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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Central Asia Cited For Rights Abuses

The flags may have changed, but three of Central Asia's republics continue to abuse human rights as harshly as the Soviet state before them, according to two reports released Wednesday.

The former Soviet Union's three southernmost Central Asian republics -- Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan -- have continuously repressed free speech, jailed and harassed dissidents, and committed other abuses, Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International reported.

"Communist practices, if not communism, are alive and well, and flourishing, I should say, in both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan", said Jeri Laber, executive director of Helsinki Watch, a New York-based human rights organization.

"These governments are making a terrible mistake", Laber told a Moscow press conference. "They should learn from history that by repressing a handful of people, they're giving these people more and more reason to protest".

In a separate report, Amnesty International cited "appalling human rights violations" in Tajikistan, an impoverished nation gripped by civil war since gaining independence in September 1991.

"In the remote former Soviet republic of Tajikistan a human rights tragedy has been taking place almost out of sight of the rest of the world", the report of the London-based group said.

Tajiks have been flayed alive, slashed across the eyes, burned to death, and riddled with bullets, Amnesty wrote. In one instance, a school teacher believed to be a member of the Popular Front was killed as the top of his skull was chopped off, the report said.

The report said all sides in the civil war are to blame in abuses that have led to as many as 20, 000 deaths and 600, 000 displaced people. Helsinki Watch has also found cases of summary executions in Tajikistan in a January publication.

The most recent Helsinki Watch written report on Uzbekistan and preliminary oral findings on Turkmenistan did not find the same vast scale of brutality as in Tajikistan, although they said police have shot six demonstrators since 1989. In Uzbekistan, political opponents have also been the object of arson, bombings, and heatings, they said, and at least four people are now in prison for political reasons.

In past comments on human rights, the leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have said that discipline and control are necessary as temporary measures.

Kamilzhan Kalandarov, a spokesman for Turkmenistan's president Saparmurad Niyazov who attended Helsinki Watch's press conference, criticized the preliminary findings, citing lack of specifics.