A senior United Nations human rights official, on a two-week visit to countries of Central Asia, has discussed efforts to improve respect for civil liberties with the governments of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
At the end of a three-day visit to Uzbekistan on Thursday, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, called for implementation of official commitments to "a strong and open civil society, respect for human rights and freedoms, a genuine multi-party system, free and fair elections, political pluralism, diversity of opinions and freedom to express them, independence of the media and the courts."
He noted that many problems prevailed and urged corrective measures. Numerous non-governmental organizations in Tashkent had made representations to him about a high number of political prisoners, the prevalence of capital punishment without adequate safeguards, the pervasive practice of torture and psychiatric abuse and the lack of independence of judges and prosecutors, he said.
In Azerbaijan, Mr. Ramcharan discussed the importance of the rule of law and the role of judges in the protection of human rights with Justice Minister Fikret Mammedov, who briefed him on various areas of activities and publications intended to develop awareness of international human rights law among judges, lawyers, and prosecutors.
The next stop of Mr. Ramcharan’s tour, a follow-up to UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan's visit to the region in October 2002, is Turkmenistan.