Veronika Szente Goldston [Advocacy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights Watch]: "With its decision to lift the remaining sanctions against Uzbekistan despite Tashkent's atrocious rights record, the EU has effectively abandoned any credible effort to achieve human rights improvements through its Uzbekistan policy.
The EU had set clear criteria for lifting the sanctions, which the Uzbek government has not met. Moreover, in the twelve months since the EU last reviewed its sanctions policy toward Uzbekistan, Tashkent's rights record only deteriorated further.
By dropping the sanctions under these circumstances, the EU failed to stay true to its own reform demands, leaving in the lurch the more than one dozen human rights activists whom the Uzbek government continues to imprison on politically motivated grounds, and severely undermining its own credibility as a principled promoter of human rights.
The detrimental effects of this move on the cause of human rights in Uzbekistan and beyond should not be underestimated. It tells the Uzbek government, and repressive leaders around the world, that the EU is not serious when it urges rights reform, that defying the EU's reform demands carries no consequences because it will ultimately back down. It also tells victims of human rights abuse that they cannot count on the EU to stand up in their defense, even when they suffer repression solely because they had the courage to promote the very values the EU purports to stand for."
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