European Council presents Uzbek textiles with tariff privileges

despite the fact that Uzbek textiles are made from cotton harvested by the slave labor of children 

Activists and friends of Uzbekistan’s civil society
call for a review of this decision
and for a boycott of Uzbek cotton and textiles.

Upon the conclusion of the scandalous visit of Uzbekistan’s dictator, Islam Karimov, to Brussels, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in a statement issued on January 24, 2011, touched on the issue of child labor and called on Karimov to receive an ILO monitoring mission.

EU officials periodically demonstrate this kind of concern about human rights in Uzbekistan. But such practices have only shown that such verbal exhortations have not resulted in real, practical results.

But how does Brussels uses all the levers at its disposal, which could actually affect the human rights situation in Uzbekistan?

Just a few days after Islam Karimov’s controversial visit to Brussels, a visit that became the subject of widespread criticism in the media and civil society, the European Council, at its meeting on January 31, approved the signature of a protocol for an agreement of partnership and cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan, which extends to trade in textiles. The text of the protocol seeks the approval of the European Parliament.

In practical terms, the signing of the protocol means giving Uzbek textiles various tariff and custom privileges and free access to European markets. Furthermore, this decision sends a political signal to all interested parties that there is nothing wrong in importing textiles from Uzbekistan. It is noteworthy that this decision was taken against the backdrop of an expanding boycott of Uzbek cotton and cotton products due to ethical considerations by a number of Western companies. Apparently, these ethical considerations were completely alien to the authors of the protocol.

Taking into consideration that the textile industry of Uzbekistan uses raw cotton that is harvested by the forced labor of hundreds of thousands of Uzbek children and students, the decision to trade in such textiles can only be interpreted as a silent and de facto encouragement of the practice of forced and child labor that violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ILO Conventions on Forced and Child Labor, as well as other norms of international law on human rights.

We would like to remind that, despite Uzbekistan’s adoption of laws prohibiting child labor, as well as Uzbekistan’s international commitments, the widespread practice of forcing children as well as students from colleges and universities, as well as civil servants, has not ended in Uzbekistan since the Stalin era. The exploitation of child labor has only intensified after Uzbekistan became an independent state.

In this case, unlike in other developing countries, child labor in Uzbekistan is encouraged and organized by the state. Schools, colleges, and universities are closed for two-to-three months every cotton season.  This is done with the consent of the Ministries of General and Higher Education. Decrees with directions for children and students are issued by the local authorities, who in turn serve the central government. Those families who refuse to send their children to pick cotton are subject to intimidation, threatened with the loss of social benefits, gas supply, water, electricity, while their children are threatened with exclusion from educational institutions.

Just as children are victims of this system, so are the farmers who have no right to choose what they sow on their land, and at what price they may sell the harvested cotton. The lion’s share of profit from cotton exports goes into the pockets of a small circle of people around the president, and to support the repressive apparatus.

Although an ILO monitoring mission is still not allowed entry to Uzbekistan, Uzbek human rights defenders, journalists, and activists were able to gather enough materials to document large-scale forced labor practices. Copies of their reports on their research findings were sent to various offices of the European Union. Thus, the individuals preparing the decision of the European Council on textile cooperation with Uzbekistan cannot claim that they were not informed on this issue. If necessary, these reports can be provided again.

We are not opposed to social and economic cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan. But we believe that the cotton and textile industries should be excluded from this cooperation, as these sectors are based on large scale and systematic violations of human rights, in particular the rights of children to education.

The decision of the European Council sends the wrong message to European institutions, companies, and communities, as well as to the Government and people of Uzbekistan. It is at odds with the obligations of the EU to promote human rights in Central Asia.

If the European Council considers that sanctions against Uzbekistan are counterproductive, then it is questionable why, in the same document, dated January 31, sanctions are imposed against Belarus, whose regime is, compared with Uzbekistan, not less harsh towards its citizens. Where is the logic and consistency in the actions of the European Council?

Based on the above, we call for:

European Councilto inform the public and the press about the reasons for its decision, to reconsider its decision to approve the protocol, as it relates to trade in textiles.

European Parliament, and all of its factions – before making a decision on the text of the protocol in its current form, to hold consultations with civil society representatives and to make a decision taking into account international law on human rights.

European Commissionto suspend the Generalized System of Preferences under which Uzbek cotton and textiles were exempted from EU custom tariffs and taxes, and have preferential access to European markets.

European companies importing cotton – to boycott Uzbek cotton.

European trading houses, associations and retailers - to boycott textile products from Uzbekistan, including joint ventures producing textiles in this country.

