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October 05, 2005

Counterterrorism Cooperation Between Uzbekistan and Malaysia May Encourage Abuses

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NEW YORK -- Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia signed agreements Monday, October 3rd, establishing their cooperation in a number of areas, including counterterrorism and national security.

Human Rights First is concerned that a deepened alliance between the governments of Uzbekistan and Malaysia could have negative consequences for human rights conditions in those countries. Both governments have a record of using counterterrorism laws to arrest, jail and prosecute members of the political opposition and other nonviolent critics -- exploiting security measures to mask official policies of repression.

After Uzbek security forces killed hundreds of protestors in Andizhan on May 13, 2005, human rights defenders who sought to investigate or report on the events became targets of arrest, detention, beating and torture during an unprecedented crackdown. The government of Uzbekistan has refused to heed calls for an international, independent investigation into the Andizhan events and the ensuing persecution of defenders, and instead claims that these violations are part of its fight against terrorism. Though some governments have criticized this response, Uzbekistan has found allies among those countries that have similarly used the threat of terrorism as an excuse to silence non-violent dissent.

"President Karimov's ability to create military and counterterrorism alliances with the Malaysian, Chinese, and Russian governments should be seen as a warning sign," said Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs. "In the global struggle against terrorism we are seeing the emergence of alliances of autocrats who are more interested in using counterterrorism as a pretext to stifle dissent, than in taking effective measure to combat the real threat of transnational terrorism. As such they pursue policies that only foster polarization and instability, creating the breeding ground for terrorists."

Human Rights First urges all governments and international governmental organizations to demand accountability for human rights violations occurring in Uzbekistan, beginning with an independent, international investigation into the government use of force against civilians in Andizhan. International cooperation to combat terrorism cannot be built on a foundation of repression and disregard for the rule of law.

Background

Both Uzbekistan and Malaysia have a history of using counterterrorism as a justification for committing human rights violations against their nonviolent critics, including human rights defenders. Since bomb blasts went off in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1999, the Uzbek government has used counterterrorism laws and policies to persecute and silence human rights defenders. In Malaysia, the Internal Security Act (ISA) -- a draconian law justified as necessary in the fight against terrorism -- has been used to hold political opponents, religious activists, and common criminals without charge or trial. International and domestic efforts to repeal the ISA were set back in the climate of heightened global security after the September 11 attacks.