February 13, 2014
Contact: Maran Turner
Washington DC: Today, Uzbek President Islam Karimov postponed his controversial visit to the Czech Republic to meet with Czech President Miloš Zeman following international criticism from human rights groups, including Freedom Now, labor unions, and investors. While the trip has not been cancelled, no new date for the trip has been scheduled. Czech officials report that President Karimov postponed the trip after many Czech ministers, including Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, were unavailable to meet with the Uzbek delegation.
On February 10, 2014, Freedom Now joined 31 organizations in an open letter to President Zeman calling on him to cancel the invitation he extended to President Karimov for an official visit to the Czech Republic because of Uzbekistan’s egregious human rights record, including widespread use of torture and imprisonment of human rights defenders, journalists, and members of the political opposition on politically motivated charges. President Zeman quickly issued a response defending his right to meet with the authoritarian leader by inaccurately claiming human rights organizations had singled him out for criticism and ignored previous engagement with Uzbekistan by former Czech President Vaclav Klaus, the European Union, and the United States.
Freedom Now again joined with nearly 30 organizations to issue a response to President Zeman illustrating that his meeting with President Karimov is far outside the norm of engagement with one of the most repressive governments in the world. Furthermore, the letter enumerated many instances in which the participating organizations had criticized both the European Union and United States’ policies and engagement with Uzbekistan.
“We are pleased to see that President Karimov’s trip to the Czech Republic has been indefinitely postponed,” said Maran Turner, executive director of Freedom Now. “Our organization and many others have called for this meeting to be cancelled because of Uzbekistan’s human rights abuses, particularly the government’s continued practice of imprisoning regime critics, like journalists Salijon Abdurakhmanov and Dilmurod Saidov and human rights defenders Azam Farmonov, Gaybullo Jalilov, and Akzam Turgunov. Uzbekistan’s imprisonment of these activists and thousands of others for exercising their fundamental rights demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to adhere to international human rights standards and laws.”