Citizens of EU countries – send their letters of protest to their MPs to the European Parliament, to use their voice to defend Uzbek children; send letters of protest directly to the European Council and to the European Commission to reconsider their decision to cooperate with Uzbekistan in the field of trade in textiles.  

These measures must be taken until Uzbekistan discontinues the practice of forced labor and the ILO, through an independent analysis, confirms that this practice has ended.
*  *  *
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference on 5 February 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that the European Union should make no compromises when it comes to defending human rights in any regions of the world. There should be no compromises,’ she said.  We hope the same approach will be applied to Uzbekistan as well.

Those wishing to join the petition, send your letters to:  asiecentrale@neuf.fr


1. Jodgor Obid, poet, member of International PEN, Austria
2. Мutabar Tajibayeva, head of the Human Rights Club "Flaming Heart", France
3. Abdujalil Boymatov, Chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Ireland
4.  Bashorat Eshova, сoordinator of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in Switzerland
5. Gulshan Karaeva, chairman of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Kashkadarya Region, Uzbekistan
6. Ismail Dadajonov, chairman of the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Sweden
7. Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France
8. Bakhodir Namazov, Committee to release prisoners of conscience in Uzbekistan
9. Tulkin Qoraev, the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Sweden
10. Avaz Fayazov, The international organization Human Rights Defenders, Sweden
11. Yusuf Rasulov, Journalist, Sweden
12. Abdurahimov Abdulatif, Political refugee Sweden
13. Dilmurod Isakov, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
14. Abdumalik Bakaev, Political refugee Sweden
15. Avaz Isakov, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
16. Yusupov Bayramali, Political refugee, Denmark
17. Rafik Ganiev, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
18. Nabijon Norbutaev, Political Party Birlik, Sweden
19. Muhiddin Qurbonov,The international organization Human Rights Defenders, Sweden
20. Asadullo Ahmedov, Political refugee, Norway
21. Dildora Ahmedova, Political refugee, Norway
22. Daniel Anderson, Political refugee, Norway
23. Devid Anderson, Political refugee, Norway
24. Shavkat Hodjaev, Political Party Birlik
25. Rufiya Kiyamova, Political Party Birlik
26. Ota Rahimov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
27. Davlat Kozimov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
28. Saodat Kazimova, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
29.  Zahro Kazimova, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
30. Bek Davronov, refugee
31. Ishanov Zubayd, refugee
32. Ibodat Karimova, refugee
33. Anvar Karimov, Political refugee, USA
34. Avaz Karimov, Political refugee, USA
35.  Ayub Karimov, Political refugee, USA
36. Inom Bobohonov, Political Party Birlik
37.  Ilhom Bobohonov, Political refugee, USA
38. Shamsuddin Isomutdinov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
39. Rustam Qobimov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
40. Farida Qosimova, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
41. Karim Suyunov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
42. Rafik Eshmatov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
43. Bek Alibekov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan
44.  Jamshid Bokiev, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik, Sweden
45. Muhammadsolih Abutov, "Tayanch", Sweden
46. Dustnazar Hudoynazarov, Political Party ERK, Sweden
47. Asror Egamberdiev, Political refugee, Sweden
48. Khusniddin Kutbiddinov, journalist, Uzbekistan
49. Ulugbek Khaydarov, journalist, Canada
50. Hait Gafurov, Political party Birlik, Sweden
51. Hotam Hodjimatov, Human rights activist, Norway
52. Ulugbek Zaynabitdinov, member of political party Birlik, Sweden
53. Komil Ruzimatov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Ukraine
54. Jalil Ikramov, the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Ukraine

