Hillary Clinton Calls For Improved Human Rights

Oct 24, 2011, 10:44 by R.E. Christian

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the central Asian republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan Saturday to improve their human rights records.

The Washington Post reported she urged greater freedom and full rights for women as well as religious and ethnic minorities.

Both countries have been criticized for corruption and repression of opposition groups.

"Countries that make reforms to give their people the opportunities for political and economic participation that they demand and deserve will thrive," Clinton told a town hall meeting in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital. "Those who do not will fall behind."

CNN reported a senior U.S. State Department official said several reporters have been arrested in Tajikistan for reporting on corruption or the arrests of religious activists.

"Tajik citizens deserve the opportunity to receive a decent education, own land, practice whatever religion they choose, enjoy a free and independent media and participate equally in the political process," Clinton said. "And it is up to their leaders to ensure that fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom, are protected for all people -- men and women, young and old."

Clinton thanked Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmo for his country's support of efforts to defeat al-Qaida and bring security to neighboring Afghanistan. She also praised him for progress in fighting human traffickers who force women and children to work in cotton fields without pay.

Clinton sought to boost both countries' efforts to target drug smugglers and insurgents from crossing the border into their countries from Afghanistan.

The secretary said U.S. officials support increased trade through a "new Silk Road" with trade connections opening new markets for raw materials, energy and agricultural products for all nations in the region.

Source: UPI