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EU drops travel ban on Uzbek officials

EU drops travel ban on Uzbek officials

The European Union said Monday it had dropped a travel ban on Uzbek officials imposed after a bloody crackdown on an uprising in 2005, saying the central Asian country had made some progress in improving human rights.
The EU's 27 foreign ministers meeting here based their decision on the recent release of human rights activists. They included Mutabar Tojibaeva, a vocal critic of the government's bloody crackdown during the 2005 uprising, in which at least 700 people were killed, according to rights activists and witnesses.
But the EU ministers said they remained seriously concerned by the human rights situation and encouraged Uzbek authorities to "implement their international obligations" in meeting international democratic norms. They kept an arms embargo in place for another year.
In a statement, they urged Uzbekistan to implement a number of judicial reforms, including scrapping the death penalty and enforcing the basic rights of habeas corpus, the right to judicial process. They called on Uzbek officials to better combat child labor practices and to cease harassment of human rights defenders.
Eight Uzbek officials were banned from traveling to the EU in 2006.
The sanctions were imposed after government troops opened fire on a crowd of mostly peaceful protesters in Andijan, a city in the east of the country, killing hundreds of people, according to witnesses. The government insisted 187 died and blamed Islamic militants for instigating the violence.
Also Monday, the EU foreign ministers lifted a travel ban on 35 officials of Belarus, including President Alexander Lukashenko. The bans had been imposed in 1999 following several crackdowns against the political opposition.