55. Dmitriy Belomestnov, representative of the ‘Human Rights in Central Asia Association’ in Russia

56. Roslana Taukina, President of ‘Journalists in Peril’
57. Dametken Alenova, Independent Human Rights Organizations, 'Women of Kazakhstan’
58. Irina Savostina, Leader of the Republican Movement of Retired ‘Generation’
59. Bakhitdjan Toregodjina, leader of ‘Кахар’, and Independent Human Rights Organization ‘Ар РУХ ХАК"
60. Igor Vinyavskiy, editor-in-chief of newspaper ‘Vzglyad’
61. Olesya Shelkova, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper journalist
62. Vladimir Radionov, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper journalist
63. Natalya Sherbakova, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper journalist
64. Igor Zenin, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper journalist
65. Karishal Asan-Ata, Social activist, writer
66. Aysulu Kadirbaeva, Public Fund "Kuretamyr, a member of the Writers' Union of Kazakhstan
67. Jarasal Kuanishalin, Public Association ‘Жаса, Азаттык!’
68. Bakhit Tumenova, Public Fund ‘Аман-саулык’
69. Mikhail Sizov, chief editor ‘Alga!’ newspaper
70. Irina Sovostina, Chairman of the Association of social and legal protection of retired ‘Generation’ of Republic of Kazakhstan
71. Marat Januzakov, MP Kokshetau city council
72. Igor Kolov, Public Association ‘Public Committee for Human Rights’
73. Viktor Novikov, Public Association ‘Aksakali’
74. Tamara Aukenova, Public fund ‘Kuretamir’, doctor
75. Serik Sapargali, Public Association “Ult Ruhi”
76. Yuriy Khramov, citizen of Kazakhstan
77. Yuliya Ananyina, Public Association ‘Association of protection of human rights and civil liberties’       
78. Oleg Barvin Public Association ‘Association of protection of motorists rights FORVERS’
79. Nikolay Chumakov, Public Association “Russian social and cultural Union”
80. Alimjan Jusupov, Public Association “Trade Union Shahtyor-Miner”
81. Aygul Daurenbekova, Kazakh Public Fund “Talmas”              
82. Sergey Leonov, journalist of Newspaper “Alga”       
83. Alena Mloznyak, Public Association” Trade Union of entrepreneurs of public services”      
84. Adilzhan Kinzhegaleev, PA "Free Trade Union of Workers of Ore"  
85. Natalya Shteinbeck, Kostanay Regional Centre of Free Trade Unions        
86. Svetlana Tihanenko, NGO "Union of Consumer Protection Kostanai region"
87. Anvar Khasanov, Public Association “Movement of protection of pensioner’s rights of Rudnogo town”
88. Maria Kudrenko, member of council of PA ‘Generation’
89. Perizat Kasimova, NGO Centre for Protection of Human Rights 
90. Yelena Semenova, Public Association “Pavlodar Region-Leave housing to nation”
91. Antonina Dokucheva, Poblic Association “Shanyrak”
92. Kunsulu Maken, PA “Legal development of Kazakhstan”
93. Vasiliy Zavizenev, PA “Movement of Social and legal protection of public, Pokoleniye”
94. Erkebulan Aldabergenov, Youth Public Association- Ulan” Pavlodar Region
95. Sergey Izmaylov, “Youth of Petropavlovsk for Democratic Development”, PA “Public Committee of Human Rights”           
96. Valentina Makhotina, “Dialogue Plus”   
97. Indira Kakimova PA “Ariadna”
98. Irina Suvorova PA “Ariadna”, correspondent of Newspaper “Alga”
99. Maria Popova, PA “Ariadna”
100. Yelena Polyantseva, PA “Ariadna”
101. Raygul Tleukhanova, PA “Ariadana”
102. Yerlan Kaliev, PA “Ariadna”
103. Alexey Nestratov, PA “Ariadna”
104. Rufit Ahmedzyanov, PA “Ariadna”, journalist for newspaper “Alga”
105. Dmitriy Shmakov, PA “Ariadna”
106. Eduard Datchikov, PA “Protection of Environment”
107. Natalya Tomilova, PA “Miner Family”
108. Tahir Muhamedzyanov, PA “Miner Family”
109. Danil Nosenko, NGO "Union for the Protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens
110. Ruslan Simbinov, Astana City Organizing Committee for the establishment of NP "Alga!”
111. Muhit Nurmahan, Kyzylorda Organizing Committee for establishment of NP “Alga!”
112. Sagat Jusip, Advisor for “Alga!” National Party
113. Anarkulov Sarmagambetova, NGO "Detar"
114. Adihan Mambetaliyev, Regional Chief of KPK branch
115. Ibrashuly Sarbulak, Editor of Newspaper “Samala”
116. Gazyz Tortbaev , PA "Ana tili"
117. Guljan Tulemisova, Chief of Aktobe regional committee for the establishment of NP "Alga!"
118. Raziya Aktayeva, PA “Ariadna”
119. Valentian Kadola, PA “Pokoleniye-Generation”
120. Dametken Zharylkasynova, Zhambyl regional  committee for protection of Human Rights
121. Rauf Sabitov, PA Mountain club ‘Жабыглы-Манас’
122. Varvara Naydenova, PA Ladies club ‘Veronika’
123. Ademe Ilyasova, Public Association ‘Отандастар’
124. Baniamin Fayzulin, Taldykorgan city parent committee
125. Rustam Akhmarov, journalist ‘Alga!’
126. Natalya Nurlanova, journalist "Алга"
127. Irina Titovskaya, journalist ‘Alga!’
128. Svetlana Mausumbaeva, First secretary of city committee (Ust-Kamenogorsk)
129. Vladimir Buravtsev, Public Association ‘Generation’
130. Jumabek Ibraev, Public Association ‘Ариадна’
131. Svetlana Grigoryeva, Public Association ‘Ариадна’
132. Askar Shaygumarov, Union orphanages West Kazakhstan region
133. Anargul Abenova, West-Kazakhstan regional committee for the establishment NP "Alga!"
134. Viktor Belyaev, journalist ‘Alga!’
135. Djenis Dosjanov, The head of the organizing committee of National party ‘Alga!’
136. Ernazar Perniev, First Secretary of the Communist Party branch in South Kazakhstan Region
137. Makhan Kulmuhanbet, Public Association, ‘Aral-Eco’ 
138. Galimjan Maykhanov, ‘Union of local wars  and Afghanistan veterans’
139. Tatyana Kisileva, PA ‘Bureau of Human Rights’
140. Djarkinbek Seytinbet, Public Association, ‘Institutions of democratic development’
141. Zulaykho Sultonova, Public Association, ‘Оралман’
142. Marat Davesov, Public Association, ‘League of Voters’
143. Kulaysha Shakirova, Public Association, ‘Muslim Women's League’
144. Olga Lee, Public Association, ‘Center for Women and Child Protection’, South Kazakhstan region
145. Kuralay Bekenova, Public Association, ‘Association of Business Women of Kazakhstan’ South Kazakhstan Valley branch
146. Khadicha Abisheva, Public Association ‘Sana-Sezim’ Legal Centre for Women's Initiatives
149. Maken Gaysina, Public Association ‘Movement’ and ‘Generation’
150. Natalya Arbudu, Kazakhstan citizen
151.  Musina Sholpan, Kazakhstan citizen 
152. Asel Tegisbaeva, Kazakhstan citizen 
153. Tatyana Spitsina, Kazakhstan citizen 
154. Aygul Sarsenbayeva, Kazakhstan citizen
155. Tolkin Kidikova, Kazakhstan citizen 
156. Danil Bekturganov, Kazakhstan citizen 
157. Ogay Stella, Kazakhstan citizen 
158. Fominikh Tatyana, Kazakhstan citizen
159. Kendje Adenov, Kazakhstan citizen
160. Ayjangul Amirova, Kazakhstan citizen
161. Yesenbaev Nurxat, Kazakhstan citizen

