Rights watchdog 'forced to close Uzbekistan office'
Leading rights watchdog Human Rights Watch has been forced to close its Uzbekistan office after the government moved to cancel its registration, the organisation said on its website on Tuesday.
Without giving any reason, the government of the ex-Soviet state has launched legal action to cancel the organisation's registration after 15 years, the New York-based group said, with the first hearing set for Tuesday.
The Uzbek government "has sent a clear message that it isn't willing to tolerate critical scrutiny of its human rights record," the director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, was quoted as saying.
"But let me be clear, too: we are not going to be silenced by this," Roth said. "We are as committed as ever to report on abuses in Uzbekistan."
The government's move came after it repeatedly refused visas and accreditation to staff since 2004, the organisation said. A consultant was deported in 2009 and a researcher was violently attacked the same year.
In its annual report in January, HRW harshly criticised the European Union for taking an "obsequious" approach of dialogue and cooperation towards Uzbekistan, which it described as having an "abysmal" rights record.
The president of Central Asia's most populous country, Islam Karimov, in January made his first official visit to Brussels after two decades in power for talks on energy and Afghanistan, which shares a border with Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan, a majority Muslim state ruled since its independence by strongman Karimov, is often criticized by international media watchdogs and rights groups for failing to tolerate the dissent.
© 2011 AFP