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EU lifts final sanctions against Uzbekistan despite rights concerns

[JURIST] The European Union (EU) [official website] announced [press release, PDF] Tuesday that it is lifting the final sanctions [text, PDF] still in place against Uzbekistan in connection with the May 2005 clashes in Andijan [JURIST news archive]. The decision was made in the face of resolute opposition due to Uzbekistan's poor human rights record. The EU statement says:

With a view to encourage the Uzbek authorities to take further substantive steps to improve the rule of law and the human rights situation on the ground, and taking into account their commitments, the Council decides not to renew the remaining restrictive measures set out in the Common Position 2008/843/CFSP.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] was among the organizations opposed to removal of the sanctions. In an October 14 letter [text] to EU foreign ministers, the organization noted that although the EU visa ban for Uzbek officials was lifted last October, the human rights situation in Uzbekistan has not improved. HRW said, "[t]his profoundly negative trend speaks volumes about the Uzbek government's lack of political will to improve its rights record, but also about failed EU policy toward Tashkent."

The European Union originally imposed sanctions [text, PDF] on Uzbekistan in November 2005 because the country refused to investigate the violent suppression of a protest of economic conditions in Andijan. The sanctions included suspending a cooperation accord, imposing an arms embargo, cutting aid to the country, and banning some Uzbek officials from traveling to Western Europe. Human rights groups claimed as many as 500 people were killed [JURIST report] in the Andijan clash between protesters and Uzbek soldiers and police, while Uzbek officials put the number at 173.

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