The human rights situation in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) is of serious concern. These countries are characterized by entrenched authoritarian rule or, as in the case of Kyrgyzstan, a strong heritage of such rule and while there are marked differences between the five states, fundamental rights and freedoms remain endangered throughout the region.
The Central Asian countries have ratified major international human rights treaties, made wide-ranging human rights commitments in the framework of the UN and the OSCE, and undertaken to abide by human rights clauses in trade and cooperation agreements concluded with the EU. However, current legislation and practice in these countries conflict with international human rights standards in fundamental ways. The authorities of the countries have consistently failed to implement recommendations made by international human rights bodies.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are some of the most repressive countries in the world where fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly and freedom of religion are systematically curtailed. Kazakhstan’s human rights record has deteriorated dramatically in the recent period, as seen in a widening crackdown on the political opposition, media and civil society, and the enforcement of a new harsh religion law. Also in Tajikistan, recent developments have reinforced concerns about restrictions on the flow of information, operation of civil society groups and religious freedoms. Although Kyrgyzstan has made some progress on political reforms, serious human rights problems persist also in this country, in particular in relation to fallout from the 2010 inter-ethnic violence in the south.
Independent human rights groups remain under pressure throughout the region. It is impossible for independent human rights groups to operate openly inside Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan’s small human rights community is subjected to ongoing harassment and intimidation. Human rights groups in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are experiencing increasing difficulties with respect to monitoring, documenting and publicizing violations. In Kyrgyzstan, members of human rights NGOs addressing issues relating to the 2010 inter-ethnic violence have been the subject of persecution. The work of independent human rights organizations in the region is undermined by government propaganda, hostile pro-government media coverage and GONGO campaigns.
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