“They respond to the criticisms of human rights defenders by telling them about the strategic partnerships between the European Union and Uzbekistan, funding on human rights programs and that they have established a dialogue on human rights,” she said. “[But] the Uzbek authorities are masters of bluffing.
“It seems like there are positive actions being taken, but to this day, there is no sign that the government has started to improve the situation with regard to torture.”
Catherine Cosman is a senior policy analyst at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, based in Washington, D.C., and specializes in Europe and the former Soviet Union. She said Uzbekistan’s place in the war on terror makes it expedient for the West to overlook its torture of prisoners.
“Most people in the U.S. Defense Department feel that because of Northern Distribution Network [transport routes for troops and supplies into Afghanistan], we are in a weaker position vis-a-vis the Uzbek government on human rights issues and, therefore, human rights issues should not be raised,” Ms. Cosman said in Berlin.
Human Rights Watch will present its findings to lawmakers in Paris, London, Brussels and Washington early next year.
In response to questions from the Washington Times about whether they would reconsider dealings with Uzbekistan, German officials referred to a general statement by human rights representative Markus Loening: “The human rights situation in Uzbekistan is cause for concern. I call on the government to stop immediately all forms of torture, to free all political prisoners and to finally fulfill all their human rights commitments.”
“The big lesson from 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, is that it is never, ever a good idea to go to bed with dictators,” said Jan Egeland, deputy executive director of Human Rights Watch in Europe and former U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs. “You can never turn your back on human rights. It will come back to haunt you.”