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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Uzbekistan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Uzbekistan, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa498.html [accessed 18 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.
 

 

Three years after declaring independence, Uzbekistan, while having taken significant steps toward economic market reform, has made little progress in the transition from its authoritarian legacy toward democracy. President Karimov and the centralized executive branch which serves him are the dominant forces in political life.

The President heads the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDP). One other party, the Fatherland Progress Party, is legally registered, but it was created by a presidential adviser, presumably to give the appearance of a multiparty system, and, although it supports the President, it fielded candidates to oppose the PDP in most parliamentary districts. The Government continued severely to repress genuine opposition parties and movements, despite its frequently stated commitment to multiparty democracy. It justifies its repressive policy by invoking the specter of Islamic fundamentalism, the civil strife that has plagued neighboring Tajikistan, and possible opposition preparations for armed struggle.

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--but continues to be one of the main organs for suppression of the opposition. The Ministry of the Interior prosecutes domestic crimes and often plays the lead role in investigating cases against political opposition figures.

The economy is based primarily on agriculture and agricultural processing; Uzbekistan is the world's fourth largest producer of cotton. It also has large deposits of gold, strategic minerals, gas, and oil. The Government has proclaimed its commitment to a gradual transition to a mixed government-owned and free market economy and introduced in February a package of reforms to stimulate private enterprise, promote private ownership, encourage privatization of state enterprises, and attract foreign investment. Thousands of private small farms were created in 1994. By the end of 1984, the Government had undertaken reform and stabilization measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Government observance of human rights did not significantly advance in 1994. To control the political arena, the Government continued to deny registration to political parties and some other social groups, which legally may not function until they are duly registered. It continued to suppress unregistered opposition parties and movements and severely limited distribution of opposition literature. It continued to ban unsanctioned meetings and demonstrations. Security forces detained or arrested opposition activists on false charges, particularly in the early part of the year. Police often beat criminal suspects and detainees. Although the Constitution expressly prohibits it, press censorship continued, and freedom of expression was constrained by an atmosphere of repression which made it difficult to criticize the Government publicly. There continues to be significant discrimination and violence against women.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There are no known cases of abductions by official forces or politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

There were credible reports that police often beat criminal suspects while taking them into custody or in the period between arrest and trial. Birlik (Unity) movement leader Pulat Akhunov was beaten during incarceration, and he stated that the prison administration frequently placed him in solitary confinement. Atanazar Aripov, an Erk (Freedom) Party leader, stated that he was kept in solitary confinement for most of the time he was in prison.

Prison conditions are inadequate and worse for male than for female prisoners, with severe overcrowding. Political prisoners are often not allowed visitors or any other direct form of contact with family and friends. The families of Atanazar Aripov and Erk member Salavat Umarzakov, two defendants in the Melli Majlis (alternative parliament) political trial in 1993 who were imprisoned in 1994 after their suspended sentences were revoked, were unable to meet or communicate with them until their release from prison. The six Erk Party activists being tried for the distribution of banned newspapers were only released from the basement of NSS headquarters and permitted to see their relatives during court sessions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

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. The legal provision permitting detention without the filing of charges led to several cases in which opposition figures were detained for questioning and then released without prosecution. The Government used this provision to harass and restrict the actions of opposition figures. For example, during the June 2-4 visit to Uzbekistan by U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, four opposition activists were detained to prevent them from meeting him. They were released following his departure.

In some cases, opposition figures were arrested on false charges for offenses unrelated to their criticism of government policy, such as drug possession, weapons possession, or disorderliness. Vasilya Inoyatova, one of the three activists held in jail to prevent their attendance at a human rights conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in May, was retroactively charged with insulting a policeman. Mikhail Ardzinov, another activist held, was charged with hooliganism. Mamadan Makhmudov, Uzbek writer and friend of Erk leader Mohammed Solikh, was arrested for possessing a pistol believed planted by police. Makhmudov was also charged with narcotics possession, abuse of government position and misappropriation of government funds. Nasrullah Saidov, Erk secretary in Bukhara, was arrested for possessing a grenade reportedly found among his children's clothing, as well as Erk newspapers. Erk activist Saparboy Bekchanov was convicted in February for allegedly stealing a rare coin to finance Erk. Nosir Zokir, Erk chairan of the Namangan region, and Atmatkhan Turakhanov, Erk chairman of the city of Namangan, were arrested on charges of possessing weapons and drugs.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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. No judges are known to have been removed for political reasons. In political cases, government direction influences the judiciary.

