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Human Rights organizations push for legal action in UK to stop importation of Uzbekistan cotton harvested with forced labour

Author: Annie Kelly, Guardian (UK), Published on: 18 November 2019

"Lawyers challenge UK imports of 'slavery-tainted' Uzbek cotton", 21 Oct 2019

The government is facing legal action to try and stop the importation of cotton harvested with state-sponsored forced labour from Uzbekistan into the UK.

The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights and the Global Legal Action Network (Glan), a team of human rights lawyers, are launching a judicial review of preferential tariffs applied to Uzbek cotton, arguing that it is promoting the importation of goods tainted with modern slavery. The country has faced sustained criticism over the mass enforced mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks to work as unpaid labourers during harvest and planting seasons.

The preferential tariffs applied to Uzbek goods are part of EU-wide trade measures designed to bolster economic cooperation between member states and Uzbekistan...

Uzbekistan is one of the world’s biggest cotton producers. The sector generates more than $1bn (£770m) in annual revenue and this year is expected to harvest 2.9m tons of raw cotton...

In recent years, following bans by international fashion brands alarmed by the accusations of forced labour in the supply chain of Uzbek cotton, the government has pushed through a series of reforms promising to eradicate child labour and the conscription of public sector employees...

Yet human rights activists say that forced labour continues. Last year, a report by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights found that at least 400,000 people were subject to state-sponsored forced labour in the cotton harvest in 2018...

...Glan and the German-Uzbek Forum says that it hopes the judicial review will ultimately lay the groundwork for new legislation that would ban all goods made with child or forced labour from entering the UK. This type of legislation already exists in the United States. According to the global slavery index, UK consumers bought £14bn of goods made by slaves in 2017.

Read the full post here