Germany – which has a historical weakness on human rights – prepares to push EU foreign ministers to drop sanctions against Uzbekistan on Monday. This comprehensive report is from IWPR.
Should EU End Sanctions Against Uzbekistan?
Reports from Uzbekistan suggest there is little evidence of human rights improvements that would warrant the removal of sanctions.
By Caroline Tosh in London and IWPR staff in Central Asia (RCA No. 492, 11-May-07)
As the European Union prepares to vote on whether to lift the sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan in the wake of the Andijan violence two years ago, human rights activists and journalists in the country as well as international experts warn that any relaxation of the measures will send the wrong message to Tashkent.
Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency, appears to be pushing for awkward human rights concerns to be quietly dropped from the agenda in pursuit of a new EU strategy for engaging with Central Asia. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, RFE/RL, reported on May 11 that EU ambassadors were deadlocked on whether sanctions should be renewed, softened or dropped.
Uzbek officials have sensed the new mood over recent months, and have in turn sought a rapprochement with Europe on their terms.
If Tashkent gets a clean bill of health when EU foreign ministers meet on May 14, it will have achieved this without addressing fundamental human rights concerns, and specifically without instituting the international inquiry requested by the EU, the United Nations, and countries such as the United States.
Government soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians in the eastern town almost exactly two years ago, on May 13, as people gathered in protest over the trial of 23 local businessmen accused of Islamic extremism ‘ said by their families to be innocent.
The massacre is widely thought to be the worst atrocity committed by a government against demonstrators since the Chinese army killed several hundred protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The Uzbek authorities say 187 were killed, but human rights organisations put the figure closer to 800, and argue that a determined effort by the Uzbek authorities to shut down non-government organisations, NGOs, and independent media has meant the truth behind events has never emerged.
Human rights groups are urging the EU to maintain the sanctions, and are calling for them to press for an international inquiry into Andijan and raise other human rights concerns.
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