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Free Europe embraces the Uzbek dictator?

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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.
 
Here is only a brief list of human rights abuses committed by the Karimov regime that we wish to bring to the attention of EU leaders:
  
     1. In May 2005, government troops opened fire on protesters in Andijan, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, among them women, children, and the elderly. Resolution ? 60/174 «The situation of human rights in Uzbekistan," adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 16, 2005, speaks of the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by government troops to quell the demonstrations in Andijan. Assessments by the European Union, also, in the beginning, were quite critical – as indicated by their imposition of sanctions against Uzbekistan. But in 2008, the sanctions were essentially lifted under the pretext of their being counter-productive. But the same document, which ended the sanctions, at the same time, imposed sanctions against Burma. Where is the logic and consistency in the position of the European Council?
 
The brutal suppression of protesters in Andijan did not stop with the shooting at the demonstrations. Hundreds of citizens, participants, and witnesses to the events were arrested, tortured and convicted in closed court proceedings, in which they were not granted access to a proper defense. There is also evidence of the practice of mass extrajudicial executions and of death in detention as a result of torture in Andijan. The government has used medical facilities as a space for interrogation and torture.
   
The ruling regime still discriminates against the families of Andijan refugees who have been granted asylum in the West. Many refugees have left behind their children and spouses. The Andijan authorities prohibit those who remained in the city, to leave the country and reunite with their relatives. This also violates their right to travel, choice of residence, and private, family life.
  
We are already receiving information from Uzbekistan that security officials have paid visits to the relatives of refugees now living in Sweden and other European countries, threatening them with reprisals, should the refugees sign a petition or participate in a demonstration protesting Karimov’s visit to Brussels.
  
     2. Uzbekistan pledged to implement the main UN conventions on human rights, however, the widespread and systematic practice of torture continues throughout the country. It is impossible to investigate torture cases, as the court is beholden to the executive branch of government, as is the medical establishment, including local forensic expertise, which is fully under the control of the secret services. Victims of torture are virtually deprived of the opportunity to undergo an objective examination that would be recognized by the courts.
   
Law enforcement agencies and prison authorities generally use torture as a means of extracting confessions for both real and imaginary offenses, as well as to intimidate. The principle of presumption of innocence is not honored. The basis for verdicts often is the self-incrimination of defendants, who are pressured, during investigation to make false confessions. There are incidents of rape of women in police stations and prisons. Inmates are increasingly dying from torture, abuse, and denial of medical care, particularly if they are convicted for political reasons.
    
The systematic practice of torture is a result of the tacit acquiescence and encouragement of this method by the central government, personally by Islam Karimov, who has mastered the vocabulary of violence against his own people. The judges dismiss claims by defendants that they have been tortured during interrogations. Lawyers do not have ready access to suspects. The political leadership of the country has never publicly condemned the practice of torture.
 
     3. There is no freedom of expression in the country and those who are trying to exercise their natural right to freedom of expression are victims of political persecution. Over the past five years, 145 human rights defenders and independent journalists have been persecuted. 38 civil society activists are still in prison where they are subject to abuse.
  
     4. There is no freedom of religion in Uzbekistan. The state systematically interferes in the affairs of religious believers and religious communities, exposes them to persecution, punishes any who deviate from the officially sanctioned doctrine of Islam, without making the distinction between moderate and radical religious movements.
  
     5. There is rampant censorship of the media, as well as a lack of independent media. Uzbekistan is recognized as one of their worst enemies of the Internet, and many independent publications on the web are blocked. Members of the international media are denied accreditation to work in the country and report on the inner life of the country. Were it not for civil society activists, the world would remain completely ignorant of the country's problems. At the same time the official information from the country is based on lies and functions as state propaganda.
   
