Uzbek Court Denies Freedom House's Appeal to Continue Human Rights Program in Uzbekistsan
A civil court in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, yesterday rejected Freedom House's final appeal of a six-month suspension its activities in Uzbekistan. The judgment requires the organization to suspend its activities in the increasingly repressive Central Asian country until July 2006.
The appeal was a final attempt to maintain Freedom House programs in Uzbekistan following a January 11, 2006, decision from the Uzbek Ministry of Justice claiming that the office was in violation of Uzbek legislation governing nongovernmental organizations' (NGO) operations. The charges included offering free internet access to Uzbek citizens and hosting unregistered organizations, including human rights defenders and political parties, at Freedom House events. Uzbek prosecutors had also alleged noncompliance with a secret decree issued by the government, which throughout the proceedings remained undisclosed.
"It is clear from the Ministry of Justice's actions that the Uzbek government has no intention of tolerating international NGOs whose purpose is to circulate information about how genuine democratic societies operate," said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director at Freedom House. "This decision is the most recent in a series of deliberate actions by the Karimov government to isolate human rights activists within Uzbekistan from their supporters in the international community."
Harassment of individual Uzbeks, local organizations and international NGOs promoting human rights by Uzbek authorities has escalated since the violence in Andijan in May 2005, in which military and police opened fire on hundreds of protesters. Approximately 200 domestic organizations have been forced to close down or leave the country, as have numerous international NGOs, including IREX, Internews, BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Open Society Institute.
This year, as a result of state violence against peaceful demonstrators, repression of Uzbek civil society, and an overall decline in human rights conditions, Freedom House downgraded Uzbekistan's score in its annual survey, Freedom in the World. Uzbekistan is now considered to be among the ranks of the world's most repressive regimes.
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored rights in Uzbekistan since independence in 1991, and has been working with human rights defenders in the country since 2002.