The UN Human Rights Committee is a body which routinely pulls its punches. It treats member states with respect, whether they deserve it or not. The UN is of course composed of nations many of which have much to hide on human rights, so the glass houses and stones argument is much applied.
In that context, the new advisory report of the UN Human Rights Committee on Uzbekistan is absolutely damning – as damning as these reports ever get. It contains one paragraph of “Positive Aspects” and 25 paragraphs of “Concerns”.
Concerns include lack of judicial independence, widespread use of torture, the position of women, the failure to produce bodies or graves of those executed by the state, lack of freedom of speech and movement, and use of forced labour – to name but a few.
Not even the UN can pretend that the human rights situation in Uzbekistan is anything other than abysmal.
Still more astonishing then that the Home Office has refused the asylum applications of every single one of the few dozen escapees from Uzbekistan to make it to the UK – which still has the Soviet exit visa system and locks its people in. Even last week the Home Office was still claiming at immigration hearings that there is no human rights problem in Uzbekistan. (Fortunately judges have been less blinkered and asylum cases have been won on appeal).
The UN and EU countries continue to use Uzbekistan as a major supply base for the occupation of Afghanistan. Major new contracts between the US and Uzbekistan were signed in March 2009, and Hilary Clinton is to pay an official visit to President Karimov in November this year.
Even more disgusting is that it now emerges that the newly reinvigorated US/Uzbek relationship was made possible in negotiations because the US agreed to contract Gulnara Karimova’s company FMN Logistics to provide the transport for all the US supplies passing through Central Asia to the US forces in Afghanistan.
Not only that, but the Karimov company FMN Logistics is involved in construction and supply services on the US airbases in Afghanistan itself, and has been involved in the massive expansion work to the prison at Baghram Airbase to provide a replacement Guantanamo torture centre further away from media access.
The Pentagon contracts are worth $850 million a year to the Karimovs.