   6. Islam Karimov has stayed in power for 21 years, and has, in fact, usurped it. Every single extension of the length of the presidential term, as stated in the Constitution, has expired. The sole and absolute power Karimov holds and the security agencies, unaccountable to the public, on which his power relies, have led to large scale corruption, linking the authorities with organized crime. The consequences of such a system – was demonstrated by the situation in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.  We should not passively wait for what has happened recently in Tunisia, where a popular uprising ousted dictator Ben Ali.
   
Taking advantage of his limitless power, Karimov encourages his siblings and close relatives, as well as his inner coterie to plunder the country's wealth. The president's daughter has robbed the country of its wealth, which she has taken out of the country, leaving its population behind living in poverty, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on shopping sprees in Europe, buying luxury villas, and hobnobbing with the wealthy elite. Unfortunately, the current EU policy of flirting with the Uzbek dictator only contributes to the further plunder of Uzbekistan.
   
    7. In the country’s cotton sector, the practice of forced child labor continues even though the country’s laws prohibit the exploitation of children. Those who protect the legitimate interests of children – not only their parents, but also the human rights defenders acting on their behalf, risk great danger by doing so. In 2010, the state continued to exploit child labor. Dozens of companies in the world have already announced a boycott of Uzbek cotton, demanding that Uzbekistan put an end to this shameful practice. But the EU and some European companies importing Uzbek cotton and textiles, actually encourage the practice of forced labor in Uzbekistan. Nothing else can explain why the European Commission provides preferential tariffs on Uzbek cotton and cotton products within the framework of the Generalized System of Preferences.
  
Dear Sirs,
  
We urge the EU to take advantage of Karimov's visit to have a candid conversation with him, to try to convince him of the need to respect human rights. This is especially true in light of the abovementioned problems. Should the dictator not heed these appeals, we suggest you take advantage of the influence and leverage of the EU and its Member States to compel him to address them.
  
We are not against talks with the Uzbek government. But we believe that for a discussion with the government on water and energy issues, it is not necessary to receive a dictator at the highest level and even more so, to give him an audience with the king.
   
Negotiations can be conducted at the level of government functionaries. Receiving Karimov ?nly legitimizes his brutal regime and encourages it to continue commiting crimes against its people. We believe that the decision to receive Karimov in the capital of Europe is a mistake and significantly harms the international reputation and the credibility of the European Comission.
  
 
Signed,
 
International
 
 
Uzbekistan:
 
1. Jodgor Obid, poet, member of International PEN, Austria
2. Mutabar Tajibayeva, head of the Human Rights Club "Flaming Heart", France
3. Abdujalil Boymatov, Chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Ireland
4. Bashorat Eshova, ?oordinator of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in Switzerland
5. Gulshan Karaeva, chairman of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Kashkadarya Region, Uzbekistan 
6. Ismail Dadajonov, chairman of the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Sweden
7. Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France
8. Bakhodir Namazov, Committee to release prisoners of conscience in Uzbekistan
9. Tulkin Qoraev, the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Sweden
10. Avaz Fayazov, The international organization Human Rights Defenders, Sweden
11.Yusuf Rasulov, Journalist, Sweden
12. Abdurahimov Abdulatif, Political refugee Sweden
13. Dilmurod Isakov, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
14. Abdumalik Bakaev, Political refugee Sweden
15. Avaz Isakov, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
16. Yusupov Bayramali, Political refugee, Denmark
17. Rafik Ganiev, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden 
18. Nabijon Norbutaev, Political Party Birlik, Sweden 
19. Muhiddin Qurbonov,The international organization Human Rights Defenders, Sweden 
20. Asadullo Ahmedov, Political refugee, Norway
21. Dildora Ahmedova, Political refugee, Norway
22. Daniel Anderson, Political refugee, Norway
23. Devid Anderson, Political refugee, Norway
24. Shavkat Hodjaev, Political Party Birlik
25. Rufiya Kiyamova, Political Party Birlik
26. Ota Rahimov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
27. Davlat Kozimov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
28. Saodat Kazimova, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
29. Zahro Kazimova, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan 
30. Bek Davronov, refugee
31. Ishanov Zubayd, refugee
32. Ibodat Karimova, refugee
33. Anvar Karimov, Political refugee, USA
34. Avaz Karimov, Political refugee, USA
35. Ayub Karimov, Political refugee, USA
36. Inom Bobohonov, Political Party Birlik
37. Ilhom Bobohonov, Political refugee, USA
38. Shamsuddin Isomutdinov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
39. Rustam Qobimov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
40. Farida Qosimova, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
41. Karim Suyunov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
42. Rafik Eshmatov,  the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
43. Bek Alibekov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
44. Jamshid Bokiev, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
45. Muhammadsolih Abutov, "Tayanch", Sweden
46. Dustnazar Hudoynazarov, Political Party ERK, Sweden
47. Asror Egamberdiev, Political refugee, Sweden
48. Khusniddin Kutbiddinov, journaliste, Uzbekistan
49. Ulugbek Khaydarov, journaliste, Canada
  
