Crackdown on international organisations continues

Uzbek officials announced on Sunday that the local office of another international organisation would be closing its doors in the country where a crackdown on civil society organisations continues to this day.

The closure of the local liaison office of the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiatives’ (ABA/CEELI) in the capital of Tashkent follows an Uzbek Justice Ministry decision that the organisation had violated its charter, local media reports said.

ABA/CEELI works to advance the rule of law by supporting the legal reform process in Central Asia by making American and European legal expertise and technical assistance available for the countries in the region.

The Tashkent ABA/CEELI liaison office launched its programme in 1995 in Uzbekistan, a densely populated former Soviet republic with a poor human rights record.

Relations between Tashkent and international agencies have been strained for the past 10 months after an uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan last May. Rights groups claim that upwards of 1,000 civilians may have been killed in the violent clampdown on dissent in the city, while the government claims the total number was 187.

Over the past six months, Uzbek authorities have also closed down the local offices of the Eurasia Foundation, the rights watchdog Freedom House and, one week ago, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), claiming the agency had fully implemented its tasks and there was therefore no reason for it to remain in the Central Asian nation – leaving 1,800 refugees vulnerable.

John Keeton, ABA/CEELI’s programme manager for Central Asia in Washington, declined to comment on the matter on Monday.