To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the level of religious freedom in Uzbekistan; and what steps the Government is taking to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief in that country.
19 January 2018
In October 2017 Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, spent two weeks in Uzbekistan. He was received by the government, travelled to the regions, met religious groups, civil society and visited Jaslyk prison. We agree with his initial report which recognised Uzbekistan's relatively tolerant approach to the major religions and acknowledged the measures taken over the past year. These were mainly towards the Muslim communities; the review of prisoners which has led to several releases; the removal of 16000 names from a government watch list for suspected religious extremism, along with the reintegration of those individuals and rehabilitation of prisoners. His report also set out recommendations for reducing the legal constraints around religious practice.
We regularly raise individual human rights cases with the Uzbek authorities and play an active and visible part in human rights activities in Uzbekistan. We have stressed the importance of constructive, private dialogue on human rights issues, including the freedom of religious expression. On 27 October our Ambassador highlighted the importance of freedom of religion or belief and Dr Shaheed's recommendations in a video on Facebook. We expectDr Shaheed's report to the UN Human Rights Council in March.