UN human rights chief wants observers to determine if Uzbek trials are fair

30 September 2005

The United Nations human rights commissioner has proposed to Uzbekistan's Government that she send an observer to the ongoing trials of people accused of plotting rebellion in the country earlier this year, to determine if they are being held in compliance with international fair trial guarantees, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Fifteen Uzbeks went on trial on 20 September to face charges that they were inciting rebellion during a protest last May in Andijan which later resulted in hundreds of protesters being killed by Government forces. The men are the first of more than 100 people to go on trial.

In an effort to ascertain that the trials and procedures are fair and free, the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Louise Arbour has asked the Uzbek Government for "unhindered and unrestricted access" to places of detention, registers, medical exams, interrogations of detainees, persons detained in connection with the trials, and to all documents relating to the proceedings, OHCHR spokesperson Jose Luis Diaz said today in a statement.

In her letter to the Government she also sought an assurance that no persons who have been in contact with the observer mission for this reason "suffer threats, harassment, or punishment," he said. The observer mission would report their findings to the High Commissioner on a regular basis.

Ms. Arbour has on several occasions called for an independent, international inquiry into the events on 13 May when hundreds of protesters were killed after Uzbek troops fired indiscriminately to disperse them. The event sent hundreds of Uzbeks fleeing out of their country, and sparked a refugee crisis with Kyrgyzstan.

More than 450 of the Uzbek refugees subsequently provided testimony to the UN rights agency regarding the events of 13 May. An OHCHR report in July concluded that based on consistent, credible testimony, military and security forces committed grave human rights violations that day.


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