U.S. Ambassador Daniel Rosenblum
Remarks for UN HRC Report Follow On Hearing
April 30, 2020, 1100
Assalom Alaykum! Ramazon muborak bo’lsin! Good morning. I am happy to join my distinguished colleagues at this important event. Senator Saidov, thank you for the kind invitation. You’ve given me an excuse to put on a tie today – for the first time in six weeks!
I would like to begin by congratulating Uzbekistan on the progress it has achieved over the past three and a half years in the area of human rights, including in combating forced labor, expanding the rights of religious believers, opening more space for freedom of expression, allowing civil society organizations to operate more freely, addressing corruption, and strengthening the independence of the judiciary. For those of us who have been paying attention to Uzbekistan for many years, this progress is truly impressive.
As Ms. Fraser stated, even though Uzbekistan has made progress, there is much room for improvement. It is critical to continue to build on this positive momentum, highlighting to the world that your reforms are truly “irreversible.”
I want to emphasize that here in Uzbekistan, just as everywhere else in the world, observing international obligations to protect civil and political rights will always be a work in progress. To improve, any country must: always strive to do better, engage actively with the international community, listen to and take to heart external criticism, and be capable of self-criticism. I am impressed by the degree to which these necessary conditions exist in Uzbekistan today.
Ms. Fraser mentioned the areas pointed out in the UNHRC review that need to be further addressed by Uzbekistan, and I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize how UN human rights mechanisms can help countries fulfill their international obligations on human rights, improve living conditions for their people, and strengthen their governance capabilities.
I strongly encourage government officials to embrace the HRC recommendations and to develop a robust implementation plan. I am confident you will do so – and not primarily because the United Nations said they were important, but because you realize that the people of Uzbekistan want and deserve these rights.
I applaud the role the Oliy Majlis is playing in these efforts. Parliaments of course have a primary role in initiating, passing and improving legislation. But they also should constantly be conducting OVERSIGHT of how laws are executed in real life. The parliament’s role is NOT FINISHED when it passes a law.
I urge the Oliy Majlis and the Senate to continue working, through their legislative role AND their oversight role, to enhance the rule of law, promote transparency throughout government, and help to empower civil society.
It is also worth noting here that a strong and independent judicial system is key to safeguarding the basic rights of all citizens and ensuring a fair and equitable platform for economic development. That is the only solid foundation for a country’s long-term prosperity, and critical for attracting foreign investment.
The international community eagerly awaits the final drafts of the National Human Rights Strategy and religious freedom law. We hope to see the feedback Uzbekistan has received from the international community and civil society incorporated. The rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political beliefs, must be guaranteed by law.
I want to highlight a couple more issues mentioned in the HRC report and underscore the importance of fully addressing these areas. Freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association are key tenets of any democratic society and are fundamental to progress. Citizens who are involved and able to speak freely are an invaluable asset to political and religious leaders across the country. They provide insight into communities and can help many solve problems if they are free to do so.
Domestic violence has no place in any modern society. The government has already begun work in this area and we urge it to continue to address a problem that the COVID-19 lockdown has exacerbated all around the world.
In conclusion, I want to underscore that the United States stands ready, in partnership with the international community, to assist Uzbekistan as it seeks to promote human rights in accordance with international standards and norms. As you continue down the path of reform and work to increase protections for internationally recognized human rights, you can continue to count on the steadfast support of the United States.