State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Uzbekistan
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||11 March 2008|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Uzbekistan, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eae2c.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||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.|
Two years after Uzbekistan earned the wrath of the international community for massacring innocent protesters in an uprising in Andijan, the Uzbek government under President Islam Karimov continues its poor human rights record. The government's reputation for intolerance of political dissent and religious freedom showed little signs of change through 2007. Ahead of a European Union (EU) review of sanctions against the Uzbek government, international and local human rights groups urged Europe not to remove sanctions imposed against the government, citing continuous human rights violations, including torture, intimidation of human rights activists and persecution of minorities. A petition to the EU signed by journalists and human rights activists stated that the Uzbek government, in its crackdown on Islamic extremists, makes no distinction between such groups and the vast majority of Muslims. According to the petition, thousands of innocent Muslims languish in prison, facing long sentences and torture.
But in October 2007 the EU eased sanctions on Uzbekistan, primarily to suspend for six months the block visa ban on eight top Uzbek officials. The decision was heavily criticized by several local and international groups, which accused the EU of letting the Uzbek government off too easily for past crimes and for continuing violations, mainly the practice of torture. In November the UN Committee on Torture, in a report on Uzbekistan, said widespread torture was prevalent in the country.
According to Forum 18, a total ban on activities of Protestants in north-west Uzbekistan remains, while Christians in other parts of the country face severe persecution, including in some instances children being made to denounce their religion. In October 2007 the Uzbek police put out a nationwide 'wanted' announcement for a Pentecostal Christian. When Forum 18 inquired why there was a search for him it was said that a police officer had accused him of breaking the law by gathering people at his home for religious activities.
In north-west Uzbekistan 20 Protestant congregations and Jehovah's Witness congregations have arbitrarily been refused registration, Forum 18 reported. Under Uzbek law, unregistered religious activities are considered illegal and liable for prosecution. In August 2007 two members of the Peace Protestant Church in Nukus were fined a year's average earnings because they were unregistered.
Uzbekistan is also known to discriminate against ethnic minorities such as the Tajiks. Some Tajik cultural centres continue to have their registration rejected by authorities. There are complaints that books and other publications from Tajikistan are not allowed into the country. This ties in with complaints on the shortage of textbooks in Tajik, and with claims of discrimination in access to university-level education as the entrance tests are exclusively in Uzbek. For Tajiks, the continuing low level of recognition of the Tajik language – despite their now constituting the country's largest minority – means that many parents opt not to enter their children in Tajik-language schools, as they know that access to higher education and public employment will more likely be denied to them because of their non-Uzbek associations.
The term of Islam Karimov constitutionally ended in January 2007 but at the time of writing there has been no official announcement of an election. There is strong speculation regarding a possible December election. It is unclear if the current president, who is constitutionally in his last term of office, may manoeuvre parliament to enable him to run for an additional term. The International Crisis Group has warned that President Karimov's departure may lead to a violent power struggle.