In its first major report on Uzbekistan for four years, Human Rights Watch said Uzbek security forces beat people during interrogations and use electric shocks and rape to extract confessions.
But as Uzbekistan’s importance in the NATO supply chain to Afghanistan has grown, criticism of its abuses has melted away.
Steve Swerdlow, the Human Rights Watch Uzbekistan researcher, said the US and its allies know about these abuses.
“Being located next to Afghanistan should not give Uzbekistan a pass on its horrendous record of torture and repression”
Without Uzbekistan being onside, NATO would have strategic problems in withdrawing from Afghanistan
Uzbekistan was the Soviet Union’s regional transport hub and still has strong rail and road connections with Russia. This makes the country useful to Nato and it was able to switch its re-supply effort to Central Asia and Uzbekistan when US relations with Pakistan deteriorated over the past year.
Britain will also use this network to pull out equipment when it quits Afghanistan in 2014 and last month officials visited Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, for talks.
Since it became an ally, public criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights record by NATO governments has dried up. The US has even publicly stated that human rights in Uzbekistan are improving.
The Human Rights Watch report disagreed with this assessment and gave detailed firsthand accounts of torture.
This came at the same time as Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake, Jr discretely visited Ashgabat to meet with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before the conference on Afghanistan in Bonn regarding the future of Afghanistan some 10 years on after the "war on terror" was proclaimed.
At the meeting Blake mused on the subject of Can Virtue be Taught ? and emphasised the importance of adhering to human rights whilst fighting terrorism.
The Joint Plan of Action includes a commitment to abide by and uphold the core values, including respect for human rights and the rule of law, that are too often compromised in efforts to combat terrorism. This is a very important point, because counterterrorism efforts can best succeed when they place respect for human rights and the rule of law front and center. Abusive and extra-legal behavior often only make the terrorism situation worse in the long-term, and it is important in our zeal to protect our citizens that we do not weaken their legal rights and protections.
Catherine Fitzpatrick mused on this subject,
Blake's remarks came on the eve of an unfortunate development at home tending to undercut his message, as the US Senate voted for the defense re-authorization act but failed to uphold the principle that American citizens arrested in the US in the war on terror shouldn't be subject to indefinite military detention on the president's order.
Just days before the meeting with Turkmenistan's president, Blake had returned to the real business of the USA and NATO in Afghanistan-the development of the TAPI pipeline. None of that is actually reported in the mainstream media in the West as being the reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan.
Blake stressed that
"The United States appreciates the leadership of Turkmenistan in ensuring stability and sustainable development in Central Asian region and, in particular, on supporting the socio-economic reconstruction of Afghanistan" He continued "the U.S. government welcomes Ashgabat's leading role in promoting the project of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline".
At the same time "huge importance of the transnational project, designed to become a reliable link between the states of the region, to promote their effective economic integration and to contribute to recovery of the Afghan economy and improving the social situation in this country" .
The Afghan War is now solidly about the New Silk Route, excluding and diminishing Iran's regional interests and encircling it the better to cripple it economically and target it for "regime change", and developing Afghanistan's copious resources of lithium and cobalt through the Asian Development Bank.
In this New Great Game. human rights are entirely secondary and expendable as and where necessary.