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08TASHKENT845 2008-07-18 12:31:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Tashkent
Cable title:  

UZBEKISTAN: BUREAUCRATIC WRANGLING STALLS

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PREL UZ 
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1. (C) Summary: On July 10, Poloff met with the Chairman of
the Disabled People's Society of Uzbekistan to discuss
Uzbekistan's efforts to ratify the United Nations (UN)
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Despite most ministries' endorsement of the Convention, the
Ministries of Economy and Finance continue to stall
ratification. Uzbekistan's adoption of the Convention would
represent a significant step forward for human rights in the
country, and emphasizing this point in high-level meetings
with GOU officials could help dislodge bureaucratic
opposition and pave the way for Uzbekistan to become a state
party later this year.

BUREAUCRATIC STAND-OFF STALLS CONVENTION'S RATIFICATION


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2. (C) On July 10, Oybek Isoqov, Chairman of the Disabled
People's Society of Uzbekistan, told Poloff that the
Government of Uzbekistan's (GOU) efforts to ratify the UN
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities remain
mired in a bureaucratic stand-off. (Note: The UN General
Assembly adopted the Convention in December 2006, and it
entered into force on May 12, 2008, after receiving its
twentieth ratification in April 2008. End note.) Isoqov
reported that President Karimov established an
inter-ministerial committee to study ratification of the
Convention immediately after receiving a letter from the UN
inviting Uzbekistan to join in March 2007. (Comment: This
invitation coincided nicely with President Karimov's
designation of 2007 as the "Year of Social Protection." End
comment.) Although 11 ministries reportedly endorse the
Convention--including the Ministry of Labor and Social
Protection (MLSP)--the Ministries of Economy and Finance
continue to stall progress toward ratification due to
concerns about the economic cost of complying with the
Convention's provisions. Isoqov noted that President Karimov
may be unaware of the bureaucratic battle holding up
ratification within the inter-ministerial committee.



3. (SBU) Isoqov informed Poloff that while the chief goal of
the Disabled People's Society of Uzbekistan is to champion
Uzbekistan's ratification of the Convention, the Society has
limited leverage with the GOU, and he welcomed U.S.
assistance in raising the issue of ratification with
President Karimov and other high-level GOU officials. (Note:
The Disabled People's Society of Uzbekistan is a
non-governmental organization that was founded in 1991. It
boasts 114 branches, 3,500 employees, more than 120,000
members, and approximately 60 enterprises that employ
disabled persons. Additionally, it publishes its own
newspaper, "Dignity." The Society is also a past recipient of
several Democracy Commission Grants from Embassy Tashkent.
End note.)



4. (SBU) Isoqov informed Poloff that while ratification would
require Uzbekistan to report periodically on measures taken
to comply with the Convention, it was also important for
Uzbekistan to ratify the associated Optional Protocol in
order to ensure full implementation of the Convention's
provisions. (Note: The Optional Protocol provides for two
procedures to strengthen implementation of the Convention:
(i) an individual communications procedure that provides
aggrieved individuals with a means to file a complaint
against a state party with the Committee on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities for an alleged violation of the
Convention, and (ii) an inquiry procedure that enables the
Committee to investigate systematic and widespread violations
of the rights of disabled persons. End note.)

RECENT AMENDMENTS UNDERMINE DISABLED PERSONS' RIGHTS


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5. (C) Isoqov also said that the recently enacted June 2008
amendments to the 1991 law "On the Social Protection of
Disabled Persons in the Republic of Uzbekistan" represented a
step backwards despite being heralded by the Uzbek parliament
(Oliy Majlis) and state-controlled press as a move toward
greater harmonization of domestic law with international
standards. Isoqov reported that the June 2008 amendments
eliminated a number of privileges previously enjoyed by
disabled persons, such as free access to public
transportation and subsidized housing and utilities. He also
noted that while the statute still states that disabled

persons shall receive wheelchairs and other enabling
equipment free of charge, recent amendments removed
references to the GOU's provision of that equipment, making
it unclear who would provide those items in the future.
Isoqov also lamented an amendment that removed from the
Disabled People's Society the power to evaluate construction
plans for accessibility for disabled persons and placed it
with the MLSP; he claimed that the MLSP had little interest
in fulfilling its new role. Isoqov also noted that while
disabled persons continue to receive a monthly pension of
approximately USD 30, the pension fails to provide
beneficiaries with an adequate standard of living, especially
in Tashkent.



6. (SBU) On the other hand, Isoqov reported that the June
2008 amendments included limited improvements to domestic
law, citing language that imposes fines of up to 70 times the
monthly minimum wage against facilities deemed inaccessible
to disabled persons as well as against organizations with
workforces of 30 or more that fail to employ at least three
percent disabled persons. However, Isoqov noted that the
current lack of public knowledge would leave these provisions
largely unimplemented.



7. (SBU) Note: Two most recent USAID-funded projects helped
promote disabled persons rights in Uzbekistan, specifically
the rights of disabled children. One USAID-funded
project--the Participation, Education and Knowledge
Strengthening Project (PEAKS)--operated from 2003 to 2006
with the aim of improving the quality of basic education in
Uzbekistan. Integrating disabled children into mainstream
schools was an important component of PEAKS, and the project
succeeded in mobilizing resources to help disabled children
access public schools by building handicapped ramps,
assisting parents with transporting their children to school,
and providing disabled children with enabling prosthetics.
PEAKS also supported peer education activities to foster
tolerance of and compassion toward disabled children among
students and teachers in order to ensure non-discrimination
of the disabled children once they were integrated into
mainstream schools. The second, a USAID-funded Sports and
Health Education Project (SHEP), operated from 2002 to 2006
and worked with a local non-governmental organization, Ziyo,
to provide train-the-trainer courses to teachers on the
principles and techniques of social inclusion and
non-discrimination on the basis of poverty or a disability.
End note.

COMMENT


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7. (C) Uzbekistan's ratification of the UN Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol
would represent a significant improvement in Uzbekistan's
human rights record, and raising the issue of ratification
should become a standard facet of our human rights dialogue
with the GOU. In particular, bringing the issue of
ratification to the attention of President Karimov or other
high-level GOU officials may help alleviate bureaucratic
impediments to ratification. Ongoing activities and events to
mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights throughout this year continue to offer good
opportunities to raise this issue with the GOU at the highest
levels.
NORLAND