HC Deb 08 June 2004 vol 422 cc309-10W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Uzbekistan concerning discrimination faced by Protestant Christians in that country, with particular reference to(a) threats made against members of the Church of Christ by the public prosecutor's office in Nukus in April, (b) the closure by the authorities of the Urgench Baptist Church in Khorezm region in February, (c) attempts to force Murat Abatov to renounce his faith at a state-run farm in the Karakalpakstan region in April and (d) pressure being exerted upon Protestant Christians in Nukus, by the secret police and the regular police, to sign statements admitting they are members of a religious sect. [177455]

Mr. Rammell

We remain concerned by reports of religious intolerance and persecution in Uzbekistan and our Embassy in Tashkent maintains close contact with representatives of religious groups and NGOs. My hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mike O'Brien) discussed the importance of an open, democratic society where freedom of expression was encouraged with the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister on 4 February. An EU demarche made to the Uzbek Foreign Minister in April raised the cancellation of a Human Rights Watch Conference on Religious Persecution by the Uzbek Ministry of Justice. We strongly believe that permitting free expression of religious belief is the best means of combating the attractiveness of some of the more radical and extremist ideologies. While we have not made any representations on these individual cases, we have seen reports of discrimination faced by Protestant Christians, as well as other religious minorities, in Uzbekistan and shall continue to raise cases of religious persecution with the Uzbek authorities.

Back to