[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] has called on Uzbekistan to carry out an independent investigation into the May 2005 Andijan clashes [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] between Uzbek protesters, soldiers and police that human rights groups claim killed up to 500 people [JURIST report]. Uzbek officials have officially put the death toll at 173. The Committee's report [text] comes a week before a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website]. The report urges Uzbekistan to comply with previous recommendations and supply the Committee with information regarding Uzbek laws on use of firearms by police against civilians, stating:
[T]he Committee is concerned at the absence of a comprehensive and fully independent investigation on the exact circumstances of the events during which several hundreds of civilians, including women and children, were killed by the military and security services. It also notes with regret that [Uzbekistan] has not provided the requested information regarding the national rules on the use of firearms by security forces against civilians. [Uzbekistan] should conduct a fully independent investigation and ensure that those responsible for the killings of persons in the Andijan events are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished, and that victims and their relatives are given full compensation.
The Committee also expressed concern over Uzbek laws and practices regarding torture, the treatment of refugees, the rights of suspected terrorists, judicial independence, and gender discrimination. Despite this, the Committee praised Uzbekistan's abolition of the death penalty, the introduction of habeas corpus, and the steps that have been taken by the government to combat child labor and human trafficking.
Friday's report is the first to be issued [Reuter report] on Uzbekistan by the Human Rights Committee since the Andijan clashes, which were sparked when thousands of protesters gathered [JURIST report] after rebels stormed a prison and freed a group of businessmen on trial for alleged Islamic extremism. The Committee is a panel of experts which meets three times a year to monitor compliance with the 1966 UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text] by ratifying states [list], of which Uzbekistan has been a member since 1995. The European Union (EU) [official website] announced in October that it would be lifting the final sanctions [JURIST report; text, PDF] imposed upon the country in November 2005 in the wake of the Andijan clashes. The sanctions were imposed due to the refusal 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.