On December 14, the Human Rights Day Celebration was conducted at the premises of the US Ambassador to Uzbekistan and was co-hosted by the European Union Delegation. More than 40 foreign guests, human rights activists, representatives of NGOs and diplomatic corp were presented at the event. Head of the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, Ambassador Eduards Stiprais delivered His speech.
Speech by Ambassador Eduards Stiprais,
Head of the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, on the occasion of
the 2017 Human Rights Day Celebration
My dear co-host, Ambassador Spratlen
Esteemed civil society activists,
Your Excellences, my diplomatic colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
On behalf of the European Union please accept my cordial congratulations on the occasion of the Human Rights Day. It is hard to believe that almost 70 years passed since the United Nations freshly after the defeat one of the biggest evils of the 20th century – Nazism adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Entire generation has passed since then. Unfortunately for so many and for so long in this world this remained just a declaration without any impact on their everyday life.
This is why I am particularly pleased to be here and now at the end of 2017, the year, which can be marked as a year of cardinal transformations in the area of human rights in Uzbekistan. And I would like to congratulate all of you with this success and upcoming holidays!
Without doubts, it became possible only due to hard and dedicated work of both officials and civil society activists present here. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for all your efforts in interest of people of Uzbekistan, in promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.
In September, in his inaugural address to the UN General Assembly, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev used the global stage to pledge to protect human rights – a promise that has being transformed into real actions.
During a year, the Uzbek government has released at least 16 political prisoners, relaxed certain restrictions on free expression, removed the scores of citizens from the security services’ notorious “black list,” and increased the accountability of government institutions to citizens. It has also banned the forced mobilization of teachers, doctors, and college students to labour in fields for the annual cotton-picking season.
Just 2 weeks ago, the Uzbek President has issued a decree, which states that evidence obtained by investigators through "torture, psychological and physical pressure and other cruel, inhumane methods that humiliate the dignity of parties in criminal cases or their close relatives" cannot be admissible in court.
These moves – coupled with currency reforms and a foreign policy pragmatically focused on repairing relations with Uzbekistan’s immediate neighbours Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan – have contributed to a sense of hope in Uzbekistan about the possibility for change not witnessed in many years.
Just a couple of days ago, on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a Decree on pardoning 2,700 convicts. Such a document was adopted for the first time in the history of the country. I fully support the view of Mr. Mukhammadiev, who believes that "it reflects the spirit of cardinal transformations carried out in the country in the sphere of human rights".
We welcome significant reforms and the path the Government of Uzbekistan took to improve the business climate, the judicial system, labour conditions, administrative accountability and the fight against corruption. The further continuation and deepening of these reforms will strengthen Uzbekistan’s democratic governance and economic and social development.
In the run-up to Constitution Day I was approached by one of Uzbekistan`s news agencies with the request for interview. That prompted me to read again the Constitution of Uzbekistan. It is a brilliant document that requires only to be observed on a day to day basis to make lives better.
We understand that there is a lot of work to be done to improve situation around human rights in Uzbekistan, and we look forward to extending our cooperation with the Government and the civil society of Uzbekistan to provide our support in this area. It should be noted, that we are now considering two new projects within the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights totalling 800 thousands EUR for the implementation in Uzbekistan.
In this regard we also rely on support of all those attending this event today to jointly ensure that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms becomes inseparable part of everyday life in Uzbekistan.
Thank you for your attention.