Steve Swerdlow, Human Rights Watch's Uzbekistan expert, welcomed President Mirziyoyev's decision to close down Jaslyk prison, which has for decades been known as the torture colony. Below is the transcript of Swerdlow's comments to VOA.
"The news that the president of Uzbekistan has ordered the closure of the Jaslyk prison colony is undoubtedly positive news. Human Rights Watch greatly welcomes this step.
One of the reasons this was so important is because the United Nations and many human rights groups, for almost two decades, had called for Jaslyk to be closed. The reason was because too many cases of severe torture of prisoners that occurred there, in addition to conditions of confinement that did not conform to international standards. So we think this was the right decision.
We think though that much more work remains to be done. The president should continue on this path of reform. He should allow those prisoners that spent many years, some almost two decades in Jaslyk, to tell their stories publicly so that all of Uzbekistan can learn these lessons and never repeat them again.
We further call on the president to ensure that torture never occurs in Uzbekistan. Not in prison, not only in Jaslyk, but in every other prison. After someone is arrested, and in every other case, much more work remains to be done.
And finally, we hope the government will work more closely with civil society organizations, independent of the government, including former prisoners of Jaslyk to tell these stories, to learn from these mistakes, and allow reforms in Uzbekistan and freedom of speech to really flourish and prosper."