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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Analysis: Human rights in Uzbekistan
By Steven Eke
BBC regional analyst

Uzbek prisoners
Some people have died in unusual circumstances in Uzbek jails
The Uzbek government portrays the country as one of the guarantors of stability in a highly troubled region.

But it is widely accepted that the country's human rights record is very poor.

The US government and international financial organisations have reduced aid as a result, while maintaining that Uzbekistan remains a key strategic ally.

Western nations say they want to promote greater respect for human rights in the former Soviet republics.

But experience suggests that, in the case of Uzbekistan at least, they have failed to do so.

Soviet legacies

Uzbekistan is one of 15 independent states to have emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union.

With the exception of the three Baltic countries, none have become Western-style liberal market democracies.

Abuses continue.

And in some cases, human rights appear to be in even worse shape than during the late years of the Soviet system.

Belarus, for example, has many of the facets of a police state.

Map of Uzbekistan

Turkmenistan is home to one of the world's few remaining personality cults.

Russian and Ukrainian police are routinely accused of torturing suspects to extract confessions.

But it is the scale of repression in Uzbekistan that leads human rights groups to question the moral basis for the country's partner status in the US-led "war on terror".

'Morally unjustifiable'

Rights groups say there is cruel repression of even moderate Islamic movements in the country. And using the threat of Islamic extremism as a pretext for crushing political opposition leads to a vicious circle of ever-increasing oppression and growing tension in society.

Many western campaigners suggest the West's patronage of Uzbekistan's ruling regime is morally unjustifiable.

Yet the West is unwilling to intervene.

With security as the new global priority, financial incentives rarely bring results.

Many ordinary citizens of these countries see the disappearance of the former, moral imperative as little other than the West's betrayal of their hopes for freedom and democracy.

US probes Uzbek torture allegations
27 May 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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24 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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05 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Uzbekistan
01 Nov 03 |  Country profiles

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