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Uzbek Court Suspends Freedom House Human Rights Programs in Uzbekistan
As part of a broader crackdown by the Uzbek government to smother civic activism and eliminate nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Civil Court of Tashkent yesterday ordered Freedom House to suspend its activities in Uzbekistan for the next six months.
The Uzbek Ministry of Justice charged Freedom House with violations of Uzbek laws, including Uzbekistan's law covering NGOs. Cited violations included allowing human rights defenders free access to the Internet. Charges also included noncompliance with a secret decree, issued by the Uzbekistan government Cabinet, the contents of which remain unknown. Freedom House is appealing the suspension.
"There has been a dramatic increase in government harassment of civil society across Central Asia, but President Karimov has taken particularly drastic measures against local and international NGOs in Uzbekistan, which is among the most repressive regimes in the world," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "The effect of excluding international actors from Uzbekistan is to further isolate the brave advocates for democracy and human rights within the country from support networks. The intention of the government is therefore very clear."
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.
A prominent human rights defender and witness to the bloodshed in Andijan, Saidjahon Zaynobiddinov, was charged with defamation and anti-government activities and effectively held incommunicado for five months. An Uzbek court is reported to have just handed down a 7-year prison sentence in the Saidjahon case, following a judicial process in which Uzbek authorities provided neither details of the charges, nor indicated where or when the trial was held. Saidjahon is among the more than 150 people believed to have been convicted so far in Uzbekistan in connection with the Andijon violence. Most of the trials have been held without outside scrutiny.
Approximately 200 domestic organizations have been forced to close down or forced to leave the country, as have numerous international NGOs, including IREX, Internews, BBC, RFE/RL, OSI. Now Freedom House has been suspended.
This year, as a result of state violence against 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 non-governmental 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.
Additional Freedom House information on Uzbekistan is available online at:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.