UZBEKISTAN: No End to Crackdown on Western NGOs
Monday, July 24, 2006 10:47 AM

TASHKENT, 21 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Authorities in Uzbekistan have launched a fresh attempt to shut down another US-funded NGO, Winrock International (WI). This came after the closure earlier in July of the US-funded Urban Institute NGO, amid an ongoing crackdown on Western organisations operating in the Central Asian country.

On Friday, Uzbekistan’s justice ministry instructed a Tashkent court to liquidate WI - an agency supporting Uzbek farmers - for gross violation of local laws,, a pro-government Internet website said.

Prosecutors accuse the group of breaching its own charter by involving itself in sectors not related to agriculture, the report said, citing a justice ministry official.

Among other things, the NGO is charged with the development of women’s NGOs, publishing without a licence and funding the printing of a book with “unapproved religious content”.

But WI’s office in Tashkent said it wasn’t aware of the charges.

“Our organisation currently implements water support programmes and a small farmer-to-farmer project jointly with the Uzbek agriculture ministry,” John Baxter, WI’s country representative, told IRIN in Tashkent. “We have not published anything related to religion and all our publications were agreed with the agriculture ministry.”

The project on increasing women’s awareness of legal rights was implemented more than two years ago, Baxter said.

Observers say Tashkent is wary that Western NGOs might be preparing the ground for a popular uprising similar to the "colour revolutions" that have swept the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine and neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

Over the past six months, Uzbek authorities have expelled the Eurasia Foundation, Freedom House, the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the American Bar Association, Counterpart International and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Other foreign organisations are also under scrutiny. Recently authorities have accused the US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) of “distributing tendentious and biased information”, according to local media. HRW is also accused of failing to make its activities transparent to the government and using an unregistered logo.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

Published in:  “UZBEKISTAN: No end to crackdown on Western NGOs,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 21 July 2006. 24 July 2006.