Berlin, February 6, 2012
We would like to cordially invite you to our next event:
“From the Uzbek Cotton Fields to the Termez Military Base”
A High Level Hearing on Uzbekistan and Germany
Thursday March 1, 2012 from 13:00 – 18:30
In Berlin, in the “Landesvertretung der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg”, Jägerstraße 1, 10117
In this public high-level hearing, experts from governmental, intergovernmental, business, and NGO backgrounds will discuss the relationship between Germany and Uzbekistan. From state-sponsored child labor during the cotton harvesting involving from 1.5 to 2 million Uzbek children each year, to the subversion of basic civil and political rights including the systematic use of torture, the Uzbekistan human rights record is so appalling that the country is considered one of today’s most repressive regimes left in the world. Experts will engage on how political and economical interests of Western Actors impact, positively or negatively, the advancement of human rights in Uzbekistan, with a particular emphasis on Germany’s role and military interests in the context of the NATO-led efforts in Afghanistan.
The hearing will be held in English and German, with simultaneous interpretation. See the outline and the eminent list of speakers below.
This event is co-sponsored by the German-Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Anti-Slavery International, Human Rights Watch, Uzbekistan Press Freedom Group, terres des hommes, and Eurasian Transition Group.
Please RSVP at email@example.com. We look forward to seeing you!
With warm regards,
Attorney-at-Law Wolfgang Kaleck
ECCHR General Secretary
1) 13:00 – 13:30: Introductory Remarks And Video Screening
Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR General Secretary
Umida Niyazova, Head of the German-Uzbek Forum for Human Rights
2) 13:30 – 15:15: Part I - Who Benefits >From Forced Child Labor in the Cotton Fields?
Experts will discuss the respective roles played by Germany, European companies, the European Union, or the International Labor Organization with regards to the state-sponsored child labor in the Uzbek cotton harvesting. The Uzbekistan government’s monopoly on the cotton production and exports – ranked number 3 in the world – keeps the repressive regime rich and alive. Who benefits from this? What policies and conducts can change this status quo?
Moderator: Miriam Saage-Maaß, ECCHR Business and Human Rights Program Manager
Angelika Graf, Member of the German Bundestag (SPD):
“The role of Germany in eradicating child labor in the Uzbek cotton fields: challenges posed by realpolitik.”
Renate Hornung-Draus, Member of the Governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Vice President IOE, Managing Director of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA):
“ILO’s efforts to overcome Uzbekistan’s uncooperative stance.”
Representative of the German Ministry for Economics and Technology, Department for foreign trade and investment (Confirmed. Name to be announced).
C&A Representative (to be confirmed):
“Why retailers like C&A boycott Uzbek cotton and with what impact.”
3) 15:15 – 15:45: Coffee Break
4) 15:45 – 17:30: Part II: Germany: Between Strategic Interests and Human Rights Concerns In Uzbekistan
With a southern border with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan is considered an important strategic partner for the countries involved in the NATO-led efforts against the Taliban, in particular in the context of the Northern Distribution Network supply lines. For a decade now, Germany has leased from the Uzbek government the Termez military base hosting thousands of German troops. In the meantime, the human rights situation in Uzbekistan still dramatically fails to improve, including since the EU lifting of the sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the Andijan 2005 massacre. How is the pursuit of strategic interests made compatible with a human rights agenda? Experts will discuss how those and other political factors should be approached towards the long-term goal of achieving democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Uzbekistan.
Moderator: Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR General Secretary
Theo van Boven, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture:
“From the Andijan massacre to findings of “systematic and widespread” torture: how to understand the situation in Uzbekistan.”
Patricia Flor, German Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia for Eastern Europe
Sanjar Umarov, Former Uzbek political prisoner and Chairman of the Sunshine Coalition of Uzbekistan:
“The exercise of civil and political rights in Uzbekistan and the role of the international community.”
Scott Horton, Contributing Editor, Harper’s Magazine:
“Uzbekistan as a Values Dilemma for NATO”
5) 17:30 – 17:50: Concluding Remarks
Jan Egeland, Europe Director at Human Rights Watch, former United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, and former Norwegian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
6) 17:50 – 18:30: Cocktail Reception
Since then, however, and in contrast to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan has retained many features from its Soviet heritage, most notably centralized state administration of the economy and a dependence on cotton monoculture. Uzbekistan is the world's fourth-largest cotton producer. Although it has nearly twice the population of Kazakhstan (28 million versus 16 million), its gross domestic product (GDP) is less than one-third of the latter's ($37 billion versus $130 billion in 2010 at the official exchange rate). More ...
