West turning blind eye to torture in Uzbekistan, says report


The West is turning a blind eye to a worsening human rights situation in one of the world's most repressive dictatorships, according to a report released yesterday.

Human Rights Watch says torture continues to be widespread in the jails of Uzbekistan, but the US and EU have given the brutal regime of Islam Karimov an easy ride, due to the country's strategic location bordering Afghanistan.

The report makes for difficult reading, detailing a litany of torture cases including beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation and threats of sexual violence. In one case, a detainee had cold water poured over his naked body and was then left with two high-speed fans pointed at him so that he would freeze. In another case, a prisoner was doused in boiling water, reminiscent of the infamous cases in 2002 when an international investigation found that two detainees suspected of terrorism had been boiled alive.

Relations between the West and Uzbekistan deteriorated after the massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians in the city of Andijan in 2005. The Uzbek authorities refused an international investigation and soon became a pariah state.

But as relations between the US and Pakistan deteriorated, Uzbekistan became more important to Nato as a supply route to Afghanistan. In October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country to thank Mr Karimov for his support, and earlier this year Mr Karimov was received by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Cables released by Wikileaks show that US diplomats urged top officials to sideline issues such as torture and forced child labour in meetings with Uzbek leaders to avoid controversy. In 2004, Britain sacked its ambassador to the country, Craig Murray, after he made a number of outspoken criticisms of the regime. In 2008, Mr Karimov's regime promised to introduce a raft of legal reforms, which were the stimulus for improved relations with the EU and the US, but the report's authors find that in reality, the situation has only worsened.

Most international organisations have been forced to leave Uzbekistan, including Human Rights Watch itself earlier this year, and journalists are rarely admitted.

"Based on the clients I visit in pre-trial detention, I believe torture has increased over the past several years," an Uzbek lawyer who did not want to be identified told Human Rights Watch. "But the fact is there is simply no one left to witness what is happening and communicate it to the world."

The wife of one torture victim gave a particularly harrowing account of the treatment that her husband had received in pre-trial detention. "Officers would hang him from the ceiling by his wrists, and eight or nine people one after the other would beat him," she said. "He told me that several times guards and detainees were brought into the interrogations and were given needles to poke under his nails. Guards handcuffed him to his cell once and burned his penis."

Her husband was so traumatised by the interrogation tactics that he attempted to commit suicide by cutting open his veins with his teeth.

"The West has to wake up to the fact that Uzbekistan is a pariah state with one of the worst human rights records," said Steve Swerdlow, Uzbekistan researcher at Human Rights Watch yesterday. "Being located next to Afghanistan should not give Uzbekistan a pass on its horrendous record of torture and repression."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Highly successful private company - Oundle bas...

Recruitment Genius: PA to Consultant Surgeon

£25000 - £25500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager - Franchised Dealership

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific