs officers were believed responsible. The Government is conducting an investigation. Two women, one employed by an environmental nongovernment organization (NGO), and the other a relative of a prominent opponent of the Government, were arrested on smuggling charges in mid-July. They were taken into custody by the NSS, although the alleged violations would normally have resulted only in a fine; government security authorities claimed they were arrested because of indications the women's activities were connected to organized crime. The reported circumstances of their detentions were harsh and suggest an effort to extract confessions by coercive means: the women were kept, separately, in isolation, and their families were prevented from seeing them; food packages brought to supplement the basic prison diet were not passed on by authorities. One of the women signed a confession but later repudiated it. Both women were pregnant when they were arrested but underwent abortions shortly after being detained. There are allegations, based on conversations with the women and their relatives, that the abortions were part of the pattern of coercion. However, following their release on bail several months later, the two women also stated that they had consented to the abortions after medical examinations and sonograms indicating one of the fetuses was malformed and the other dead. Prison conditions are inadequate and worse for male than for female prisoners. Due to limited resources, prison overcrowding is a problem. Political prisoners are often not allowed visitors or any other direct form of contact with family and friends.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Uzbekistan continues to use the Soviet legal system and laws on detention have not changed since independence. According to the law, police may hold a person suspected of committing a crime for up to 3 days. At the end of this period, the suspect must be either officially charged or released. A procurator's order is required for arrests but not for detentions. A court case must be scheduled within 15 days of the arrest, and the defendant may be detained during this period. A defendant may not have access to counsel while in detention but only after formal arrest. Delays between detention and trials can be lengthy--one Islamic cleric detained in September 1994 did not go on trial until May 1995. In some cases, opposition figures were charged with offenses unrelated to their criticism of government policy, such as drug possession, weapons possession, or disorderliness. Opposition activist Ibragim Buriev was arrested on March 30 for posession of weapons and narcotics. The charges against him were based on planted evidence. He was released a month later (see Section 3). Religious leaders from the Kokand area were charged with drug and weapons possession.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
In political, cases, government direction influences the judiciary. There is a three-tier court system: the people's court on the district level, the regional courts, and the Supreme Court. District court decisions may be appealed to the next higher level within 10 days of the ruling. The new Criminal Code reduces the list of crimes punishable by death to murder, espionage, and treason, eliminating the economic crimes punishable by death in the former Soviet code. Officially and in recent practice, most court cases are open to the public but may be closed in exceptional cases, such as those involving state secrets, rape, or young defendants. Under the Constitution, the President appoints all judges for 10-year terms. They may be removed for crimes or failure to fulfill their obligations. Power to remove judges for failure to fulfill their obligations rests with the President, except for Supreme Court judges, whose removal must also be confirmed by Parliament. Uzbekistan still uses the Soviet judiciary system which features trial by a panel of three judges: 1 professional judge and 2 "people's assessors" who are chosen by the workers' collectives for a period of 2 1/2 years. The professional judge presides and directs the proceedings. Defendants have the right to attend the proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence. The State will provide a lawyer without charge, but by law the accused has the right to hire an attorney. In some political cases, the defendants have not had access to lawyers. For example, Ibragim Buriev (see Section 1.d.) was unable to meet the lawyer his family had hired. Detainees deemed not to be violent may be released on their own recognizance pending trial. No money need be posted as bond, but in such cases the accused must usually sign a pledge not to leave the city. The Government denies that there are any political prisoners in Uzbekistan. However, by all evidence, the Government does hold political prisoners. Several opposition members are being held for "antigovernment activities" (distributing newspapers of the opposition Erk party). Estimates by independent opposition and human rights groups in Uzbekistan on the number of political prisoners range from 15 to 40. There is not enough information available to determine whether other prisoners are jailed for political offenses.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
By law, search warrants issued by a procurator are required. There is no provision for a judicial review of warrants. There does not appear to be a legal mechanism for authorizing telephone wiretapping or monitoring. Security agencies nonetheless monitor telephone calls, and there is evidence that they employ surveillance and wiretap telephones in the cases of persons involved in opposition political activities. Certain high-profile opposition activists were the subject of very visible surveillance, including round-the-clock police monitoring of all movements.