A delegation trip of German MP's to Tashkent was scheduled for November this year, after a request from Berlin, issued May 3. The Committee members planned to have bilateral meetings with the Uzbek Parliament and Government, discussing mainly the human rights dialogue.
Today, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry rejected the request by saying, that both chambers of the Parliament and the Government will have a tight schedule on "the further democratic reformation of the country together with the President. The legislative and executive bodies of Uzbekistan are therefore too busy for any additional consultations."
Volker Beck, Parliamentary Spokesperson of the Greens for Human Rights said that after the visit of the Deputy Foreign Minister Norov to Germany earlier this year, it seems that Tashkent felt offended by the protests in Berlin against the Uzbek Government.
He added that "Uzbekistan is too scared to talk about human rights issues openly, that they even are not willing to let German Parliamentarians into the country. Now I have my doubts, if a human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan can be fruitful." Mr. Beck also underlined, that talks about human rights abuses in Uzbekistan once a year are not enough. Just before those annual consultations, President Karimov would release some political prisoners, while arresting other opponents. If this dialogue is used only as a front, the German Government should reconsider its position on Uzbekistan. "The power, the time and the money then could be used in a better way to support the Uzbek civil society", Volker Beck said.
While the Greens made a clear statement on the cancellation, the German Government rejected any public comment.
The European Union has allocated a grant of 3,7 million Euro to an organization controlled by the daughter of Uzbek dictator
The European Union has allocated 3.7 million Euro to a charitable organization controlled by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva, the daughter of the Uzbek dictator. Karimova-Tillaeva is also Uzbekistan’s representative to UNESCO.
On 19 May 2011, in his defense statement in the suit brought by Lola Karimova against the French online publication "Rue89," lawyer Antoine Germain mentioned a letter sent by the office of Europa House in Uzbekistan to the Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children (hereinafter – Center), the director of which is the Lola Karimova-Tillaeva. The letter confirms that the European Union has allocated 3.7 million Euro to the Center, which will be transferred to its accounts in 2011. The letter from Europa House, dated 20 April 2011, was probably intended to attest to the respectability of Madame Karimova to the court in Paris.At the same court proceedings, the journalist Anaelle Verzaux served as a witness presenting the cost estimates for a charity event organized by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva in February 2010 at the Versailles Palace. According to these estimates, this organization, run by Lola Karimova, paid 230,000 Euro for the attendance of the well-known actress Monica Bellucci at the party. It was not reported whether the guests to the party gave even one Euro to the fund for Uzbek children. Expenses were incurred only by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva, but obviously not from her personal pocket.More ...
With his trademark "Peter Gallagher eyebrows" and "legit pal" Prince Andrew, as well as his "intellectual pursuit" as a trained dentist, the Turkmen leader's "future prospects" are considered "very good," says Newsweek.More ...
The following represents a compilation produced by human rights defenders in conjunction with partners, presenting analysis and case studies on torture and arbitrary detention in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
This report is intended as a briefing to UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Human Rights Defenders, and other UN Special Mechanisms and bodies on the situation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
It is also intended as an invitation to continued cooperation, to network building, and to strengthening civil society in both countries by encouraging increased interface on the part of Turkmen and Uzbek human rights defenders with the United Nations. Moving forward, we hope that together we can bring new information to light and take concrete steps toward ending human rights violations.
Partners in civil society find that years after the special rapporteur on torture concluded that systemic torture exists in Uzbekistan, torture in both countries continues to be a routine component of investigations and detention and is a common practice in the penal systems. Forms of torture include.
Bludgeoning with batons
Male and female rape and sodomy
Psychological humiliation and degradation
In particular, people linked with the Andijan events of 2005, including innocent family members, are routinely detained, brought up on bogus charges, and subjected to long years of bodily torture and psychological terror. Notably, medical personnel often play a roll in concealing evidence and fabricating fake documents which make filing charges impossible. Other at risk groups include:
Human rights defenders
Refugees and asylum seekers who are often deported from other CIS countries back to Uzbekistan
Ex convicts used as scapegoats
While information regarding Turkmenistan is scarce, according to our sources, the situation is the prison colonies is dire. This is exacerbated by the general weakness of civil society in Turkmenistan.