Uzbekistan still uses the Soviet judiciary system which features trial by a panel of three judges: one professional judge and two "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.

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 draft 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. When the probations of Aripov and Umarzakov were revoked, there were no observers present. Aripov's family did not know the exact grounds for the revocation of his probation until he was released 8 months later.

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, when the suspended sentences of Atanazar Aripov and Salavat Muradov were revoked, they did not have the opportunity to hire a lawyer to assist in their defense.

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 Erk newspapers). In the cases of Makhmudov, Saidov, Bekchanov, and Turakhanov, the evidence strongly suggests that they are political prisoners (see Section l.d.). Aripov and Zokir were held under similar charges until their release by presidential decree in November. In addition, Pulat Akhunov and Erk chairman in the Fergana region Inamjan Tursunov are opposition activists who were released by the same presidential decree from sentences imposed in 1992 under similar circumstances. There is not enough reliable 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 judicial review of search warrants. There does not appear to be a legal mechanism for authorizing telephone tapping 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

Freedom of speech remained severely limited. The fear of expressing views critical of the President and the Government persisted as the Government continued its general crackdown on all forms of opposition. A February 15, 1991, law (before independence) 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 staff has advised newspaper editors in chief to limit strictly their contact with American and some European diplomats. Nearly all of Uzbekistan's 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 the paper of the Erk Party. In January 1993, the newspaper was banned and has not been published in Uzbekistan since then. Attempts to smuggle in copies of the newspaper from outside the country resulted in several arrests and confiscation of the newspapers. On March 3, following a nationwide search of the homes of Erk activists, eight members of the Erk presidium were arrested on charges of distributing antigovernment literature when copies of banned Erk newspapers were found in their homes. Ismail Adylov and a companion were arrested for possession of Erk newspapers on August 4 in Tashkent. Birlik leader Vasilya Inoyatova was charged in the same incident for accepting the newspapers.

The Government forbade the distribution of foreign newspapers critical of Uzbekistan. The publication of the local editions of Izvestia and Pravda and the sale of the Moscow editions remained suspended throughout 1994. 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 of the Cabinet of Ministers banned private persons and journalists' collectives were banned from founding newspapers or magazines. Foreign correspondents based in Tashkent reported that the security services harassed and threatened their translators and other employees after the correspondents posed questions at government press conferences and published articles abroad which displeased the Government. In October the Government refused to renew the accreditation of Steven Le Vine, a free-lance journalist for several U.S. publications and one of the few foreign journalists in Uzbekistan, repotedly because of articles he wrote critical of the President and of the Government's human rights record.

Television broadcasting is state controlled. Although there are local stations in various regions, nationwide programming is carried on two state-run channels that fully support the Government and its policies. Through an agreement with Russia, two Moscow channels were broadcast as well. The Russian channels were Ostankino and Russian Television (Rossiskaya Televideniya). In 1994 the Government canceled the latter channel, and shortened the broadcast hours of the Ostankino channel full-time to only evening broadcasts. Its news broadcasts are blacked out when they are critical of the Uzbek Government. Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, and the British Broadcasting Corporation are among the few sources of uncontrolled news, although there have been unconfirmed reports that the Government occasionally interferes with Radio Liberty broadcasts.

There are no private publishing houses, and government approval is required for all publications. In an attempt to circumvent the requirements of state-controlled publishing, Erk party supporters attempted to smuggle in a pamphlet of its leader's speeches as well as its newspaper.

