US to push Uzbekistan president on rights, economic reform

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TASHKENT (TCA) — A top U.S. official said that the White House will urge Uzbekistan President Shavkhat Mirziyoev to continue reforming the economy and improving human rights in the Central Asian country when he visits the United States for the first time this week, RFE/RL reported.

Lisa Curtis, who oversees Central and South Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, said on May 14 that Uzbekistan “has made great strides” since Mirziyoev took over the presidency from longtime autocratic ruler Islam Karimov.

But she signaled that U.S. officials will press Mirziyoev to go further to remedy longstanding problems involving the repression of human rights, forced labor, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.

“This visit is an opportunity to encourage and validate those reforms” already adopted by Mirziyoev, Curtis said, speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Council, a Washington thank-tank.

Mirziyoev is slated to have his first meeting with President Donald Trump on May 16 at the White House. In what was widely seen as a gesture to the U.S. administration ahead of the meeting, Uzbekistan on May 12 released human rights activist Fahriddin Tillaev, who had been imprisoned for more than four years in a case that watchdogs called politically motivated.

Ahead of Mirziyoev’s visit, Amnesty International called on U.S. President Donald Trump to urge his Uzbek counterpart to “continue and deepen” human rights reforms during their planned meeting this week.

In a letter dated May 11, Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told Trump that the Central Asian leader’s first visit to the White House “will be a critical opportunity for you to encourage Uzbekistan to implement human rights reforms that are long overdue and much needed.”

Mirziyoev has introduced “a number of wide-ranging political and economic reform proposals, designed to end past isolationist and repressive policies,” Huang wrote, citing the Uzbek government’s decision to prohibit the torture of suspects and to ease restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, as well as the release of imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, and activists.

However, Huang said that Mirziyoev “must do more” to protect human rights in Uzbekistan, including guaranteeing freedom of movement for rights defenders, journalists, and former inmates, implementing the recent decree proscribing torture, ceasing the detention and torture of peaceful worshippers, and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Sergey Kwan

TCA