Of note have been recent studies carried out by the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, excerpts of which are contained in this report. These studies on Turkmen prisons and penal colonies detail arbitrary detention and torture as both physical and psychological daily realities.
It is our hope that this report by partners in civil society from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan can be used as an ongoing advocacy tool to improve the human rights situation. The contributors of the report offer their contact information and invitations toward further discussion.
The full report can be found here.
This may seem a peculiar thing for the European Union to do. Karimov is infamous for the massacre of over 700 demonstrators at Andijan in 2005, for the boiling alive of dissident Muzaffar Avazov in 2002, for some 10,000 political prisoners held in ex-Soviet gulags, for banning all Western media organisations and reporters, for the imprisonment in lunatic asylums of dissident journalists including his own nephew, for the jailing of HIV campaigners for corrupting public morals...More ...
Petition and information on Karimov's upcoming visit to Brussels: Free Europe embraces the the Uzbek Dictator?
Statement by activists and friends of civil society in Uzbekistan
On January 24, President Islam Karimov will visit Brussels, where he plans to meet with the leadership of the European Union and NATO. Meanwhile, the Belgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that neither official talks with member of the Belgian Government nor an audience with King Albert II. We learned about this visit not from press releases of the EU and the governments of Belgium, but through private channels. Only a few days ago, the website of the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso posted the headline:
Meeting with the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov which, in turn, links to the biography of Islam Karimov posted by the Uzbek government’s website. The reader can get the following information about Karimov from this ‘biography’:
‘For his outstanding contribution to education in Uzbekistan, creation of a state based on democratic laws, guarantee of civil peace and national accord, and for courage, I. Karimov was awarded the title Hero of Uzbekistan and the awards Mustakillik (Independence) and Amir Temur.’
This is propaganda pure and simple, and President Barroso’s website provided a link to this propaganda.
After we made this public, the Public Affairs Unit of the European Commission deleted the above mentioned link from the Commissioner's web site.
In regard to this, we are concerned by the following three circumstances.
First, EU relations with the Karimov regime seem to be at odds with EU principles of openness. One gets the impression that the EU is borrowing elements from the dictator’s own principles for ruling – of opacity and secrecy.
Second, flirting with the dictator of Uzbekistan, the EU sets a dangerous precedent. If the EU has a visit with Karimov, who will they receive next to discuss ‘water-energy issues’ or the like? Alexander Lukashenko, Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong Il, Than Shwe?
Finally, we are concerned that the attitude of EU leaders towards Karimov during the visit will be complimentary, and that the EU will miss the opportunity to impress upon the regime the need to improve its human rights record. More ...
As President of Eurasian Transition Group, a EU-based institution that focuses on the political and civil development in Central Asia, I am writing you on behalf of your upcoming meeting on January 24 with the President of Uzbekistan, Mr. Islam Karimov.
Like many other EU organizations, ETG is deeply concerned by the official visit of a dictator to the European Commission and to you personally, a person who is responsible for many human rights violations as torture, the killing of innocent people in Andijan, repression of Uzbek citizens and their family members, state-ordered child labour.
The whole process of Karimov’s state visit to Belgium is violating the EU’s commitments to openness and transparency: Only through private channels the international community was informed in advance about the visit, while the European Commission tried to cover the event in silence.
Secondly, the official visit of President Karimov violates the „Central Asia Strategy“ of the European Union, ratified by all member governments, where the respect for human rights, transparency and openness are substantial for intensifying the bilateral relations between the EU bodies and the states of Central Asia.
ETG agrees with the fact, that rejecting any cooperation and dialogue with authoritarian regimes would not help the suffering citizens in those countries. But granting a dictator with an official visit to the European Commission might in fact open the door for further human rights violations in Uzbekistan and other repressive states and I am asking you whether or not you would be willing to give the leaders of Sudan, Belarus, Myanmar and Iran also a warm welcome in Brussels.
