(Washington) - Eight Members of the United States Helsinki Commission have written a letter to the President of Uzbekistan on the eve of his visit with President George W. Bush in Washington urging him to confront the human rights abuses in his own country.
“We write in anticipation of your upcoming visit to the United States, to convey our deep concern over ongoing human rights violations in the Republic of Uzbekistan,” the Commissioners wrote to President Islam Karimov.
Signing the letter to Karimov were Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), Commissioners Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) and Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY).
“The ongoing and systematic abuses by Uzbek authorities against Muslims, which has been well documented by non-governmental organizations and the U.S. Department of State, are especially troubling,” the Commissioners wrote. “It is currently estimated that over 7,000 individuals are jailed for alleged crimes related to their religious affiliation or beliefs. Once in custody, many held in incommunicado detention are reportedly tortured and beaten in hopes of securing self-incriminating statements or evidence against other suspects or simply disappear.”
“Also of serious concern are the extrajudicial executions that occurred over the past year. Human rights organizations have reported on the deaths of at least five individuals while in police custody,” the letter continues. “Despite some Uzbek Government reports listing the cause of death as ‘heart attack’ or ‘brain tumor,’ the open wounds, broken bones and multiple bruises on the corpses tell a very different story. We urge you to give priority attention to ending such practices and bringing those responsible to justice.”
The full text of the letter is linked here.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.