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for "freedom of thought, speech, and convictions," freedom of public speech remained severely limited. The fear of expressing views critical of the President and Government persisted as the Government continued its general crackdown on all forms of opposition. A February 15, 1991, law against "offending the honor and dignity of the President" limits the ability to criticize the President. Although the Constitution prohibits censorship, it is widely practiced and the Government tolerates little, if any, criticism of its actions. Newspapers may not be printed without the censor's approval. Journalists and writers who want to ensure that their work is published report that they practice self-censorship. The Uzbekistan Information Agency cooperates closely with the presidential staff to prepare and distribute all officially sanctioned news and information. Press reports from Moscow and Uzbekistan media sources allege that the presidential apparat has advised newspaper editors-in-chief to limit strictly their contact with American and some European diplomats. Nearly all newspapers are government-owned and controlled; the key papers are organs of government ministries. State enterprises control the printing presses. The last opposition newspaper to be published was that of the Erk party. In January 1993, the newspaper was banned and has not been published since then. The Government also forbids the distribution of foreign newspapers critical of Uzbekistan. The publication of the local editions of Izvestia and Pravda and the sale of the Moscow edition remained suspended throughout 1995. All newspapers, magazines, and weeklies have to be registered, a procedure which includes providing information about the sources of funding, means of distribution, founders, and sponsors. A resolution by the Cabinet of Ministers bans private persons and journalist collectives from founding newspapers or magazines. Foreign correspondents based in Tashkent report that the security services have harassed and threatened their translators and other local employees. Television broadcasting is state controlled. Although there are local stations in various regions, nationwide programming is on two state-run channels that fully support the Government and its policies. The Ostankino channel from Russia has evening broadcasts. Its news broadcasts are blacked out when they are critical of the Government. A cable television joint venture between the state broadcasting company and an American company broadcasts the Hong Kong-based "Star TV" channels, including British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World News to Tashkent and a few other locations. Radio Liberty, the Voice of America and the BBC are among the few sources of uncontrolled news, although the Government occasionally interfered with Radio Liberty broadcasts. In addition to state-controlled television there is at least one major station in Samarkand that considers itself independent. It claims not to receive any government subsidy and to exist wholly on income derived from advertisers. It currently has two channels and plans a third, devoted to business news. The station broadcasts national programs and the Ostankino channel. It plans its own programming to compete with these offerings. It is clearly sensitive to political concerns from the center but claims not to be formally censored. There are no private publishing houses, and government approval is required for all publications. Virtually all academic institutions and academies are experiencing increased autonomy, although freedom of expression is still limited. Most institutions are in the process of revising curriculum, and western textbooks are in great demand.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution states that the authorities have the right to suspend or ban rallies, meetings, and demonstrations on security grounds. The Government must sanction demonstrations and does not routinely grant this permission. After cordons of militia prevented attempts to hold unsanctioned demonstrations in 1992, the opposition has made no attempts to hold public meetings since then. The Government also limits the exercise of freedom of association by refusing to register opposition political parties and movements. The Constitution provides no general guarantees of freedom of association; it places broad limitations on the types of groups that may form and requires that all organizations be formally registered with the Government. The Government frequently and seemingly without legal basis denies such registration to groups in any way opposed to the established order. To be considered a public association, organizations must be registered in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law. To register a party must submit a list of at least 3,000 members and meet other requirements, such as providing an official address. Government control over buildings and office space limits the ability of unofficial groups to obtain an official address. The Government has repeatedly denied the Birlik movement permission to register as a party, first claiming irregularities in its membership list, then complaining about the group's name, and finally noting its lack of an official address. The Constitution and a December 1991 amendment to the law on political parties bans those of a religious nature. This principle is cited for denying registration to religious parties, including the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). Nonpolitical associations and social organizations usually do not encounter comparable difficulties in registering, and the number of such groups expanded in 1995. However, some evangelical churches and some foreign humanitarian assistance groups found it difficult to obtain registration or reregistration.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of religion and state. Although the Government generally respects this right, it places some limitations on freedom of religion in certain areas. After the enforced atheism of the Soviet period, religious communities are experiencing a significant revival. Religious education is becoming more widespread, although it is not included in state schools. While Islam is the religion of the majority, ethnic minorities may also practice their religion in relative freedom. Synagogues for the Jewish community are openly functioning; Hebrew education (long banned under the Soviets), Jewish cultural events, and the publication of a community newspaper take place undisturbed. Churches have been returned to their ethnic communities and openly function within them. However, tensions arise when churches attempt to convert across ethnic lines, especially when they attempt to convert members of generally Muslim ethnic groups to Christianity. Although distribution of religious literature is legal in Uzbekistan, missionary activity and proselytizing is not. Fearing the destabilizing influence of extremist Islamic forces, the Government has tried to temper the extent of this spiritual renaissance by controlling the Islamic hierarchy, the content of imams' sermons, and the extent and substance of Islamic materials published in Uzbekistan. The Government has detained a number of Fergana Valley Islamic clerics on various charges (see Sections 1.b. and 1.d.), and closed some mosques. Bureaucratic restrictions have inhibited the free operation of numerous medreses (religious schools).
