Demonstration for Human Rights: Today, 12:00 PM at Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington, DC
Global coalition of civil-society organizations call on the government of Uzbekistan to stop forced labor, forced child labor and human rights abuses
(Washington, DC, March 11, 2013) – The government of Uzbekistan must end forced labor, forced child labor and human rights abuses, said Uzbek nationals in the U.S., the Cotton Campaign and the Child Labor Coalition. The demonstrators will gather in front of the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington DC (1746 Massachusetts Ave, near Dupont Circle) and present a letter signed by business, human rights, investor and labor organizations to the Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, who is visiting Washington from March 11 to March 13.
Every year for decades, the government of Uzbekistan has forced millions of children and adults - teachers, nurses, doctors, public servants and private sector employees - to pick cotton under appalling conditions. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits or worse. The government combines these penalties with threats, detains and harasses Uzbek activists seeking to monitor the situation, and continues to refuse the International Labor Organization’s access to monitor the harvest. Uzbekistan is one of the largest cotton producing countries in the world, and cotton harvested there by forced labor finds its way into the U.S. apparel industry.
“It’s time for the Uzbek government to take serious action to end forced labor in the cotton sector,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director, International Labor Rights Forum. “The government’s attempt to shift more of the cotton picking burden to adults for the 2012 harvest failed to address the problem. Forced labor of adults intensified, and forced child labor persisted. The Uzbek government must take effective measures to end forced labor and invite the International Labor Organization to monitor the 2013 cotton harvest.”
Foreign Minister Kamilov is visiting Washington, DC to seek increased support from the U.S. Congress and the Executive for the government of Uzbekistan. Under the rule of long-time President Islam Karimov, torture is an enduring problem in Uzbekistan’s detention facilities, journalists and human rights defenders are imprisoned for legitimate civil society activism, and religious practice is persecuted. Gulshan Karaeva, Uktam Pardaev and Elena Urlaeva were among the victims of harassment and arrest for attempting to document the 2012 cotton harvest.
“Modern-day slavery in the cotton fields persists as long as Uzbek citizens are denied fundamental human rights,” said Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition Coordinator. “When political change inevitably comes to Uzbekistan, the Uzbek people will remember if the United States did everything it could to help end their servitude.”
Today, the demonstrators and their supporters around the world call on the government of Uzbekistan to urgently take the following measures:
Invite a high-level ILO tripartite observation mission to conduct unfettered monitoring during the 2013 cotton harvest;
Take immediate and effective time-bound measures to eradicate forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector; and
Allow unhindered access for independent monitors, including the eleven UN monitors who have been unable to visit due to the government’s refusal to issue the required invitations, and implement recommendations by independent monitoring bodies, including UN treaty bodies and special procedures.
The Cotton Campaign is the global coalition of worker, employer, investor and human rights organizations coalesced to build political will in the government of Uzbekistan to end forced labor of children and adults in its cotton sector. The Child Labor Coalition has worked in the U.S. and globally to end child labor exploitation and to promote health, safety, education and well-being for working minors since 1989. ILRF is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.
CONTACT: Cotton Campaign Coordinator - C/O International Labor Rights Forum, 1634 Eye Street NW, suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. +1(202) 347-4100, cottoncampaigncoordinator [at] gmail.com