163.  Leyla Yunus, Institute of Peace and Democracy
164. Hikmet Hajizade, FAR Center
165. Matanat Azizova, Women’s Crisis Centre
166. Ismail Veliyev, “Ganjabasar” newspaper
167. Elchin Mammad, Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth
168. Hafiz Safihanov, Azerbaijan’s Campaign to Band Landmines
169. Zahir Amanov, “Janub Heberleri” newspaper
170. Alovsat Aliyev, Azerbaijan Migration Centre
171. Ilgar Gasimov, ”Legal Aid” (Lenkoran city)
172. Mehman Aliyev, “Turan” News Agency
173. Anar Mammedli, Election Monitoring and Democratic Studies Centre
174. Mirvari Gahramanli, Protection of Oil Workers’ Rights
175. Elchin Behbudov, Azerbaijan Committee Against Torture
176. Hikmet Hajizade, FAR Center
177. Intigam Aliyev, Legal Education Society
178. Leyla Aliyeva, Center for National and International Studies
179. Hilal Mammedov, “Tolishi Sado” newspaper
180. Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Society
181. Annagi Hacibeyli, Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
182. Alekber Mammedov, Center for Democratic and Civil Control of the Military
183. Shakir Agaev, Newspaper “Novoye Vremya”
184. Eldar Zeynalov, Director Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan

185. Vyacheslav Mamedov, Chairman, Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan

186. Lyudmila Kozlovskaya, Vice-director of the ‘Открытый Диалог’, Poland
187. Marek Pavlovskiy, member of ‘Гражданская Платформа’ party, Poland
188. Anddjey Shlivinskiy, NGO ‘Young Democracts’, Poland
189. Ivan Sherstyuk, candidate of the party ‘Pora’, the founder of the ‘Open Dialogue’, Ukraine-Poland
190. Yaroslav Pristash, chief editor of ‘Our Word’, Poland

191. Levan Djorbenadze, founder of the "Dialogue for Development 2008", Georgia

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 
72000 Le Mans FRANCE
Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; 
Email: asiecentrale@neuf.fr