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for free movement within the country and across its borders. In January the Government began to issue new passports to everyone over age 16. These replace the old system of separate internal and external passports. In addition, Uzbekistan has greatly simplified the process of obtaining exit visas, which are valid for a period of 2 years and no longer require invitations. Most barriers to emigration were lifted before the Soviet breakup. Although in some instances emigrants are delayed by long waits for passports and exit visas, potential emigrants who can find a host country willing to accept them are able to leave the country. Since independence, a significant number of non-Uzbeks, including Russians, Jews, Ukrainians, and others have emigrated, although no exact figures are available. These people have left due to fear of limited future economic and social prospects for non-Uzbeks. The travel of local citizens within Uzbekistan is not controlled, unlike travel by foreigners, including journalists. Due to treaties between their countries and Uzbekistan, citizens of the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Korea receive visas valid for travel throughout Uzbekistan. Other foreign visitors must have each city they wish to visit noted on their visas. Tourists seeking to check into hotels without the appropriate internal visa often find themselves having to pay fines or bribes to the visa police. In mid-1995, a presidential edict decreed that the ancient cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva would henceforth be "open cities," for which a separate visa notation is not required for nationals of any country. However, it is not clear whether implementing regulations are yet in place. The law on citizenship stipulates that citizens do not lose their citizenship if they reside overseas. However, since Uzbekistan does not provide for dual citizenship, those acquiring the citizenship of other countries will lose their Uzbekistani citizenship. If they return to Uzbekistan as foreign citizens, they are subject to foreign visa regulations. There is no evidence that anyone was denied permission to return. There is no law concerning the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. The Government considers asylum seekers from Tajikistan and Afghanistan to be economic migrants, and such individuals are subject to deportation if their residency documents are not in order.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
While the Constitution provides for this right, in reality citizens cannot exercise their right to change their government through peaceful and democratic means. Government measures severely repress opposition groups and individuals and apply harsh limits on freedom of expression. The Government professes the desire to create a multiparty democracy but controls the creation of new parties. Due to the deregistration of the one opposition party and the one opposition movement in 1993, there are no true independent opposition parties legally active. An across-the-board crackdown on actual and potential opposition groups and individuals continued so that by the end of the year few people were willing to challenge the Government's grip on power or even risk criticizing it publicly. In February the Government ordered the closure of a bank owned by political dissident Rustam Usmanov. In March judges convicted all seven defendants connected to the Erk party on charges of attempting to overthrow constitutional order and organizing antistate agitation. Birlik leader Ibragim Buriev was arrested on March 30 on false charges of weapons and narcotics possession within days of his return to Uzbekistan from an extended stay abroad (see Section 1.d.). He was released on April 29 following international protests. On April 18, leading opposition figure Shukrulla Mirsaidov was abducted, severely beaten, and left naked on a rural road side. The incident occurred shortly after Mirsaidov's criticism of the Government appeared in a New York Times article. Subsequent threats against Mirsaidov caused him to decline to meet with a visiting foreign government human rights official. Uzbekistan is ruled by a highly centralized presidency, comprising the President and a small inner circle of advisers and senior government officials. President Karimov, formerly the first secretary of the Communist Party in Uzbekistan under Soviet rule, was elected in a limited multicandidate election in 1991. A Soviet-style referendum on March 26 extended Karimov's term in office until 2000. The President is the Chairman of the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDP), the country's largest party. Most government officials are also members of the PDP, although it does not play the leading role in governance or cadre selection that was played by the Communist Party during the Soviet period. The other legally registered parties include: the Homeland Progress Party, the Social-Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (Adolat), the National Rebirth Democratic Party, and the National Unity Social Movement. Other political groups such as Birlik, the People's Movement of Turkestan, and the Islamic Renaissance Party have been denied permission to register as parties. The Erk party lost its registration in 1993 when the Government required all parties to