Urgent Interventions

Domestic violence and deprivation of liberty of children in Uzbekistan: the Committee on the Rights of the Child confirms OMCT’s concerns as denounced in its alternative report

On 2nd June, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter the Committee) issued its Concluding Observations and Recommendations after having considered on 19th May the second periodic report of Uzbekistan on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter the Convention). In December 2005, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) had submitted an alternative report to the Committee in collaboration with Legal Aid Society (LAS), a non-governmental organisation from Uzbekistan. That report denounces the serious lack of adequate implementation of children’s rights in Uzbekistan and is available on OMCT’s website (non-edited version). During the Committee session on May, the official delegation of Uzbekistan, composed of the Director of the National Centre for Human Rights, a member of the Cabinet of Ministers, a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the permanent mission of Uzbekistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, acknowledged some difficulties its country is facing. Among the difficulties cited was Uzbekistan’s geo-political situation; Uzbekistan’s neighbours – Tajikistan and Afghanistan – recently emerged from years of war and insecurity, which has meant harsh consequences for Uzbekistan. More particularly, in terms of human rights, the delegation pointed to the lack of awareness of citizens regarding children’s rights and the need to strengthen judicial services. Despite a discussion with expert members of the Committee that can be described as cooperative, and despite some positive announcements, such as the possible establishment of an ombudsperson for children and draft laws on the guarantees of the rights of the child and on juvenile justice, concrete information provided by the delegation was lacking. This is typical of the Uzbek government’s regard for human rights, including children’s rights, which is marked by a continual lack of transparent information. In this respect, there are very few independent NGOs specialising in children’s rights. Moreover, it was difficult for national NGOs to take part in the process of collaboration with the Committee because they feared for the security of their delegates. Regarding the worrying issue of domestic violence and abuse against children, raised by both OMCT in its alternative report and the Committee in its recommendations, the official delegation only responded that the government of Uzbekistan is currently in the process of undertaking legislative measures to combat all forms of domestic violence directed against children and that a great deal of investment is also placed in the rehabilitation of victims of domestic violence. However, with respect to cases of ill-treatment of children, the delegation completely denied this phenomenon, which was reported by national NGOs, relying only on a survey by the Ministry of Interior. However, it is not surprising because not much information is provided in Uzbekistan regarding cases of child domestic violence due to the “private” nature of the problem and the frequent refusal of the authorities to intervene in such cases. Regarding juvenile justice and the deprivation of liberty of children, detention of minors is not used as a measure of last resort in Uzbekistan, and while detained, children are often confined together with adults, in clear breach of national and international law. Moreover, the Committee drew from some concerns mentioned in OMCT’s alternative report, such as the awful conditions of detention and acts of violence, even torture, perpetrated against child detainees. Finally, as OMCT does in its alternative report, the Committee deplores the “various interpretations [of the definition of torture] by the judiciary and the law enforcement authorities”. OMCT would like to recall that the prohibition of torture, as it is defined in article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture, is a principle of international law and custom that does not permit any exception and should be interpreted in strict compliance with those standards. If Uzbekistan has a genuine will to improve children’s rights and living conditions, it must first demonstrate an interest in collaborating with civil society.
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