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Labour Rights in Central Asia

Labour Rights in Central Asia

The Laboratory on Labour Rights, organised by the International Labour Rights Monitoring Mission in Central Asia as part of the Bir Duino International Festival of Human Rights Documentary Films, with participation of representatives of independent trade union and human rights organisations from Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Norway, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the USA:

Note that all Central Asian countries share a lamentable situation in the area of labour rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental ILO Conventions, that forced and child labour remains widely spread in the region along with discrimination, particularly, against women and migrant workers, that democratic trade unions’ activities are universally restricted.

Taking into account the relevance of observing human and labour rights for ensuring social peace and stable development, the Laboratory participants call upon the Governments to take immediate measures to protect and promote workers’ rights, primarily, the right to Freedom of Association. 

In particular, taking note of the rising wave of repressions against independent trade unionists of Kazakhstan in the form of legislative restrictions of trade union activities, interference of the authorities in the unions’ internal matters, their administrative and criminal prosecution, as well as physical attacks against independent unions’ leaders that has never abated since the shooting at the peaceful strike of oil workers in Zhanaozen in December 2011, demand that the President and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan should:

1.  Abandon and remove the concept of “fomenting social discord” from the criminal legislation.

2.  Without delay, put an end to the persecution of the independent union leaders in Kazakhstan, cancel all verdicts convicting Larisa Kharkova, Amin Eleusinov and Nurbek Kushakbayev, and drop criminal charges against Erlan Baltabai.

3.  Ensure physical safety of Dmitriy Senyavskiy who has been recently attacked and investigate all circumstances of this abominable crime, identify and punish the perpetrators.

4.  Review the cases and fully rehabilitate Rosa Tuletayeva, Maksat Dosmagambetov (posthumously), and other activists of the peaceful industrial action in Zhanaozen in 2011; meticulously investigate all submitted complaints concerning the use of torture against persons under investigation, punish all those who perpetrated the torturing, as well as those who issued orders to use firearms and took part in the shooting of peaceful citizens In Zhanaozen on December 16, 2011.

The Laboratory participants note the specific role of the State-controlled trade unions in initiating and carrying out repressions against labour movement leaders, deem it inadmissible to allow the participation of such organisations in international trade union associations, and call upon the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to withdraw the affiliate status from the Trade Union Federation of Kazakhstan.

The Laboratory participants further note:

- The inadequate level of labour rights enforcement and the ongoing attempts to restrict free operation of civil society organisations in the Kyrgyz Republic; call upon the President and the Government of the country to stop any attempts to interfere in the activities of the national Trade Union Federation, and protect civil society organisations - particularly, the human rights movement Bir Duino - from groundless accusations of extremist activities.

- The absence of independent trade unions and the lack of information on the situation in the area of observance of labour rights in the Republic of Tajikistan.

- The closed nature of the political regime in Turkmenistan, the actual ban on exercising fundamental human rights and freedom, repressions against civil society activists, and call upon the President of the country to reform the political system, ensure immediate release and review of the case of Gaspar Matalayev who has been imprisoned for over two years now, and ensure access to the country for independent mass media and human rights organisations.

- The ongoing widely spread use of forced labour in cotton production and other branches of agriculture in the Republic of Uzbekistan and with concern announce that the number of reports about the spread of labour conscription and the use of physical coercion against civil servants and farmers. The Laboratory participants call upon the President and the Government of Uzbekistan to carry out reforms and abandon the system of feudalistic labour relations and cancel the punishments imposed earlier on human rights activists Elena Urlayeva, Uktam Pardayev, Dmitriy Tikhonov, Malokhat Eshankulova, Umida Niyazova, Nadezhda Atayeva, and guarantee freedom and safety for returning civil activists who are currently in exile.

The Laboratory participants further call upon:

- The Governments of all the countries of the region to carry out, with the involvement of the civil society and independent trade unions, progress evaluation in the fulfillment of their commitments   to apply the fundamental ILO Conventions;

- International institutions of the UN system, the European Union, and EU Member-States to build trade relations with Central Asian countries, taking into account information about the labour rights situation in these countries;

- The human rights defenders’ community in the Central Asian countries to support and promote the creation of independent workers’ organisations, collective protection of workers’ rights and interests, stand for repressed trade union activists, take part in the activities of the Labour Rights Monitoring Mission ( and support it in active international solidarity campaigns.