UN chief calls on Uzbekistan to end forced labour13 june 2015, 11:18
UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon called on ex-Soviet Uzbekistan to end the practice of forced labour in its strategic cotton sector at a meeting on Friday with the country's strongman President Islam Karimov, AFP reports.
Ban, who met Karimov in the Uzbek capital Tashkent as part of a tour of the five former communist Central Asian states, noted progress eliminating child labour in the lucrative harvest but added that "more must be done to address the mobilization of teachers, doctors and others" in a post-meeting statement.
Ban also addressed the need to end "maltreatment" of prisoners in the country's jails.
"There can be no peace and development without human rights," Ban said.
Uzbekistan remains one of the world's most repressive states with a well-documented record for torture that some international advocacy groups claim has extended to boiling opponents of the regime in the past.
In the build up to Ban's Uzbekistan visit, rights groups called for him to prioritise torture and forced labour in his meeting with Karimov.
"Even with Ban's impending visit, the Uzbekistani police and security apparatus continues to brazenly commit acts of torture," John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International's European and Central Asia Programme, said in a statement on Tuesday.
"For more than a decade, Uzbekistan has thumbed its nose at every UN attempt to confront it with its grievous human rights abuses."
There was also pressure on Ban to raise the case of long-time Uzbekistani human rights defender Elena Urlaeva, who was subjected to what Human Rights Watch called "cruel and degrading treatment" after being arrested for documenting forced labour in a cotton field not far from Tashkent at the end of last month.
According to a statement released by the group last week, Urlaeva was sedated and cavity searched by Uzbek police after her arrest. In the past she has been fined, beaten and undergone forced psychiatric treatment in connection with her professional activities, the group added.
Uzbekistan was the fourth Central Asian country Ban visited on a tour that has already taken in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. His trip will conclude in gas-rich Turkmenistan this weekend.