This week Jude Kirton-Darling MEP will be writing letters to raise cases of human rights violations as part of Amnesty International UK's 'Write for Rights' campaign.
Respect for human rights is one of the European Union's fundamental values. The European Parliament plays an important role in the protection of human rights through its legislative action, by holding regular debates on human rights ...emergencies around the globe and by enshrining human rights in the European Union's external trade agreements.
Wednesday's letter for Amnesty International UK's "#WriteforRights" letter is addressed to President Islam Abduganievich Karimov of #Uzbekistan. Torture is rampant in Uzbekistan despite being illegal in the constitution and their criminal code. Abhorrent practices are routinely used to force people to sign confessions in detention centres and the regime ranks as one of the most corrupt public sectors in the world according to the Corruption Perceptions Index. In my let...ter I am raising the case of detained journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov, who has spent the last 16 years in prison following an unfair trial in which he was sentence on the basis of a confession he gave after being beaten, suffocated and given electric shocks. No proper investigation into his torture has ever been conducted and repeated calls for a fair retrial have been ignored.
The EU has been taking meaningful action to address Uzbekistan's human rights abuses, especially the use of forced labour in the country. As the fourth biggest exporter of cotton globally Uzbekistan relies on the labour of over one million citizens to grow and harvest the crop each year. Unfortunately the International Labour Organisation has been investigating the systematic use of forced labour during the cotton harvest since 2009. Earlier this year the European Parliament deferred signature of the Textile Protocol, a bilateral trade agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan, until significant progress is made in addressing the issue of forced labour (I've been working with Anti-Slavery International).
So far the international pressure to eliminate the practice has resulted in the dramatic reduction in the number of young children forced to pick cotton in this recent years' cotton harvests. There is still much room for improvement and we will be continuing to push for concrete reforms in Uzbekistan to end the practice of forced labour and protect the fundamental right to be free from torture
Dear President Islam Abduganievich Karimov,
Regarding the detention of journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov
As a member of the European Parliament I am writing to express my concerns over the imprisonment of the journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov. A respected journalist, Muhammad Bezhanov has spent the last 16 years in prison following an unfair trial in which he was sentenced on the basis of a confession he gave after being beaten, suffocated and given electric shocks. No proper investigation into his torture has ever been conducted and repeated calls for a fair retrial have been ignored.
Even though Uzbekistan has signed up to the UN Convention against Torture which absolutely bans torture and the use of evidence obtained under duress, Uzbekistan's courts are routinely relying on “confessions” obtained in the most brutal ways imaginable. At trial, a judge dismissed Muhammad’s allegations that he was tortured and used his “confession” to sentence him to 15 years in prison.
Muhammad is now one of the world’s longest-imprisoned journalists. He was due to be released in 2014, but he remains in jail, sentenced to nearly five more years for allegedly violating prison rules. His wife Nina found him at breaking point when she was allowed to visit him last year, saying of the visit: “He was unrecognizable. All hope was lost in his eyes; he was just trying to survive.”
Respect for human rights is one of the European Union's fundamental values and I thereby urge you to release Muhammad Bakhanov and launch a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into the allegations that he was tortured in custody. Despite Uzbekistan's membership to numerous international human rights treaties prohibiting torture and the use of evidence obtained by torture in court, this inhumane practice continues to be used by Uzbekistani security forces to extract confessions and to secure convictions.
I call upon you to publically condemn the use of torture and to establish an independent system for inspections of all detention centres to ensure the end of this practice.
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England