reregister. The Homeland Progress Party was created as a loyal "constructive opposition" party in June 1992, and its existence provided the appearance of a multiparty system during the December 1994/January 1995 parliamentary elections. Since the elections, two additional parties (the Adolat Social Democratic Party and the National Revival Party) and one movement (Unity) have registered and gained seats in Parliament through switched membership of already-elected members or unopposed by-elections to open seats. None of the parties in Parliament considers itself an "opposition" party: all proclaim their support for the President's policies. Traditionally, women participate much less than men in government and politics. Only 13 of the 250 deputies in Parliament are female. The female chairperson of the governmental National Women's Committee was named by the President as a deputy Prime Minister on March 2. Her duties specifically include monitoring the rights and welfare of women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government disapproves of local nongovernmental human rights organizations and has restricted their operations. It continues to deny the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, a local group organized in 1992, permission to register. In February the President appointed a Humans Rights Commissioner and in May a Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights was established. Mikhail Ardzinov, deputy chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, was temporarily detained in March to prevent him from protesting the referendum to extend the President's term. The Government routinely criticizes international human rights groups and Western and Russian reporters for what it considers biased reporting on human rights in Uzbekistan. In the past the Government denied access to such groups. However, in 1995 the Government did permit Human Rights Watch/Helsinki to visit Uzbekistan twice and meet with both governmental and nongovernmental figures. Human Rights Watch was given permission to open an office in Tashkent in November. In addition, the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) opened a regional office in Tashkent, which has been welcomed by government officials.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Both the Constitution and the 1992 law on citizenship prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, language, or social status, and officially sanctioned discrimination does not occur. The Government is proud of its diverse ethnic mix and senior officials often comment on the contributions the 115 different ethnic minorities have made to society.
Spousal abuse is common in Uzbekistan, but local activists have no statistics. Wife beating is considered a personal family affair rather than a criminal act, and thus such cases rarely come to court. A female journalist, who studied women's problems in Uzbekistan in the early 1990's, estimated that approximately 50 percent of the self-immolation suicides throughout Central Asia are related to women seeking an escape from chronic beatings. There is no current statistical data available on self-immolation or suicide rates among women. Although discrimination against women is prohibited by law, traditional cultural and religious practices severely limit their role in everyday society. For these reasons, women are severely underrepresented in high-level positions. On March 2, President Karimov issued an edict on measures to increase the role of women in society, particularly extending their participation in state and social administration and coordinating the activities of ministries and social organizations as they relate to women's issues. In this connection a new post, deputy Prime Minister, was established with responsibilities for the management of matters connected with furthering the role of women in society. The edict also created heads of women's affairs in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, regions, cities, and districts. The Ministry of Finance was ordered to allocate the necessary funds to finance these new positions and working bodies. Due to traditional roles, women usually marry young, bear many children, and confine their activities within the family. In rural areas, women often find themselves limited to arduous labor in the cotton fields. However, women are not formally impeded from seeking a role in the work place: the barriers to equality for women are cultural, not legal, and women who open businesses or seek careers are not legally hindered.
The Constitution provides for children's rights, stating that parents are obliged to support and care for their children until they are of age. The State grants monetary allowances to families based on their number of children. There is no pattern of societal abuse of children, Uzbekistan has one of the highest birthrates in the former Soviet Union. Over half the Republic's population is under the age of 15.
People with Disabilities
One of Uzbekistan's first laws, adopted only 2 months after independence in November 1991, guaranteed support for the disabled. This law was aimed at ensuring the disabled the same rights as other people. However, little effort is made to bring the disabled into the mainstream. The State cares for the mentally disabled in special homes. The Government has not mandated access for the disabled.
