Uzbek-German Forum (UGF) welcomes the European Parliament’s approval of recommendations of 26 March 2019 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission on the new comprehensive agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan. UGF and other civil society groups had raised concerns regarding the persistent use of forced labour in the cotton, silk and other sectors and urged the European Parliament to take these concerns into account in the new agreement. These include measures to address the root causes of forced labour in the cotton sector, such as the mandatory quota system and accountability of officials for labour rights violations. The Parliament also recommended that the Uzbek government permit access to the country by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

In addition, the Uzbek government should ensure that human rights defenders, civil society, international monitors and human rights organisations be allowed to operate freely without threat of harassment and facilitate the registration of NGOs. The Parliament called upon the Uzbek government to enable legal recourse in cases where registration has been denied.

The recommendations also brought Uzbekistan’s notorious prison regime into focus. The Parliament urged the government to allow regular, unfettered and independent monitoring of conditions in prison and detention sites and encouraged the government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In addition, the Uzbek government was encouraged to implement the recommendations from UN Special Rapporteur’s last visit in 2003 and to bring national laws and practices in line with international law and standards. The Parliament furthermore called on the authorities to thoroughly investigate all allegations of torture or inhuman treatment in Uzbekistan’s places of detention.