Talks between members of the European Commission with Uzbek authorities alone are not to be criticized by us. In fact, it is the procedure of preparing Karimov’s visit, that concerns us deeply. I am quite confident that our position would not have been so negative, if for example the Commission in preparation for new consultations with the Uzbek Government would have invited international human rights organizations, Uzbek activists living in exile (the ones in Uzbekistan are arrested or are not allowed to leave the country), Western experts on Uzbekistan for consultations with you and your office, having an open discussion about the current situation in the country and the possibilities for the EU in this respect. With such a transparent openness, the Commission’s position concerning Karimov’s visit would have been much more coherent with the basic principles of a EU foreign policy.
We also had to learn, that the European Commission does not seem to be able to provide the EU public with an objective and independent CV of President Karimov. The web presence of your office is linking directly to a propaganda CV by the Uzbek authorities, saying that President Karimov is responsible for the „creation of a state based on democratic law, guarantee of civil peace and national accord“.
I personally cannot believe that the European Commission supports such a statement. But if not, why is the Public Affairs Unit of your office unwilling to give a more accurate picture of the man, you are going to welcome next Monday?
Summarizing the already said, ETG and other organizations and individuals are deeply concerned about the Commission’s policy towards the authoritarian regime in Uzbekistan.
Michael Laubsch, President Eurasian Transition Group
Западные НПО, занимающиеся Центральной Азией, и особенно правозащитники крайне негативно восприняли известие о готовящемся 24 января визите президента Узбекистана Ислама Каримова в Брюссель. Удивление по поводу готовности европейцев расстелить красную дорожку перед лидером государства, систематически критикуемого за грубые нарушения прав человека, выражают и эксперты. Руководитель неправительственной организации Eurasian Transition Group Михаэль Лаубш (Michael Laubsch) только что вернулся из Брюсселя. В интервью Deutsche Welle он рассказал о причинах, побудивших Евросоюз официально принять Ислама Каримова на высшем уровне.More ...
The visit, following an EU decision last year to lift sanctions on Uzbekistan, marks a new stage in the rehabilitation of Mr Karimov who was castigated by the west for ordering a brutal police crackdown on a protest in the city of Andizhan in 2005.More ...
On the eve of your first official visit to Brussels in years, President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, you deserve high praise. You have played the long game expertly and outmanoeuvred European foreign-policy makers so deftly that you have become a model of how to shrug off international pariah status.More ...
The US is ready to "support and assist in that effort", Clinton added while meeting President Islam Karimov on Thursday during a visit to the ex-Soviet state that lasted only a few hours.
"I urged him to demonstrate his commitment through a series of steps, to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are truly protected in this country," Clinton told NGO leaders at a meeting, apress statement said.
"I am well aware of the hardship that many of you experience because of the work that you do," she said.
Uzbekistan has rejected the accusations of mass human rights violations, notably the regime's systematic stifling of all form of opposition, which are regularly voiced by NGOs.
Clinton said she touched on restrictions on religious freedom, torture, and child labour.
"We raise these issues in all our interactions with the government and will continue to make improvement of human rights in Uzbekistan an integral part of expanding our bilateral relationship."
In an annual report published in January, US-based Human Rights Watch said the Uzbek government's human rights record remained "atrocious."
Clinton during her visit also signed a broad bilateral science and technology cooperation agreement with Uzbekistan's First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov.
With evidence that little has changed despite the promises of the Uzbek Government and with the spring planting season just around the corner, EJF asks whether it will be children forced to pick the crop again when the harvest comes around later this year.
Steve Trent, Executive Director at EJF says “The international community must follow the actions of the private sector - and in particular major European and US retailers - to apply forceful diplomatic and trade pressure to ensure that cotton production in Uzbekistan is no longer characterized by the use of state- sponsored, forced child and adult labour and devastating environmental impacts, to benefit a small, corrupt, ruling elite”.
Sting with Gulnara Karimova at a fashion show in Uzbekistan. Photograph: GettyMore ...
© Carson.WiensMore ...
The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, based in Berlin, provided assistance with the collation and analysis of the data. Monitoring was conducted through interviews with individuals released from prisons, victims of torture, relatives of the convicted, and persons serving prison sentences and includes observation of court hearings. In addition, official responses from government agencies to claims of torture from alleged victims, press releases, and statements from local human rights organizations were included in the review.
