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One of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world, Uzbekistan is located in Central Asia and borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. A former Soviet republic, the current president has been ruling since 1989 and elections usually fall well below international standards, with widespread vote fraud and restrictions on opposition. Human rights standards are very poor, with widespread torture, restrictions on speech, a brutal justice system and mass child labour, particularly in the annual cotton harvest.
Uzbeksitan is a landlocked central Asian country bordered by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajisitan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The capital city is Tashkent.
Language and population
The country is home to around 27.7 million people, making it the most populated nation in central Asia. This population grew rapidly in the 1980s and continued to do so following the country's independence, but population growth has gradually slowed over the past decade to an annual rate of just over one per cent. A substantial majority of this population are Muslim.
The official language of the country is Uzbek, but Russian is the language of international communication.
History and politics
Uzbekistan became part of the Soviet Union in 1924 and remained so until it declared its independence in 1991. Islam Karimov, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party, was named President by the referendum that affirmed independence, and has remained so since despite exhausting the two-term limit on the presidency as provided for by the Constitution. Presidential and parliamentary elections have been held regularly since 1991, but have been subject to widespread criticism for the severe limits placed on opposition politicians: several political parties have been banned, and all parties that stood in the 2009 parliamentary elections expressed their support for the government.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan has suffered sustained terrorist attacks, largely from radical Islamic groups. The operations of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who had been operating from Afghanistan, were severely compromised by the coalition invasion of that country in 2001, but violence continued under the direction of various groups, and suicide bombings and terrorist murders have been a regular feature of Uzbek politics. Government forces opened fire on demonstrators following protests in May 2005, which led widespread condemnation from international organisations, and caused the EU to introduce sanctions on the country.
Uzbekistan is the world's third largest producer of cotton and, alongside natural resources including gas, oil, gold and silver, provides the basis of the country's economy. This reliance on natural resources and agriculture, however, leaves the economy very susceptible to falls in commodity prices, particularly cotton and gold. In recent years the government has sought foreign investment in the hydrocarbon sector, specifically from Russia and Asian countries.
Media and civil society
Reporters Without Borders rated Uzbekistan 163 out of 178 countries in its 2010 Press Freedom Index, a rating placing the country among the world's most repressive in terms of press freedom. The organisation highlighted the imprisonment and harassment of journalists as among the most pressing concerns facing the country's media, alongside intolerance of foreign media and laws that undermine freedom of expression.
Human rights and children's rights
Uzbekistan's human rights record has been widely criticised by human rights organisations, indeed Human Rights Watch labelled the State's record “abysmal” in its 2011 World Report, while Amnesty International highlighted the continuing practices of torture and ill-treatment, particularly in the justice system. The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed this perception of the Uzbek justice system, noting that “any criminal suspect held in custody [in the country] faces a serious risk of being subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment”. In relation to child rights, the forced labour of children in cotton fields is perhaps the most widespread abuse, in which hundreds of thousands of school children, some as young as ten, are forced to work on the cotton harvest for two months of the year.
- UNDESA, Population Statistics 2011
- Constitution of Uzbekistan, Article 4
- BBC, "Profile: Islam Karimov"
- Constitution of Uzbekistan, Article 90
- Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, "Uzbekistan Elections Reports"
- BBC, "How the Andijan killings unfolded" 17 May 2005
- Reporters Without Borders, "Former state TV journalists start hunger strike after being convicted over protest" 27 June 2011
- Reporters Without Borders, "Still no space for press freedom five years after Andijan massacre" 12 May 2010
- Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2011", pp. 497-502
- Amnesty International, "Report 2011: The State of the World's Human Rights", pp. 347-349
- Garayev v. Azerbaijan  Application No. 53688/08
- See CRIN, "Uzbekistan: Children's Rights in UN Treaty Body Reports"
- OHCHR, "Uzbekistan Homepage"
- Hauser Global Law School Project, Maria Stalbovskaya, "UPDATE: A Guide to Legal Research in Uzbekistan"
- BBC, "Uzbekistan Country Profile" and news items (see footnotes)
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Uzbekistan Country Profile"
- Reporters Without Borders, "World Report: Uzbekistan" also see footnotes