UN chief wraps Cen­tral Asia visit, cit­ing hu­man rights fears

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

United Na­tions Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Ban Ki-moon on Satur­day warned of a wors­en­ing rights sit­u­a­tion across Cen­tral Asia, as he ended a visit to en­ergy-rich Cen­tral Asia in ex-Soviet Turk­menistan.

Ban said he “heard con­cerns about the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of some as­pects of hu­man rights — a shrink­ing of demo­cratic space,” dur­ing his first trip to the re­gion in five years.

Speak­ing to stu­dents at an in­ter­na­tional uni­ver­sity in the cap­i­tal Ashgabat as he re­ceived an hon­orary de­gree, he said crack­downs on rights could be trig­gered by “per­ceived se­cu­rity threats — in par­tic­u­lar, ris­ing con­cerns about ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism.”

Ban warned how­ever that gov­ern­ments may use such threats “as a pre­text to clamp down on civil so­ci­ety, mi­nori­ties and hu­man rights de­fend­ers.”

He said that the fail­ure to re­spect hu­man rights, pro­mote par­tic­i­pa­tion in pol­i­tics and cre­ate equal op­por­tu­ni­ties “cre­ates gaps ... The wider the gaps, the greater the open­ings for vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists.”

“I see this phe­nom­e­non on the rise in the re­gion and it trou­bles me greatly,” he said, adding that “democ­racy in Cen­tral Asia can work.”

On Fri­day, Ban had been in Uzbek­istan, where he urged Pres­i­dent Is­lam Ka­ri­mov to end the prac­tice of forced la­bor on its cot­ton plan­ta­tions and the mis­treat­ment of pris­on­ers in his coun­try.

Pre­vi­ously in Ta­jik­istan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Kaza­khstan, Ban also met with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

At a Satur­day brief­ing with Turk­men Pres­i­dent Gur­ban­guly Berdy­mukhame­dov, Ban asked for con­crete steps to im­prove the coun­try’s rights record, in­clud­ing al­low­ing in­de­pen­dent ob­servers to visit prisons.

He also urged Ashkhabad to “move to­wards me­dia plu­ral­ism, free­dom of ex­pres­sion and ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing through so­cial me­dia.”

“In ev­ery cor­ner of the world, a ro­bust civil so­ci­ety is cru­cial for na­tional devel­op­ment. I urge the gov­ern­ment to strengthen its part­ner­ship with the nascent civil so­ci­ety in Turk­menistan,” he said.

Mean­while Berdy­mukhame­dov said he dis­cussed with Ban the on­go­ing con­flict in neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan, as well as the need to cre­ate con­di­tions for “re­li­able and sta­ble tran­sit of en­ergy re­sources to world mar­kets.”

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