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Ban in Uzbekistan Praises Karimov on Rule of Law, Urlaeva UNmentioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, embroiled in a scandal of his UN covering up alleged child rapes by French peacekeeping soldiers in the Central African Republic, continues his long trip through Central Asia then for murky talks on Yemen in Geneva on June 14, his statement in Uzbekistan on June 12 did not mention the case of Elena Urlaeva.

  In fact, Ban lavished praises on Islam Karimov, just as his spokesman did on Azerbaijan and its Baku 2015 European Games, for which UNICEF is the "Official Child Rights Organization. (See that Inner City Press story here.)

  On June 12 in Tashkent, Ban Ki-moon said:

"This is my second visit to Uzbekistan as Secretary-General.  I thank again His Excellency President Islam Karimov and the Government and people of Uzbekistan for their hospitality... Uzbekistan has initiated a number of good laws.  President Karimov has emphasized the importance of the rule of law. But laws on the books should be made real in the lives of people. Uzbekistan has made important progress in eliminating child labour in the cotton sector.  Now more must be done to address the mobilization of teachers, doctors and others in cotton harvesting, and prevent the maltreatment of prisoners...I am pleased to be in Uzbekistan to underscore the commitment of the United Nations to work with you to advance peace, development and human rights for all.”


   Back on June 4, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, transcript here: and below, about the case of Elena Urlaeva in Uzbekistan. Dujarric said "We're looking into it" - but has not answered on it in the five days since.

  Ban, for whom answering press questions at UN headquarters is more and more rare, did an "interview" with his own UN News Center about this trip, before he left. The Free UN Coalition for Access finds this a dubious practice.

Here's from the UN's June 4 transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Uzbekistan.  In light of the Secretary-General's trip, and just generally, there's been a pretty high-profile arrest and abuse of a human rights defender, Elena Urlaeva, who is known to document forced labor in cotton fields there.  She was arrested, subject to cavity searches, X-rays.  A number of human rights groups have spoken against it.  And I wonder, one, is the Secretary-General aware of it?  And, two, is this the type of issue…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  We've seen the reports.  The Secretary-General will very much bring up the issue of human rights on his… on every stop in the region.  You know, the human rights record in the region is mixed.  That's evident.  We obviously welcome the engagement of these countries with the UN human rights machinery.  The Secretary-General will tell his… reiterate to his interlocutors the importance of working with that machinery, offering the UN's help in working to implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Council.  I think by the end of 2016, all the countries will have gone through the Universal Periodic Review.  We also have a human rights centre in Dushanbe, which is there to help, as well.  And he will also make the point of the importance of civil society, of a free civil society that can operate, so the human rights issues will be raised.

Inner City Press:  But, on this particularly kind of pretty high-profile case, does he have a view of the arrest and some would say torture of this activist?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we're… we're… we're looking into it but it's clear that civil society groups in every country need to be able to operate freely.

   We'll continue to watch how Ban addresses these issues during his travel - and after.

Inner City Press also asked about the Rohingya:

Inner City Press:  Rohingya question?  The Asian Centre for Human Rights put out a report blaming not just the Government of Bangladesh but the UN/UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] for failure to register up to 2,000 Rohingya within the country, which it says makes them much more susceptible to trafficking because they don't have the stature… they haven't been registered by the UN system.  So, I wonder, is there some reason that UNHCR or the UN system to the level of Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar and the people working on it…

Spokesman:  Let me look into that specific report.

   Ten hours later, there had been no response. Watch this site.


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