Today, the Cotton Campaign submitted letters to the United States government urging Tier 3 placements for the governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).
Each year in the TIP Report, the U.S. Department of State places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” established in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Tier 3 is reserved for governments that do not comply with minimum standards to combat human trafficking and fail to take adequate steps to address the problem, and it carries the possibility of sanctions. The governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan not only are failing to meet the minimum standards for a higher ranking in the TIP Report, they are orchestrating and benefiting from forced labor.
As citizens of Uzbekistan have documented, the Uzbek government continued its forced labor system of cotton production in 2014. The government used coercion to oblige farmers to fulfill production quotas and other citizens to fulfill harvest quotas under threat of penalty. Following international pressure, the government ended the nationwide mobilization of children to harvest cotton in 2014 but increased the forced mobilization of adults to compensate, and officials resorted to forced child labor, apparently to fulfill their cotton quotas, in multiple areas of the country. Authorities suppressed any attempts by citizens to report on these abuses, sustained the policies that drive forced labor, and continued to deny the use of forced labor.
In 2014, the government of Turkmenistan forced civil servants to participate in the cotton harvest, either by picking cotton or paying a fine, under various threats, including losing their job. Officials also required some business owners to contribute their employees or a payment, under threat of closing the business. The mass mobilization of Turkmen citizens to harvest cotton degraded public services, especially schools, which sent their teachers to pick cotton. Some officials also forced civil servants to clean and landscape public spaces and to clean the officials’ homes. The Turkmen government also suppressed freedom of association and speech, obliging monitors to report on its use of forced labor from outside the country.
The only appropriate ranking for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report is Tier 3. The Tier 3 ranking would communicate to the governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan that forced labor is unacceptable and would encourage them to end it, in accordance with the international conventions prohibiting forced labor that they have both ratified.
Read the letters here:
To Secretary of State John Kerry, concerning Uzbekistan in the TIP Report
To Ambassador Patricia Butenis, concerning Turkmenistan in the TIP Report