Political repression enveloped academia as well. In March Tashkent State University expelled three students from the journalism department after they questioned the Government's press treatment of Erk leader Mohammed Solikh. In addition, it closed the department of journalism and folded a few of its functions into the Uzbek philology department. However, in November the journalism department was reinstituted. Also, the three students expelled in the spring reentered the University in the fall semester without incident. In Samarkand the Government unsuccessfully attempted to have local Erk leader Suleiman Muratov fired from his teaching job after a police search discovered copies of the banned Erk newspaper at his house. The Government has not allowed independent academic institutions to register.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The 1992 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 made no attempts to hold public meetings during 1993 or 1994.

The Government also limited 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 on its membership list, then complaining about the group's name, and finally noting its lack of an official address. A 1993 Cabinet of Ministers decree required all public organizations and political parties officially registered in Uzbekistan to reregister by October 1, 1993, or be suspended. This decree provided a quasi-legal mechanism for the elimination of various organizations that were already registered. The mainstream PDP and Fatherland Progress Party applied for and quickly received their reregistration. The Erk Party did not submit papers, holding that the decree was unconstitutional as only the Supreme Court has the right to withdraw registration. The Government considers both the Erk Party and the Birlik movement to have officially lost their registration in 1993 because they failed to meet the requirements of the 1993 decree.

Nonpolitical associations and social organizations usually do not encounter comparable difficulties in registering, and the number of such groups expanded in 1994. Some evangelical churches and several 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. 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. One evangelical church, Word of Faith, lost its registration for conducting missionary activities, and all churches are under pressure not to evangelize among Uzbeks. In reaction to antimissionary sentiments, for a short period of time in the summer of 1994 the Tashkent city government stopped allowing churches to rent its property, specifically auditoriums and other gathering places.

The Constitution and a December 1991 amendment to the law on political parties ban those of a religious nature. This principle is cited for denying registration to religious parties, including the Islamic Renaissance Party.

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.

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 1995, the Government began to issue new passports to everyone over age 16, which will replace the old system of separate internal and external passports. In addition, Uzbekistan has greatly simplified the process of obtaining exit visas, which will be valid for a period of 2 years and will no longer require invitations. Prior to this, foreign travel was restricted by difficulties in obtaining an external passport and by a law that required an exit visa for each trip based on an invitation. Government authorities frequently withheld exit visas when they did not approve of the purpose of the travel. Those who left without an exit visa could be subject to severe penalties upon return.

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 not left because of any systematic human rights abuses but rather because of what they fear will be limited future economic and social prospects for non-Uzbeks. Emigration increased markedly in 1993 but remained steady in 1994.

The travel of local citizens within Uzbekistan is not controlled, unlike travel by foreigners, including journalists. Foreign visitors must have each city they wish to visit noted in their visas. Travel to some sensitive areas of the country, particularly the environmentally degraded Aral Sea region and the Fergana valley, is controlled even more carefully; requests for travel to these areas are turned down in some cases. Even travel to nonsensitive tourist areas is unnecessarily complicated by internal visa requirements, and tourists seeking to check into hotels without the appropriate internal visa often find themselves having to pay fines or bribes to the visa police first. Due to agreements between their countries and Uzbekistan, citizens of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Korea receive visas valid for travel throughout Uzbekistan.

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 citizenship in Uzbekistan. 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.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

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's professed desire to create a multiparty democracy is belied by its actions. Due to the deregistration of the one opposition party and the one opposition movement in 1993, there were no opposition parties legally active in 1994. 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 criticize it. On May 27, there was a explosion at the residence of Hamidulla Nurmukhamedov, an activist of the Erk Party. No one was injured, but substantial property damage occurred.

Only the two political parties linked to President Karimov participated in Uzbekistan's first postindependence parliamentary elections on December 25. Independent candidates representing local governments won the majority of the 250 seats. Most of these candidates were also affiliated with the PDP but were opposed by PDP-sponsored candidates. All persons wishing to vote apparently were able to do so and to choose from among the available candidates. However, not all political parties were able to register and offer candidates. In addition, the practice of one person voting for multiple family members appeared widespread.

