The government of Uzbekistan continues to ruthlessly crack down on political dissent. Most recently, Uzbek authorities arrested the leader of an opposition coalition that has criticized the government of President Islam Karimov. The office of Sunshine Uzbekistan was raided, and records and at least one computer were seized.
Coalition leader Sanjar Umarov remains in custody, and has been reportedly charged with economic crimes. There are disturbing news reports that he is being drugged and abused. Concerned about the fate of Mr. Umarov, two U.S. Senate leaders, Bill Frist and Richard Lugar, introduced a resolution calling on authorities in Uzbekistan to ensure that Mr. Umarov “is accorded the full measure of his rights under the Uzbekistan constitution to defend himself against all charges that may be brought against him in a fair and transparent process, so that individual justice may be done.” Mr. Umarov should be treated according to international human rights standards and have access to his lawyers and family.
In another effort to silence dissent, Uzbek authorities detained and later released human rights activist Elena Urlayeva. She was arrested in August allegedly for distributing anti-government leaflets. In October, a court in Tashkent ordered Ms. Urlayeva to be committed to a mental health facility and undergo forcible psychiatric treatment. Ms. Urlayeva was not present at the court hearing and did not have legal representation. On October 27th, she was released from the psychiatric hospital. Ms. Urlayeva has been the victim of repeated abuses, including beatings, detentions, and at least one previous round of treatment in a psychiatric hospital.
Arresting and treating political dissidents as victims of psychosis is an abhorrent abuse once practiced by the former Soviet Union and opposed by the United States. Democracy and human rights activists in Uzbekistan are risking their lives to merely enjoy their internationally recognized human rights.
Respect for human rights and democracy and implementation of economic reforms are crucial in order for Uzbeks to attain lasting stability, security and prosperity. The alternative, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "is a descending spiral of repression and stagnation and extremism. The United States," she said, "continues to hope that the government of Uzbekistan will turn back from its current course and make a strategic choice in favor of reform."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.