The population of approximately 23 million is about 71 percent Uzbeks, 8 percent Russians, 5 percent Tajiks, 4 percent Tatars and 3 percent Kazaks, and many other ethnic groups represented. The Government likes to boast that more than 115 nationalities live together peacefully in Uzbekistan. The citizenship law, passed in 1992, does not impose language requirements for citizenship. Nonetheless, the language issue remains very sensitive. Uzbek has been declared the state language, and the Constitution requires that the President must speak Uzbek. However, the language law provides for Russian as the "language of interethnic communication." Russian is widely spoken in the main cities, and Tajik is widely spoken in Samarkand and Bukhara Oblasts. The Government hopes to switch to the Latin alphabet by 2000 but has been hampered by the financial implications of this change. Some Uzbek language street and store signs can be seen with Latin script.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The 1992 law on unions specifically proclaims that all workers have the right voluntarily to form and join unions of their choice, that trade unions themselves may voluntarily associate territorially or sectorally, and that they may choose their own international affiliations. Membership in trade unions is optional. The law also declares all unions independent of the State's administrative and economic bodies (except where provided for by law) and states that trade unions may develop their own charters, structure, and executive bodies and organize their own work. In practice, however, the overall structure of trade unions has not changed significantly since the Soviet period. Uzbekistan's independence has eliminated subordination to the Soviet Union or Russia but has not altered the centralized trade union hierarchy, which remains dependent on the Government. No "alternative" central union structures exist. A few new professional associations and interest groups have been organized, such as a Union of Entrepreneurs, a Union of Renters, an Association of Private Physicians and Pharmacists, and one of lawyers. Their role, degree of independence from the Government, and strength are as yet uncertain. Some of these hope to play a significant role in licensing and otherwise regulating the economic activity of their members. According to the law, the Council of the Federation of Trade Unions (CFTU) has a consultative voice in the preparation of all legislation affecting workers and is entitled to draft laws on labor and social issues. Trade unions are legally described as organizations that defend the right to work and protect jobs. They have lost their previous role in state planning and in the management of enterprises. The emphasis now is on the unions' responsibility for "social protection" and social justice--especially unemployment compensation, pensions, and worker retraining. The trade union law does not mention strikes or cite a right to strike. However, the law does give the unions oversight over both individual and collective labor disputes, which are defined as those involving alleged violations of labor laws, worker rights, or collective agreements. There were few reports of strikes. Union and government officials alike assert that this reflects general support for the Government's policies and common interest in social stability. It probably also reflects the absence of truly representative trade unions as the standard of living fell, and growing unemployment raised social tensions. Worker collectives in rural areas conducted sit-ins and demonstrations for non-payment of salaries. In most cases the local government made arrangements for payment and the groups disbursed peacefully.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Trade unions may conclude agreements with enterprises. Privatization is in its very early phases, so there is no experience yet with negotiations that could be described as adversarial between unions and private employers. With very few exceptions, the State is still the major employer, and the state-appointed union leaders do not view themselves as having conflicts of interest with the State. The Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Finance in consultation with the CFTU, set the wages for various categories of state employees. In the small private sector, management establishes wages or negotiates them with those who contract for employment. The law forbids discrimination against union members and their officers, and no complaints were registered. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution specifically prohibits forced labor, except as legal punishment or as may be specified by law. Large-scale compulsory mobilization of youth and students (by closing schools) to help with the cotton harvest continues. Young people in rural areas are expected to participate "voluntarily" in harvesting activities of all kinds, and universities still shut down temporarily to send both students and faculty into the fields.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum working age is 16; 15-year-olds can work with permission but have a shorter workday. In the rural areas, younger children and the elderly often turn out to help harvest cotton and other crops. The Labor Ministry has an inspection service responsible for enforcing compliance with these and other regulations governing employment conditions.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Ministry of Labor, in consultation with the CFTU, sets the minimum wage. As of September 1, it was about $7.35 (250 Som) per month. The minimum wage is not sufficient to feed a family. The workweek is set at 41 hours per week and includes a 24-hour rest period. Some factories have apparently reduced work hours in order to avoid layoffs. Overtime pay exists in theory but is not always paid. The Labor Ministry establishes occupational health and safety standards in consultation with the unions. There is a health and safety inspectorate within the Ministry. Workers do leave jobs that are hazardous without apparent jeopardy to continued employment; but the local press occasionally published complaints about the failure of unions and government authorities to do enough to promote worker safety. Although written regulations may provide adequate safeguards, workers in hazardous jobs often lack protective clothing and equipment.