The Asian Development Bank has been accused of being
absolutely deaf to concerns raised by human rights
campaigners, who were barred by Uzbek authorities from
attending the multilateral banks forum in Tashkent
earlier this month.
Human rights Campaigners, who planned to demonstrate at the
forum on May 3, to mark international press freedom day, said
they were prevented from doing so by the security services.
Crucially, the ADB left registration and visa arrangements
to the Uzbek authorities, making it easier for them to restrict
access to the meeting.
Alisher Ilkhamov, a researcher at the School of
Oriental and African Studies in London, told Emerging
Markets that independent Uzbek NGOs who had tried to
register for the meeting had been referred to the Uzbek
government, led by controversial president Islam Karimov, while
pro-government NGOs had had free access to the
Ilkhamov, who is from Uzbekistan, said: When the EBRD
held its annual meeting in Uzbekistan in 2003, it was quite
responsive to civil society organizations and listened to what
they had to say. The ADB was absolutely deaf.
The demonstration on May 3 was planned by the Human Rights
Alliance of Uzbekistan, an internationally-known group that
campaigns against the torture, and detention in prisons and
psychiatric hospitals, of the governments critics.
Alliance member Bakhadyr Namazov, in an e-mail
response to questions from Emerging Markets, confirmed
that the leader of the Alliance, Yelena Urlaeva, and
other human rights defenders were put under house arrest
on the day that they planned to demonstrate. Namazov added that
he himself had been placed under police surveillance throughout
the ADB meeting and under house arrest on 3 May.
Emerging Markets drew the ADBs attention to
published reports of the police action against the protesters.
Ann Quon, Principal Director, ADB Department of External
Relations, responded: We were not aware of this alleged
incident during the Annual Meeting and it has not been brought
to our notice since. She declined to comment further.
Namazov said that not one representative of local NGOs
that are independent of the government was able to attend
the ADB forum, because they were denied registration.
Journalists accreditation was also dealt with by the
Uzbek authorities, and at least two reporters from major
international news agency were denied a visa. Asked about
restrictions on journalists, Quon replied: ADB informed
participating journalists at the point of registration that
decisions on accreditation and visas were to be made by the
The Uzbek authorities closely monitored not only
protesters but forum participants too. The head of an
international banks South East Asian business told
Emerging Markets that government officials insisted
against his will on being present at client
An international coalition of NGOs dedicated to monitoring
the ADBs activity, Forum ADB, decided to boycott the
Tashkent meeting after asking for, and failing to receive, a
guarantee from the bank that representatives would be able to
hold meetings with Uzbek citizens and distribute literature.
Quon at the ADB said that the bank had told the Forum
that they were welcome to attend and participate in the
Annual Meeting, and that they would be expected, just like all
other participants, to respect and observe the host country
laws, protocols and requirements.