Consideration of the third periodic report under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The report covers the events for the period of 2005 to 2009. As for the range of issues, the current report largely repeats the previous 2005 NGO submission regarding the many problems and failures of the Uzbek Government to insure the rights guaranteed by the Covenant persisted.More ...
Each of the journalists was presented their own detailed record with articles, bio and other documents. Mr. Nurmatov informed that these documents were delivered from National Security Service (NSS) and Uzbek Foreign Affairs Ministry.More ...
The setting of this story is the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan – one of the most brutal among post-Soviet dictatorships. The Islam Karimov regime is notorious for its ruthless repression of any kind of opposition or threat – political, social or economic.More ...
Uzbek human rights activists to organize rally and picket to stop child labor in Uzbekistan's cotton fields
The European Union’s consideration to lift the arms embargo on Uzbekistan gives the signal to Uzbekistan’s government that the EU is prepared to accept Uzbekistan’s atrocious human rights record
The decision was made on September 11, when the Samarkand provincial court reviewed Sayid’s appeal.More ...
The Uzbek authorities say these men are alleged extremistsMore ...
The cotton growers, getting into busesMore ...
Ikram Yakubov, who has defected from Uzbekistan, claims he was forced to fabricate evidence against innocent people and witnessed people being tortured.
He spoke to Peter Marshall.
You can watch the interview on BBC here.
Open letter of Uzbek activists who call for boycott of Uzbek cotton to stop the practice of forced child labour
Uzbekistan does not reinvest the proceeds from its cotton exports into cotton producers and the rural areas where it is grown, but siphons it into the hands of a small group of the country’s ruling elites.
World Bank and Asian Development Bank loans to Uzbekistan’s agricultural sector have not led to genuine reform. Uzbekistan’s continued reliance upon a command economy paves the way for loans to go into the hands of the ruling elite. Activists are calling for international financial instruments to lend to the Uzbek agro-sector only on a conditional basis, to encourage the reforms that would free Uzbek farmers from the tyranny of a corrupt regime.
Activists are calling for a boycott of Uzbek cotton. They call upon companies importing cotton, in particular the Dubai Multi Commodities Center , as well as retailers, to adhere to the principles of corporate social responsibility
The international community should not take at face value mere spoken or written commitments made by Uzbekistan, but should demand actions demonstrating a complete end to the practice of forced child labor that can be verified via an independent monitoring during the cotton season.
Activists call on the U.S. government and the EU to take steps to prevent their markets from being penetrated by products bearing traces of forced child labor.
Ferghana.Ru sources report an explosion on the premises of the municipal police department of Khanabad, city in the eastern part of the Andijan region of Uzbekistan, on May 25. Cause of the explosion remains unknown. The authorities and media offer no comments.More ...
Police in Uzbekistan exchanged gunfire with a group of armed men in the eastern town of Khanabad and an explosion was heard, witnesses have said.More ...
Four years after closing down a United States military airbase, Uzbekistan has given NATO access to transit facilities at Navoi airport. Although it has done so indirectly, through a deal with South Korea, NBCentralAsia analysts say the Uzbek leadership is deliberately .More ...
The Tashkent-based human rights organization Ezgulik reported on January 26 that five journalists working for the magazine "Irmoq" were arrested by police and accused of spreading the ideas of the Turkish Islamic group Nurcular.
Ezgulik's Abdurakhmon Tashanov told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the journalists have been monitored by police since September.
The chief editor of "Irmoq," Khamza Jumayev, confirmed that his five journalists have "problems" but did not elaborate.
A vocal human rights activist for more than a decade, Turgunov has defended the rights of political and religious prisoners and protested against the use of torture in Uzbekistan's prisons.
He once told Human Rights Watch that "if everybody stays silent, the situation would get even worse."
In October, he was tried and convicted on charges of extortion.
But since the case was reviewed last month, "neither I nor his lawyer know where he is," Turgunova said.More ...
Ferghana.Ru sources in Tashkent say that administration of colleges and universities demand written reports from their students on every visit to the US Embassy.More ...
On January 15 2009 Embassy of Uzbekistan to the United States released a press release on the consideration of Uzbekistan’s National Report within the framework of Universal Periodic Report of UN Human Rights Council.More ...