UN tells Uzbekistan, time to act on human rights

Once fiercely critical of Uzbekistan's human rights record, the United States and its allies have shifted their focus more to military issues.

UN tells Uzbekistan, time to act on human rights

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Uzbekistan on Monday to improve its human rights record, saying it was time for the ex-Soviet republic to show the world it was serious about delivering on its promises.

Uzbekistan has long been accused by the West of human rights abuses including the use of torture in jail.

Secular President Islam Karimov, who has tolerated no dissent during two decades in power in a Muslim nation at the heart of the ancient Silk Road trading route.

Ban, on his first tour of Central Asia, met with Karimov on Monday and the two had a frank exchange on human rights, according to a U.N. official travelling with the U.N. chief.

The official quoted Karimov as telling Ban during their private meeting: "Why pick on us on these issues? They are a problem for everyone". Another U.N. official described the talks as a "pretty rough ride".

Earlier, in a speech at a university in the capital Tashkent, Ban urged Uzbekistan to show its commitment to human rights.

"You have an important place in the universal agreements that bind us as a community of nations. It is time to deliver. To put them fully into practice," Ban said.

Ban said he had won rights concessions from the leader of Turkmenistan after visiting that country earlier on the tour. In Kyrgyzstan, protesters shouted "help us!" as his motorcade drove through the capital.

Speaking at the university, Ban urged students to take the future into their own hands in a country where two thirds of the population of 28 million are under 30 years old.

"You are the future of your great nation. Therefore you are responsible for it," Ban, flanked by Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev, told about 200 students. "This is your new world. It needs you. The world needs a modern Uzbekistan."

"No change"

Surat Ikramov, one in a handful of independent human rights defenders operating in Uzbekistan, said he did not expect Karimov to change his policies as a result of Ban's visit.

"The Uzbek leadership will largely ignore all this," he told Reuters. "Things will remain the same. The U.N. is a big talking shop and it has no authority over countries like Uzbekistan."

Central Asia has some of the world's biggest energy reserves and is home to a military supply route for NATO-led troops occupying nearby Afghanistan.

Some rights groups have accused the West of putting oil and security above human rights in its ties with the region, and not applying enough pressure on governments to promote human rights.

Once fiercely critical of Uzbekistan's human rights record, the United States and its allies have forgotten their "human rigths lessons" over the civilian killings in past years, shifting their focus more to military issues.

Last year the European Union angered international human rights groups by lifting sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan after troops shot hundreds of protesters in Andizhan.

Witnesses said hundreds of people died in a violent crackdown on a protest in the town of Andizhan in May 2005.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Nisan 2010, 17:10

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