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 of Uzbekistan under Soviet rule, was elected in a limited multicandidate election in 1991. That election was marred by government control of the media but Erk opposition candidate Mohammed Solikh was able to compete and won 12.7 percent of the vote.

The President is the chairman of the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, 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. There is currently only one other legally registered party, the Fatherland Progress Party. 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 Fatherland Progress Party was created as a loyal "constructive opposition" party in June 1992. Its existence provides the appearance of a multiparty system. The party is headed by a presidential adviser, Shafkiddin Juraev, and supports the President politically. The party claims a platform that differs from that of the PDP in that it seeks more rapid economic reform and development of conditions favorable to businessmen, but the difference is insignificant.

Although women participate much less than men in government and politics, there are several female parliamentary deputies.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government disapproves of independent nongovernmental local human rights organizations and has restricted their operations. It denied the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, a local group organized in 1992, permission to register. The Government has often regarded international criticism of its human rights record as interference in its internal affairs, but in September it hosted a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) seminar in Tashkent, which showed an increased level of tolerance for foreign discussion of human rights in Uzbekistan.

Mikhail Ardzinov, deputy chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, was detained in May to prevent his attendance at a human rights conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and in June to prevent him from meeting with Senator Specter.

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.

Women

There is no legal discrimination against women; women enjoy the same legal rights as men. Despite nominal equality under the law, however, women are severely underrepresented in high-level positions. Due to traditional roles, women usually marry young, bear many children, and confine their activities within the family. However, women are not formally impeded from seeking a role in the workplace. In rural areas, women often find themselves limited to arduous labor in the cotton fields. However, the barriers to equality for women are cultural, not legal, and women who open businesses or seek careers are not legally hindered.

Spouse abuse certainly takes place 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 has written on women's problems estimates that some 50 percent of the self-immolation suicides (of which there are reportedly several hundred each year in Uzbekistan) are related to seeking an escape from chronic beatings.

Children

Uzbekistan has one of the highest birthrates in the former Soviet Union. Over half the country's population is under the age of 15. The Constitution provides for children's rights, stating that parents are obliged to support and care for their children until they are of age.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In a population of about 22 million, official figures indicate that 71 percent are Uzbeks, 8 percent Russians, 5 percent Tajiks, 4 percent Tatars, and 3 percent Kazakhs. The real number of Tajiks is significantly higher, as many Tajiks have declared Uzbek nationality in their passports.

Uzbekistan's 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.

In March Russian Orthodox and Jewish graves were desecrated on two occasions at a cemetery outside Tashkent. Uzbeks from the adjoining neighborhood were suspected in the incidents. Europeans complain of harassment from Uzbeks. Non-Uzbek speakers report unpleasant experiences with their neighbors or in stores. When government organizations and academic institutions have been forced to cut back, it is frequently the Russian speakers who have lost their jobs. However, the Government does not promote emigration by minority groups and publicly encourages them to stay.

The Government decided in 1993 to introduce a Latin script to replace Cyrillic, will begin teaching Uzbek in the Latin script in 1995, and hopes to have fully converted to a Latin script by 2000. Many store and street signs are already in the Latin script.

People with Disabilities

One of Uzbekistan's first laws, adopted only 2 months after independence in November 1991, was a law guaranteeing support for invalids. This law was aimed at insuring the disabled the same rights as other people. However, little effort is made to bring the disabled into the mainstream. Society does not accept them, and for the most part the disabled are kept out of sight, either at home or in institutions. The State cares for the mentally retarded in special homes. The Government has not mandated access for the disabled.

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 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 and strength are as yet uncertain. Some of these hope to play a significant role in licensing and otherwise regulating 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. The only reported strike in Uzbekistan was a short strike in August by teachers in the city of Richtan calling for higher wages. Union and government officials alike assert that this social calm 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.

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 there were no complaints 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 years; 15-year-olds may work with permission but have a shorter workday. In 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 and raised it several times in 1994 as the value of the sum (the Uzbek currency) fell. As of September, it was about $10 per month at the official commercial exchange rate (or 200 sum, almost two times the nominal level of January 1, 1994). Most agree that 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.

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