BCN-11,12 Uzbekistan fires deputy PM in labour abuse scandal

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UZBEKISTAN-ECONOMY

Uzbekistan fires deputy PM in labour abuse scandal

TASHKENT, Oct 30, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Uzbekistan has sacked a deputy prime
minister after he humiliated farmers and forced them to stand in a water
ditch as the ex-Soviet country aims to improve its dismal rights record.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev convened a meeting late Monday after reports
emerged of a deputy prime minister and other officials addressing wheat
farmers while they were standing in a ditch full of water, a government
official told AFP on Tuesday.

The farmers had reportedly been forced to stand in the ditch as punishment
for watering the fields insufficiently while Deputy Prime Minister Zoir
Mirzayev criticised them.

Mirzayev is the highest ranked official to be sacked in Uzbekistan for
abusing workers’ rights.

A government official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that
several provincial officials including the deputy governor of the Tashkent
region where the incident took place were also fired.

Mirziyoyev’s office late on Monday published a decree increasing
responsibility for ensuring the elimination of forced labour which flourished
under his late predecessor Islam Karimov.

The decree did not refer to the incident but said the deputy prime minister
had been sacked “for serious deficiences” in the organisation of agricultural
work for which his office was responsible.

The decree also called “the protection of the rights and freedoms of
citizens” as a priority without specifying what punishments would be meted
out to officials found violating them.

The central Asian country of 32 million people is one of the world’s
largest cotton exporters.

International rights groups have long accused Uzbekistan of using child and
forced labour in the cotton industry.

For many years Uzbekistan has sent schoolchildren, teachers, doctors,
nurses and civil servants to pick the cotton harvest.

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Since coming to power in 2016 Mirziyoyev has abandoned some of his
predecessor’s more repressive policies while seeking to improve labour
rights.

Last year, the Uzbek president addressed forced labour in his speech to the
UN General Assembly, the first time an Uzbek leader has acknowledged the
problem after years of international pressure.

In a September report, the US Department of Labour praised Uzbekistan,
noting a “substantial reduction” of forced child labour for the cotton
harvest.

The country’s lucrative cotton sector also got a boost, with Washington
removing cotton from its list of goods produced by child and forced labour.

BSS/AFP/SR/1930 HRS