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Convictions In Uzbek Unrest Trial Concern UN

UN Human Rights Chief Voices Concern Over Convictions In Uzbek Unrest Trial

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has voiced concern over the conviction in Uzbekistan of 15 men accused of crimes in connection with unrest in the city of Andijan in May, saying the trial had been marred by allegations of irregularities and serious questions remained about its fairness.

“There are doubts about the adequacy of the defence, and it appears that little evidence was presented during the trial, apart from confessions,” she said in a statement following the end of the trial yesterday. All of the defendants had admitted their guilt at the outset of trial, echoing the accusations by the prosecution.

In the Andijan unrest hundreds of protesters were killed by Government forces. The 15 men are the first of more than 100 people to go on trial.

“This is particularly worrisome as information from independent sources is greatly at odds with those confessions,” Ms. Arbour added. According to reports, the men’s lawyers were State-appointed and although present at the proceedings, did not adequately represent the 15.

She noted that Uzbek Government did not agree to her proposal to send a monitor to the proceedings in order to help determine their conformity with international fair-trial standards, provided the monitor would be given access to case files and places of detention.

Ms. Arbour, who has consistently called for an international inquiry into the events in Andijan, urged the Government to ensure that the 15 can enjoy their right to appeal. Noting that the trial might be the first in a series in connection with the Andijan events, she called on the authorities to abide scrupulously by the international fair trial standards they have freely accepted. She reiterated her offer to send a monitor to future proceedings.

In a report issued last June following an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission to neigbouring Kyrgyzstan to interview survivors of the Andijan events, the High Commissioner said there was strong, consistent and credible testimony to the effect that Uzbek military and security forces had committed grave human rights violations, mostly of the right to life. The findings of the report varied greatly with the version of events given by the authorities as outlined in the trial.

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