Uzbekistan, Our Ally In the Iraq and Afghan Conflicts, Is Boiling Prisoners

Here's a candidate for humanitarian invervention (particularly if you belive Iraq was one): Uzbekistan. According to this article in the Guardain, Ambassador accused after criticising US, the government of Uzbekistan—an important ally in the war against whatever it is we are fighting, and which receives a US bribe subsidy of half a billion dollars per year, sounds like, well, Iraq.

The UK embassador to Uzbekistan was undiplomatic about certain local customs, like the jailing thousands of political prisoners, and the government boiling some of them to death. So, he's in trouble. His friends blame pressure from the US. The UK denies the pressure (but they would, wouldn't they?). The Guardian suggests that instead of being outspoken about the Uzbekistan's abuses, the US government supports the regime.

The important thing here is not the details of a British ambassador's career. The important thing is what this reminds us about the side effects of the Administration's obsession with Iraq. Add the entrenchment of the murderous regime in Uzbekistan to the calculus the next time someone explains how the world is better off without Saddam.

How many other murderous regimes is it worth entrenching to get rid of one?

Background Information

Human Rights Watch, World Report 2003 on Uzbekistan reports “Human rights abuses on a massive scale”.

EurasiaNet has links to many other Human Rights documents.

The US Dept. of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002, says “Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights.” As you read on, that turns out to be a positively British understatement:

The Government's human rights record remained very poor; although there were some notable improvements, it continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens could not exercise the right to change their government peacefully. The Government permitted the existence of opposition political parties but harassed their members and refused either to register the parties or to allow them to participate in elections. Security force mistreatment resulted in the deaths of several citizens in custody. Police and NSS forces tortured, beat, and harassed persons. The Government invited the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit the country, which he did in November. Prison conditions were poor, and pretrial detention often lasted several months. Police routinely and arbitrarily detained citizens to extort bribes. Police and NSS arbitrarily arrested persons, particularly Muslims suspected of extremist sympathies. They also planted evidence on persons; however, it was less common than in previous years. The number of persons in prison for political or religious reasons, primarily individuals the Government believed were associated with extremist Islamic political groups but also members of the secular opposition and human rights activists, was approximately 6,500. The judiciary did not ensure due process. Police and NSS forces infringed on citizens' privacy. Those responsible for documented abuses rarely were punished; however, for the first time since independence the Government convicted nine officers of the NSS and police for serious human rights abuses.

The Government severely restricted freedom of speech and the press, and an atmosphere of repression stifled public criticism of the Government. In May press censorship was eliminated; however, the Government warned editors that they were responsible for the content of their publications, and new amendments to the media law in effect encouraged self-censorship. The Government continued to ban unauthorized public meetings and demonstrations, and police forcibly disrupted a number of peaceful protests. The Government prevented many more protests, citing the threat of unrest. Ordinary citizens remained circumspect in criticizing the Government publicly. The Government continued to deny registration to opposition political parties; however, for the first time in several years the Government allowed an opposition political party to hold congresses. For the first time, the Government registered an independent domestic human rights organization; however, it denied the applications of two other human rights organizations. The Government restricted freedom of religion and harassed and arrested hundreds of Muslims it suspected of extremism. The Government tolerated the existence of minority religions but placed limits on their activities. The Government restricted freedom of movement. Internal passports were required for movement within the country and permission was required to move from one city or district to another. Exit visas were required to travel abroad. The Government harassed and abused members of domestic human rights groups. Several human rights activists were arrested in circumstances that suggested selective enforcement of the law and targeting of human rights activists.

There were no confirmed reports of political killings; however, in July two inmates, Mirzakomil Avazov and Khusnuddin Olimov, incarcerated for membership in an extremist Islamic political party, were apparently tortured to death in Jaslyk prison.

Although the law prohibits these practices, both police and the NSS routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions or incriminating information. Police and the NSS allegedly used suffocation, electric shock, rape, and other sexual abuse; however, beating was the most commonly reported method of torture. Human rights observers reported that the use of torture abated in some prisons following the January conviction of four policemen. Torture nonetheless continued in prisons, pretrial facilities, and local police and security service precincts; and the severity of torture did not decrease during the year. At the end of his visit in December, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture concluded that the use of torture in the country was systemic.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of church and state; however, in practice the Government restricted this right.

The Constitution provides for free movement within the country and across its borders; however, the Government severely limited this right in practice.

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government; however, in practice citizens could not change their government through peaceful and democratic means. The Government severely restricted freedom of expression (see Section 2.a.) and repressed opposition groups and individuals; however, no opposition members were jailed. No independent opposition groups participated in government. During the year, the Birlik opposition movement was allowed to hold congresses throughout the country for the first time since 1991 (see Section 2.b.). Four government-controlled political parties held the majority of the seats in Parliament, and most remaining seats were held by government officials.

The Government is highly centralized and is ruled by a strong presidency. President Karimov was elected in a limited multi-candidate election in 1991. A 1995 referendum and subsequent parliamentary decision extended his first term until 2000. He was reelected in 2000 to a second term with 92.5 percent of the vote. His opponent, Abdulhafiz Jalalov, ran a token campaign and admitted on election day that he himself had voted for Karimov. The OSCE declined to monitor the presidential election on the grounds that the preconditions did not exist for it to be free and fair. Following a January referendum, which multilateral organizations and foreign embassies refused to observe, the term of the Presidency was extended from 5 to 7 years.

President Karimov and the executive branch maintained control through sweeping decree powers, primary authority for drafting legislation, and control of all government appointments, most aspects of the economy, and the security forces.

Many government officials were members of the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDP), formerly the Communist Party and still the country's largest party

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2 Responses to Uzbekistan, Our Ally In the Iraq and Afghan Conflicts, Is Boiling Prisoners

  1. Sent here by Brad DeLong. I highly recommend Uzbekistan Diaries. You’ll need to request a password from MO, the blogger, but it’s free. Really. truly. Fantastic site, very informative.

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