Russia
   
50. Sergey Kovalev, Chairman of the Board of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, Chairman of the Memorial Russian Historical and Civil Rights Society, President of the Human Rights Institute, one of the leaders of the human rights group of the Yabloko Party.
  
51.Valentin Gefter, Director General of the Institute of Human Rights, Russia
52. Elena Ryabinina, Head of the Right to Asylum program of the Institute for Human Rights, Russia
      
Kyrgyzstan
 
53. Tolekan Ismailova, Citizens against corruption, KGZ
   
Kazakhstan
 
54. Bally Mazhets, Chairman of the Wspolnota Kazachska Association
55. Rozlana Taukina, President of the Journalists in Trouble Foundation 
56. Dametken Alenova, leader of the Women of Kazakhstan NGO
57. Irina Savostina, Chairman of the Generation Movement of Pensioners of the Republic of Kazakhstan
58. Bakhytzhan Toregozhina - leader of the Kahar movement , NGO Ar Ruh Hak
59. Igor Vinyavsky, journalists of the Vzglyad newspaper 
60. Olesya Shchelkova, journalists of the Vzglyad newspaper
61. Vladimir Radionov, journalists of the Vzglyad newspaper 
62. Natalia Shcherbakova, journalists of the Vzglyad newspaper
63. Igor Zenin - journalists of the Vzglyad newspaper
64. Karishal Asan-Ata, public figure, writer
65. Aysulu Kadyrbaeva, Kuretamyr Public Foundation, member of the Writers' Union of Kazakhstan
66. Zhasaral Kuanyshalin, Zhasa, Azattyk! NGO
67. Bakhyt Tumenova, Aman-saulik Public Foundation
68. Mikhail Sizov, Editor-in-Chief of the Alga! Newspaper
69. Irina Savostina, Chairman of the Generation Movement of Pensioners of the Republic of Kazakhstan
70. Rozlana Taukina, President of the Journalists in Trouble Foundation 
71. Bakhytzhan Toregozhina - leader of the Kahar movement , NGO Ar Ruh Hak
72. Dametken Alenova, leader of the Women of Kazakhstan NGO
73. Marat Zhanuzakov, a deputy of the Kokshetau City Council
74. Igor Kolov, Public Committee for Human Rights NGO
75. Victor Novikov, Aksakaly Public Association
76. Tamara Aukenova, Kuretamyr Public Foundation, doctor
77. Serik Sapargali, Ult Rukhy NGO
78. Yuri Khramov, citizen of Kazakhstan
79. Yulia Ananyina, Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Civil Liberties NGO
80. Oleg Barvin, FORVERS Public Association for the Protection of Motorists' Rights
81. Nikolai Chumakov, Russian Social Cultural Union NGO
82. Alimzhan Zhusupov, SHAKHTER Trade Union Public Association
83. Aigul Daurenbekova,  Talmas the Public Association
84. Sergey Leonov, correspondent of the ALGA newspaper
85. Alena Mloznyak, Service Industry Entrepreneurs Trade Union NGO
86. Adilzhan Kinzhegaleev, Free Trade Union of Workers of the City of Rudny NGO
87. Natalia Shteynbek, OYL Kostanay Regional Centre of Free Trade Unions
88. Svetlana Tihanenko, Union for Protection of Consumer Rights of the Kostanay Region NGO
89. Anvar Khasanov, Movement in Defence of the Rights of Pensioners of Rudniy NGO
90. Maria Kudrenko, member of the Board of OGP Generation
91. Perizat Kasimova, Centre for the Protection of Human Rights NGO
92. Elena Semenova, Public Association Let's Leave the People with Housing - Pavlodar Region
93. Antonina Dokuchaeva, Shanyrak NGO
94. Kunsulu Maken, Legal Development of Kazakhstan Public Association
95. Vasiliy Zaizenov, Generation Movement for Social and Legal Protection of the Population 
96. Yerkebulan Aldabergenov, Ulan Youth Organization of the Pavlodar Region NGO
97. Sergei Izmailov, Youth Federation of Petropavlovsk for Democratic Development, Public Committee for Human Rights of the North Kazakhstan Region NGO
98. Valentina Makhotina, Dialogue Plus Private Enterprise 
99. Indira Kakimova, Ariadna Public Association 
100. Irina Suvorova, Ariadna Public Association, correspondent of the ALGA newspaper
101. Maria Popova, Ariadna Public Association
102. Elena Polyantseva, Ariadna Public Association
103. Raigul Tleukhanova, Ariadna Public Association
