24th May 2018

Clock ticking on EU sanctions against Uzbekistan

EU sanctions on Uzbekistan expire on 13 November despite the country's relapse into disturbing human rights abuses, with Germany exploiting the EU legal system to try and scrap a visa ban list.

The sanctions package consists of an embargo on sales of arms or equipment that could be used for internal repression, such as razor wire and combat knives. It also forbids the EU entry of eight Uzbek officials and ex-officials, including acting security chief Rustam Inoyatov, tipped as a likely successor for 70-year old President Islam Karimov.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Boiling water: Uzbekistan is infamous for one case of boiling a prisoner alive (Photo: wikipedia)

The legal instrument covering the measures - which have already been subject to temporary suspensions - expires next month, unless it is renewed by a consensus of all 27 EU states.

Uzbekistan-friendly Germany wants to scrap the visa ban list but to renew the arms embargo, saying the EU must respect Uzbekistan's interests if it wants to forge closer ties.

"The vast majority of countries, I would say 95 percent of countries, agree with this," an EU diplomat said. "The Uzbek government has made some positive steps and these have to be encouraged. But at the same time the situation is not perfect, so we have to be wary."

Germany is also playing the EU legal system to pressure opponents such as the Netherlands into going along: if the Netherlands does not agree to the German plan before 13 November it will get nothing at all, as the whole sanctions package ceases to exist.

"The Germans are playing that card," a Dutch diplomat said. "They have time and the legal instrument on their side."

Meanwhile, the French EU presidency is keen to wrap up the Uzbekistan discussion before a foreign ministers meeting on 13 October, clearing the decks for ministerial debates on Cuba, Zimbabwe, Belarus and the upcoming EU summit instead.

History of cruelty

Uzbekistan gained a reputation for cruelty in 2002 over the case of Muzafar Avazov, a religious prisoner of conscience who was killed by immersion in boiling water.

The EU sanctions were imposed in 2005 in response to the Andijan massacre, when government troops machine-gunned at least 180 people during unrest in a remote market town.

Uzbekistan is at the heart of the EU's Central Asia policy, launched in 2007, with the aim of helping the region's five post-Soviet states become independent, EU-friendly countries that will one day ship natural gas direct to Europe, bypassing Russia.

The initiative has made a difference. Uzbekistan did not follow Russia in recognising Georgia's rebel enclaves South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. It has kept open Germany's military base in Termez, which supplies the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

In the first half of 2008 the country also abolished the death penalty, allowed Red Cross access to jails and released five political prisoners.

Boiling water again

But Uzbekistan has begun to backslide on human rights in the past few months according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which is worried that scrapping the visa ban will remove the last real incitement to reform.

The NGO itself has been shut out of the country since July. Fresh arrests mean at least 14 political prisoners remain behind bars. In one case of government intimidation, human rights activist Ikhtior Khamroev had his children arrested.

The UN special rapporteur on torture has also been locked out of the country, despite evidence of a culture of violence among security services. Political activist Akzam Turgonov says police poured boiling water on his neck during questioning on 14 July.

"These individuals have no hope but for sustained international pressure on the Uzbek government for their release," HRW wrote in a letter to EU foreign ministers on 29 September.

Sofia summit: EU leaders search for a Trump strategy

"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" European Council Donald Tusk asked on Wednesday, as EU leaders were trying to come up with a reply to the US president's questioning of the transatlantic relationship.

Devil in detail in Macedonia name talks

Unlocking Macedonia talks could be this year's big breakthrough in EU enlargement, but the devil's in the detail of Macedonia's constitution, as Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek PM Alexis Tsipras meet in Sofia.


EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.


EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.


Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  2. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  3. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  4. UK households hit with Brexit income loss
  5. Report: EU faces 10% cut in steel exports to US
  6. Australia wants more access to EU agricultural market
  7. CV of Italian PM candidate under scrutiny
  8. Puigdemont Spain extradition rejected by German court

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. GDPR does not (yet) give right to global oblivion
  2. Privacy Shield less relevant given GDPR, says data chief
  3. Unknown academic to lead Italy into EU clash
  4. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  5. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  6. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  7. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  8. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight