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Uzbekistan Reforms Making Some Progress, says OSCE

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says Uzbekistan is making progress on some economic and political reforms, but human rights abuses are on the rise.

On the economic front, the OSCE says Uzbekistan has made some progress in encouraging the growth of the private sector and simplifying the tax system. But torture by police and other gross human rights violations are increasing, and the OSCE says that is a serious problem.

The OSCE, which is made up of 55 countries from central Asia, Europe, and Canada and the United States, discussed Uzbekistan in a closed-door session of its council.

OSCE's report noted some improvements in Uzbekistan's policies, including cooperation with neighboring Afghanistan in securing border areas, and ratification of an international pact on human trafficking.

But the 15 countries of the European Union expressed serious concern about human rights violations in Uzbekistan, and called for the government to end torture and executions.

Aaron Rhodes visits Uzbekistan regularly as head of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, and he agrees that human rights abuses in Uzbekistan are growing.

"Uzbekistan has one of the worst human rights records of any country in the OSCE region, and the result of these gross human rights violations is that the security situation is threatened," he said. "Because when a government treats its citizens as badly as the Uzbek government treats its citizens, they do not have much commitment to order, and are more likely to be attracted to terrorist organizations."

Uzbekistan is one of five central-Asian countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. They joined the OSCE in 1992, following independence.