Uzbekistan16 October 2007
Disappointment at EU’s partial lifting of targeted sanction on Uzbek leaders
Reporters Without Borders today said it was “disappointed and worried” by yesterday’s European Union decision to partially lift targeted sanctions on the Uzbek government by granting visas to eight of its leaders who had previously been banned from visiting Europe.
“This policy of dialogue seems more and more risky,” the press freedom organisation said. “So far only the EU is doing anything. The Uzbek government was supposed to give tangible evidence of its desire to improve the human rights situation but now it is being rewarded without making any progress. Under these circumstances, we fear that human rights activists, government opponents and independent journalists will continue to be repressed.”
The EU’s foreign ministers took their decision to lift the sanctions on eight Uzbek representatives in the course of a six-monthly review of the sanctions that were imposed on Uzbekistan in October 2005 in response to its refusal to permit an international investigation into the crackdown on the Andijan uprising of May 2005.
Reporters Without Borders described the increased harassment of the news media and foreign NGOs in a statement issued on the eve of the Uzbek national holiday on 1 September. Several NGOs that are headquartered in other countries or receive foreign funding have had their accreditation withdrawn and have had to suspend all activity in Uzbekistan.
The harassment of the media has continued with more arrests (Said Abdurakhimov, Alexei Volosevitch and others), closures of newspapers (Odamlar Orasida), journalists forced to confess and repent (Umida Niyazova and Gulbahor Turayeva) or go into exile (Natalia Bushuyeva) to avoid imprisonment.
The EU voted to adopt sanctions against Uzbekistan after the government’s crackdown on the uprising in the eastern city of Andijan on 13 May 2005 left a death toll estimated at about 800 by human rights groups (and 187 by the government). Since then, the sanctions have been reexamined every six months.
The sanctions were eased slightly for the first time on 13 November 2006. The names of four Uzbek officials were taken off the banned list in the next review in May of this year, when the EU began what is meant to be a dialogue on human rights with the Uzbek government. The first meeting in this dialogue was held in Tashkent on 8-9 May.