104. Erlan Kaliev, Ariadna Public Association
105. Alexey Nestratov, Ariadna Public Association
106. Rufit Ahmedzyanov, Ariadna Public Association, correspondent of the ALGA newspaper
107. Dmitry Shmakov, Ariadna Public Association
108. Eduard Datchikov, Public Foundation for Environmental Protection
109. Natalia Tomilova, Miner's Family Public Association
110. Tahir Mukhamedzyanov, Miner's Family Public Association
111. Danil Nosenko, Union for the Protection of Citizens' Rights and Freedoms Public Association
112. Ruslan Simbinov, the head of the Astana organising committee for the creation of Alga! Not-for-profit Partnership
113. Mukhit Nurmakhan, the head of the Kyzylorda organising committee for the creation of Alga! Not-for-profit Partnership
114. Sagat Zhusip, adviser to the Alga! Party
115. Sarmagambetova Anarkul, head of the Detar NGO
116. Mambetaliev Adikhan, Head of the regional branch of the CPK
117. Ibrashuly Sarbulat, editor of the Samala newspaper 
118. Gaziz Tortbaev, Ana Tili Public Association
119. Gulzhan Tulemisova, Head of the Aktobe organising committee for the creation of Alga! Not-for-profit Partnership
120. Razia Akatayeva, Ariadna Public Association
121. Valentin Kadola, Generation Public Association
122. Dametken Zharylkasynova, Zhambyl Committee for the Protection of Human Rights NGO
123. Svetlana Koshelekova, Taraz Press Club NGO
124. Tamara Sabitova, Miracle Public Association 
125. Rauf Sabitov Mountain Club Zhabygly-Manas Public Association 
126. Varvara Naidenova, Veronica Women's Club Public Association
127. Adem Ilyasova, Otandastar Public Association
128. Baniamin Fayzulin, Taldykorgan City Parent Committee
129. Rustam Akhmarov, journalist of Alga
130. Natalia Nurlanova, journalist of Alga
131. Irina Titovskaya, journalist of Alga
132. Svetlana Mausumbaeva, 1 secretary of the Ust-Kamenogorsk city committee of the CPK
133. Vladimir Buravtsev, Generation Public Association
134. Ibraev Zhumabek, Ariadna Public Association
135. Svetlana Grigorieva, Ariadna Public Association
136. Askar Shaigumarov, Union of Foster Children ZKO
137. Anargul Abenova, West Kazakhstan Regional Organising Committee for creation of Alga! Not-for-profit Partnership
138. Belyaev Viktor, journalist of Alga
139. Doszhanov Zhenis, Head of the Alga! Organising Committee for creation of Alga! Not-for-profit Partnership for the South Kazakhstan region
140. Perneev Yernazar, First Secretary of the South Kazakhstan Region Branch of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan
141. Mahan Kulmukhanbet, Aral-Eco Public Association
142. Mayhanov Galymzhan, Union of Veterans of Local Wars and Afghan Veterans
143. Kisileva Tatyana, Bureau for Human Rights Public Association
143. Seitinbet Zharkynbek, Institutes for the Development of Democracy Public Association
144. Sultonova Zulaykho, Oralman Public Association
145. Davezov Marat, League of Voters Public Association
146. Shakirova Kulaisa, League of Muslim Women Public Association
147. Lee Olga, Centre for the Protection of Women and Children of SKO Public Association
148. Bekenova Қuralay, Association of Business Women of Kazakhstan branch of South Kazakhstan Region
149. Abysheva Hadicha, Sana-Sezim Legal Centre for Women's Initiatives  Public Association
150. Maken Gaysina, Generation Movement Public Association
151. Arbudu Natalia, a citizen of Kazakhstan
152. Musina Sholpan, a citizen of Kazakhstan
153. Tegisbaeva Asel, citizen of Kazakhstan
154. Spitsyna Tatyana, a citizen of Kazakhstan
155. Aigul Sarsenbayeva, citizen of Kazakhstan
156. Kydykova Tolkyn, citizen of Kazakhstan
157. Bekturganov Danil, citizen of Kazakhstan
158. Ogai Stella, citizen of Kazakhstan
159. Fominykh Tatyana, citizen of Kazakhstan
160. Adenov Kenzhe, citizen of Kazakhstan
161. Amirova Aizhangul, a citizen of Kazakhstan
162. Yesenbayev Nurhat, a citizen of Kazakhstan
  
