Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Uzbekistan

Delivered in Plenary - June 8th 2005

Mr President

Uzbekistan is the most populated and culturally the richest of the five central Asian post-Soviet newly independent states. Uzbekistan has no historic traditions of democracy or good governance, having been ruled in the distant past by Khanates, followed by Tsarists and Soviet Russia, only to find itself unexpectedly a sovereign state in 1991, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Inevitably the then existing Uzbek nomenclatura filled the power vacuum; hence the composition of the current regime.

There can be no doubt that President Karimov has ruled in an authoritarian way and human rights abuses have been common, particularly against the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, a close ally of the then Taliban in Afghanistan but now largely defeated or replaced by the nominally peaceful, although still fundamentalist, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which rather surprisingly has offices in the European Union to gather funds and recruit supporters.

During the recent debate on the Coveney human rights report, I tried to strike a balance between the stick of Uzbekistan-bashing and the carrot of more dialogue with the Uzbek President if he continues to cooperate with fighting international terrorism and delivers on his commitment to give independence to the judiciary, freedom to the press and punishment to those responsible for torture and human rights abuses. Sadly, no sooner had we adopted this report than the Andizhan tragedy occurred. The full story is still very confused. Who were these 23 prisoners bounced out of prison by armed insurgents? Who took civilian hostages to negotiate with the regional governor? Who called the crowds out to protest? And who gave the orders for the troops to shoot innocent protestors?

I of course deeply regret Mr Karimovís refusal of an international inquiry and so I call upon the OSCE to involve the little-known Moscow mechanism last used with Turkmenistan, also an authoritarian regime, to impose an international inquiry and to report with or without Uzbekistanís consent. This method, to my mind, is more likely to produce a result than any other.