Washington – The United States Helsinki Commission will hold the following hearing:
“Uzbekistan: Stifled Democracy, Human Rights in Decline”
Thursday, June 24, 2004
11:30 AM – 2:00 PM
2203 Rayburn House Office Building
Testifying before the Commission:
Hon. Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Lynn Pascoe, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia
H.E. Abdulaziz Komilov, Ambassador, Republic of Uzbekistan
Dr. Fred Starr, Chairman, Caucasus–Central Asia Institute, SAIS
Dr. Martha Olcott, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Dr. Abdurahim Polat, Chairman, Birlik Party
Ms. Veronika Leila Szente Goldston, Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
The hearing will examine democratization and human rights in Uzbekistan in light of the impending decision by the Department of State whether to certify Uzbekistan to continue receiving U.S. assistance.
Uzbekistan, an OSCE participating State since 1992, has been closely cooperating with the United States in the campaign against international terrorism. There is a U.S. military base in Uzbekistan and Washington has stepped up assistance significantly since 2001. The agreement on Strategic Partnership and Cooperation signed by President Bush and President Karimov in March 2002 committed Tashkent to make progress towards developing democracy and observing human rights norms.
However, Uzbekistan’s human rights record has remained poor, impeding the further development of U.S.-Uzbek relations. Late last year, the State Department decertified Uzbekistan for aid under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program because it had not made progress toward ending police torture and other abuses.
Now the State Department must decide on certifying Uzbekistan for broader assistance programs. Section 568 (a) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2004 states that foreign aid to Uzbekistan can continue only if the State Department certifies that the Government of Uzbekistan is making substantial and continuing progress in meeting its commitments, including respect for human rights, establishing a genuine multi-party system, and ensuring free and fair elections, freedom of expression, and the independence of the media.
This decision is due to be taken sometime soon, with important implications for both Washington and Tashkent. For that reason, a hearing on democratization and human rights in Uzbekistan and the factors influencing whether or not to certify is particularly timely.