Azerbaijan
    
163. Leyla Yunus, Institute of Peace and Democracy
164. Hikmet Hajizade, FAR Centre
165. Matanat Azizova, Women’s Crisis Centre
166. Ismail Veliyev, Ganjabasar newspaper
167. Elchin Mammad, Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth
168. Hafiz Safihanov, Azerbaijan’s Campaign to Ban Landmines
169. Zahir Amanov, Janub Heberleri newspaper
170. Alovsat Aliyev, Azerbaijan Migration Centre
171. Ilgar Gasimov, Legal Aid (Lenkoran city)
172. Mehman Aliyev, Turan News Agency
173.  Anar Mammedli, Election Monitoring and Democratic Studies Centre
174. Mirvari Gahramanli, Protection of Oil Workers’ Rights
175. Elchin Behbudov, Azerbaijan Committee against Torture
176. Hikmet Hajizade, FAR Centre
177. Intigam Aliyev, Legal Education Society
178. Leyla Aliyeva, Centre for National and International Studies
179. Hilal Mammedov, Tolishi Sado newspaper
180. Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Society
181. Annagi Hacibeyli, Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
182. Alekber Mammedov, Center for Democratic and Civil Control of the Military
183. Shakir Agaev, Newspaper Novoye Vremya
184. Eldar Zeynalov, Director Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
   
Turkmenistan
 
185. Vyacheslav Mammadov, Chairman, Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan
 
Poland
 
186. Lyudmila Kozlovskaya, Vice-Director of the Open Dialog Foundation, Poland  
187. Marek Pavlovsky, member of the Civil Platform Party, Poland
188. Andrzej Shljvinsky, Young Democrats NGO, Poland
189. Ivan Sherstyuk, the candidate from the Pora Party, the founder of the Open Dialog Foundation, Ukraine-Poland
190. Yaroslav Prystash, Editor-in-Chief of the Nashe Slovo Publishing House, Poland
 
Georgia
191. Levan Zhorbenadze, founder of the Dialogue for Development 2008 Foundation, Georgia