State Department Human Rights Report

by Nathan Hamm on 3/7/2007 · 2 comments

The State Department’s 2006 human rights country reports came out yesterday. Overall, the most significant change in the region is Uzbekistan’s declining human rights record. In each of the other countries of the region, there were little to no improvements. Below are summaries from each of the reports.

Kazakhstan:

The following human rights problems were reported: severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; an incident of unlawful deprivation of life; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner abuse; unhealthy prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of government opponents; lack of an independent judiciary; increased restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association; pervasive corruption, especially in law enforcement and the judicial system; restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination and violence against women; trafficking in persons; and societal discrimination.

During the year the government advanced its efforts to combat trafficking in persons by enacting a comprehensive set of legislative amendments to strengthen its ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and to increase the amount of resources devoted to victim protection and prevention. The government also repealed a law banning election-related demonstrations from the period following the end of the voting until the results are published.

Also of note in the report is the mention of a certain fictional journalist’s troubles with his website.

Turkmenistan:

The government continued to commit serious abuses, and its human rights record remained extremely poor. Authorities severely restricted political and civil liberties. Human rights problems included: citizens’ inability to change their government; torture and mistreatment of detainees; incommunicado and prolonged detention; abuse of religious minority group members; arbitrary arrest and detention, including family members of accused criminals; house arrest; denial of due process and a fair trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; restrictions on religious freedom; a government-maintained blacklist of individuals not permitted to travel abroad; violence against women; and restrictions on free association of workers.

The government continued to restrict freedom of movement, speech, press, and assembly. Measured improvements in human rights included: a continued decrease in harassment of religious groups, release without sentencing of two conscientious objectors, and dramatically less evidence of child labor during the cotton harvest.

Uzbekistan:

The government’s human rights record, already poor, continued to worsen during the year. Citizens did not have the right in practice to change their government through peaceful and democratic means. Security forces routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees under interrogation to obtain confessions or incriminating information. In several cases, authorities subjected human rights activists and other critics of the regime to forced psychiatric treatment. Human rights activists and journalists who criticized the government were subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, politically motivated prosecution, and physical attack. The government generally did not take steps to investigate or punish the most egregious cases of abuse, although many officials were prosecuted for corruption. Prison conditions remained very poor and outside monitors did not have full access to places of detention. In many cases those arrested were held incommunicado for extended periods without access to family or attorneys. Criminal defendants were often deprived of legal counsel. Guilty verdicts were almost universal, and generally based upon defendants’ confessions and witnesses’ testimony obtained through coercion. The government tightly controlled the mass media and treated criticism of the regime as a crime. The government did not observe citizens’ right to free assembly or association; police regularly detained citizens to prevent public demonstrations and authorities sought to control all nongovernmental organization (NGO) activity, forcing many local and international NGOs to close. The government restricted religious activity, treating virtually all religious observance outside state sanctioned structures as a crime. Courts convicted many independent Muslims of extremist activity, and several Protestant groups were subjected to harassment. In several cases the government pressured other countries to forcibly return Uzbek refugees who were under the protection of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There was a widespread public perception of corruption throughout society. While the government took steps to combat trafficking in persons, this remained a serious problem. The use of compulsory labor, particularly in cotton harvesting, continued.

Tajikistan:

The government’s human rights record remained poor and corruption continued to hamper democratic and social reform. The following human rights problems were reported: restricted right of citizens to change their government; torture and abuse of detainees and other persons by security forces; threats, extortion, and abuse by security forces; impunity of security forces; lengthy pretrial detention; lack of access to prisoners by family members and lawyers; confessions obtained by torture accepted as evidence in trials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; restricted international monitor access to prisons; extralegal extradition of prisoners from third countries with apparent government complicity; restricted freedom of speech and the press; restricted freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of religion, primarily for women; registration denial of opposition political parties; imprisonment of political opposition, including journalists; harassment of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); difficulties with registration and visas; violence and discrimination against women; trafficking in persons; child labor and forced labor.

The government made significant efforts in combating trafficking in persons by working to repatriate victims to the country, and it reported a dramatic increase in the number of trafficking convictions. The government permitted registration and licensing of some independent media, an improvement over last year.

Kyrgyzstan:

The following human rights problems were reported: some restrictions on citizens’ right to change their government; arbitrary or unlawful killings; disappearance of and failure to protect refugee and asylum seekers; torture and abuse by law enforcement officials; impunity; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; pressure on nongovernmental organization (NGO) and opposition leaders, including physical assaults and government harassment; an increase in pressure on independent media, including assaults on staff and vandalism of property; government harassment of assembly organizers; pervasive corruption; discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and homosexuals; child abuse; child labor; and trafficking in persons.

Despite these problems, the government’s respect for human rights improved in several areas. Assistance from international organizations helped improve prison conditions in several locations and promoted the proper handling of prisoners. Tuberculosis (TB) mortality rates in prisons decreased. Local NGOs observed a reduction in incidents of military hazing among soldiers and cadets of the armed forces. During the year several Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) officials were dismissed or prosecuted for abuses or misconduct. The government also took initial steps to tackle systemic corruption in the public and private sectors, although comprehensive national action was not yet taken. The government allowed several large-scale opposition rallies.

In the Caucasus, the State Department noted improvements in Armenia and Georgia and no improvements in Azerbaijan.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2992 posts on Registan.net.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 2 comments }

Joshua Foust March 7, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Yeah, I LOLed when I saw he-who-must-not-be-named listed in the human rights report. I like how Passport put it: “State Department valiantly defends wealthy comedian’s civil liberties.” Touché.

Laurence March 8, 2007 at 3:56 am

Would that be Borat? Sascha Baron Cohen is discussed in the US State Department Human Rights Report for Kazakhstan? You’re kidding…

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