ICRC halts all Uzbekistan prisoner visits

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Friday it was terminating all visits to prisoners in Uzbekistan owing to the conditions imposed by the local authorities and their unconstructive attitude.

The decision, which follows a suspension of several months, comes after a visit to Tashkent this week by the ICRC's director general Yves Daccord where he met with Uzbek government officials.

"In Uzbekistan we are unable to follow our standard working procedures when we visit detainees to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they are receiving," said Daccord in a statement.

"As a result, we cannot address humanitarian issues and that renders any visits pointless," adding that such decisions were a rare occurrence and not taken lightly.

He said it was essential that visits to detainees take place in private, "without witnesses".

"Visits must have a meaningful impact on detention conditions, and dialogue with the detaining authorities must be constructive. And that's not the case in Uzbekistan," said Daccord.

The organisation said it will continue to promote international humanitarian law in the country, and to help the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan prepare for emergencies.

Uzbekistan has been ruled since the fall of the Soviet Union by President Islam Karimov.

The country has been repeatedly criticised over its rights record by Western activists, who accuse Tashkent of jailing anti-government opponents and using torture against some detainees.