(Brussels, 23 October) The killing of hundreds of people in Andizhan should not be forgotten, says Amnesty International as EU Foreign Ministers prepare to lift the current arms embargo on Uzbekistan.
In a letter (see documents) Amnesty International reminded EU Foreign Ministers that this embargo was established in direct response to the killings of hundreds of civilians in Andizhan in May 2005. It also reminded Ministers that the EU’s call for an independent and international investigation has not been acted upon.
“If the arms embargo is lifted without an investigation the EU will be making a mockery of its own demands and the only form of international pressure over Uzbekistan will be gone. Foreign Ministers should leave national interests aside and consider the implications of this decision to the consistency and the coherence of the EU’s foreign and human rights policy” said Natalia Alonso, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.
Pressure over Uzbekistan on this issue is crucial not only because it is a matter of justice but because there are dozens of human rights defenders and journalists who are still being persecuted today, in direct relation to the events of Andizhan. Amnesty International is following the cases of several individuals who have been harassed, tortured and detained by the authorities and who need international support. (See documents)
“The Andizhan question is not something of the past, it is directly linked to much of what is happening in Uzbekistan today. If the EU overlooks this, it will not only be failing the victims and their families but also those who are still fighting for justice and human rights in Uzbekistan” added Alonso.
The EU’s demand for an investigation was already undermined when the EU lifted all sanctions apart from the arms embargo in October 2008. Furthermore, the human rights benchmarks set up by the EU in 2007 to evaluate progress in Uzbekistan have not indicated positive changes.
Indeed, in the past year alone four Human Rights Defenders have been convicted and ten continue to serve long prison sentences. Uzbekistan also continues to deny full access to international monitors including the International Red Cross and the United Nations.
Amnesty International therefore calls on the EU to consider all the implications of Monday’s review of the arms embargo on Uzbekistan, namely its effects on the EU’s credibility towards Central Asian partners.
On 13 May 2005, Uzbekistani security forces fired indiscriminately on demonstrators who had gathered in the city of Andizhan in eastern Uzbekistan to voice their grievances about repressive government policies and widespread poverty. Hundreds suspected of involvement in the events were detained, and many were allegedly ill-treated or tortured. Hundreds fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan in search of refuge. Dozens were tried and sentenced in proceedings that failed to meet international standards of fairness.
The authorities have continued to reject calls for an independent international investigation into the Andizhan events and have insisted that two rounds of expert talks under the auspices of the European Union which took place in December 2006 and April 2007 constituted an international investigation. Although Amnesty International welcomed the expert talks it shares the view that such an initiative cannot substitute an independent international investigation into the Andizhan events.
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