The government of Uzbekistan has completed an investigation into allegations of child labour, and claimed to have found none, human rights activist Elena Urlayeva reported today on the list Human Rights in Central Asia. Uzbek human rights activists have vowed to press their cause further with a complaint to the prosecutor's office.
Earlier it had been reported that at the direction of Akmal Saidov, chairman of the state-organized National Center for Human Rights of Uzbekistan, an investigation had been launched into reports of the exploitation of school-children and college students in the province of Karakalpakstan in May 2011, during a period when they should have been at their studies.
Akhmad Narimbetov, department head at the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, pledged to investigate the reports.
At the end of July 2011, B. Nurabullayev, chairman of the committee for education of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Karakalpakstan sent a reply, saying that there were no facts of any forced recruitment of students to agricultural work, although many factual reports had been presented of the use of school-children and college students in the cotton-planting season in May 2011, taking them away from school.
The Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan is not in agreement with Nurabullayev's findings, and intends to appeal to the prosecutor of Uzbekistan, urging that he be brought to account for lying and covering up facts of violation of childrens' right to education in Karakalpakstan.
The response from Uzbek authorities is indicative of what often passes for "fact-finding" in the Uzbek bureaucracy. When human rights activists file a complaint, one central official merely asks a local official who is responsible for the problem in the first place to report on his own accountability -- and naturally he finds no problem and reports that everything is fine.
The central education authorities do not appear to have conducted any on-site fact-finding such as visits to farms or confindential interviewing of children and their parents, but appear to have merely sent a letter from one bureaucratic office to another. It's not clear if any of these officials stepped outside of their offices to talk to families.
The response from local authorities in Karakalpakstan was predictable, and doesn't obviate the need for a credible, independent investigation of the conditions in schools and farms and the exploitation of children in the province. Labor and human rights advocates have called on the International Labour Organisation to push for a fact-finding mission to Uzbekistan that could help break through this kind of bureaucratic paper-chase and validate the findings of independent human rights groups.