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Letter on FMF Uzbek SForOps FY12

Letter on FMF Uzbek SForOps FY12

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Published by Justin Elliott

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Published by: Justin Elliott on Sep 16, 2011
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September 14, 2011Honorable Lindsay GrahamRanking Minority MemberSubcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related ProgramsCommittee on AppropriationsU.S. SenateWashington, DC 20510
Re: Military/Police Aid to Uzbekistan
Dear Senator Graham,We write to oppose the provision of U.S. taxpayer-funded military or police assistance to theGovernment of Uzbekistan at a time when Uzbek authorities continue to silence civil societyactivists, independent journalists, and all political opposition; severely curtail freedom of expression and religion; and organize forced child labor on a massive scale.
president, Islam Karimov (its Communist Party boss during the Soviet era), hasruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years. Congress has long recognized that his
government’s abysmal rights record warrant
s restrictions on taxpayer-financed assistance.Since 2004, language in the annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Act has withheldassistance until the Secretary of State is able to certify that the Government of Uzbekistan hasachieved significant progress on a range of basic political freedom and human rights reformsthat it agreed to undertake when it signed a Strategic Partnership Declaration with the UnitedStates in 2002.Recently, the U.S. military has come to view Uzbekistan as instrumental to operations inAfghanistan. Over the last three years the DOD has established the
“Northern DistributionNetwork”
a set of commercial agreements with Central Asian states to allow the transitof non-lethal supplies for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As result, the administration is currentlyseeking inclusion of a waiver provision on the Uzbek aid restrictions in the FY12 bill.However, recent dramatic developments elsewhere in Central Asia and across the Middle Eastmake clear that
Uzbekistan’s status as a strategic partner to the United States
should not beallowed to eclipse concerns about its appalling human rights record.As President Obama recognized
in a speech on the “Arab Spring” earlier this year: “f 
ailure tospeak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that hasfestered for years that the United States pursues our own interests at their expense
Societiesheld together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are
built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”
For further information, please contact Jeff Goldstein (jgoldstein@osi-dc.org) or Lora Lumpe (llumpe@osi-dc.org)at Open Society Policy Center (202)721-5600.
Even before the wave of democratization in the Middle East, popular revulsion aboutcorruption and repression in Kyrgyzstan led to the overthrow in 2010 of a neighboring CentralAsian government, with which the U.S. military had established a close relationship and wherethe government had seemed, at the time, just as stable as that of Uzbekistan does today.Finally, we note that President Karimov and other leaders of Uzbekistan, who benefit from U.S.payments related
to Uzbekistan’s role in the NDN
, have a stake in maintaining the NDN and theU.S.-Uzbek relationship. Therefore, the U.S. government need not
and should not
providemore concessions and rewards until the Uzbek government meaningfully addresseslongstanding U.S. concerns about its human rights record, as the Uzbek government agreed todo in 2002 but has failed to deliver.Appended to this letter we summarize for you our most serious concerns regarding thesituation in Uzbekistan.The U.S. government should make clear to the Uzbek government that direct assistance to itsarmed forces and security services will not be made available absent meaningful human rightsimprovements, including the release of imprisoned pro-democracy activists, an end toharassment of civil society groups, and effective steps to end torture.We urge you to oppose any U.S. taxpayer funds to Uzbek security forces in the FY12 bill.Sincerely,Amnesty International USAThe Institute on Religionand Public PolicyFreedom House International Labor Rights ForumFreedom Now Open Society Policy CenterHuman Rights Watch Responsible Sourcing NetworkThe Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ)
In the 20 years since Uzbekistan gained independence
from the Soviet Union, there has not been a single election deemed even remotely “free andfair” by international monitoring bodies.
According to Freedom House’s
Freedom in the World 2011
report, President Karimov uses “the dominant executive branch to repress all politicalopposition.”
No opposition political parties are allowed to participate in the political process,and political opponents of President Karimov have either been forced to flee the country or arelanguishing in prison. At least thirteen human rights defenders, and numerous journalists andpolitical activists are imprisoned for no reason other than their legitimate civil society activism,and a number of them have been subjected to torture. Uzbek authorities do not toleratedissent of any kind; even tiny public demonstrations in Uzbekistan are ruthlessly suppressed.
Increasingly Closed Society.
Since 2004, the government has expelled or forced the closure of numerous international organizations and media outlets, including Freedom House,Counterpart International, and the American Bar Association. It has also prevented mostinternational news agencies from reporting in the country, forcing out Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and many others.
In March 2011, the government closed
Human Rights Watch’s Tashkent office, bringing to an end the 15
-year-long presence of the lastremaining international human rights monitoring organization in the country. The governmentalso continues to deny access to UN Special Rapporteurs, eight of whom have sought countryvisits. There is only one active registered independent domestic human rights organization inthe country, and those operating without registration are subject to constant harassment.
Torture Remains Systematic.
As documented year after year by the U.S. State Department
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
, a number of UN monitoring bodies, and a range of international organizations, torture in Uzbekistan is widespread and systematic in all stages of the criminal justice system, and impunity for torture is the norm. Police and security agents usetorture and ill-treatment to coerce detainees to implicate themselves or others, andconfessions obtained under torture are often the sole basis for convictions. Judges routinely failto investigate torture allegations that defendants make when they appear before court.Methods used include beatings with truncheons, electric shock, hanging by wrists and ankles,rape and sexual humiliation, asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, and threats of physical harm to relatives. Credible reports about suspicious deaths in custody, believed to be aresult of ill-treatment and torture, continue to emerge.
Restrictions on Freedom of Expression.
Uzbek authorities severely restrict both freedom of information and freedom of expression. Websites containing information on sensitive issues orthat are critical of the government are routinely blocked within Uzbekistan. The fewindependent journalists who continue to work in the country do so at great risk and are forcedto self-censor due to harassment and threats of imprisonment. At least ten journalists are inprison simply for doing their job. In the last year alone, Uzbek authorities are known to have

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