Of the many, many problems facing Uzbekistan, the world has most recently latched onto Rakhima Ganieva, the purported Miss Uzbekistan, who was praised by the Karimov regime immediately before she was denounced by it. Ganieva is a charming and attractive young woman, and she will likely survive this incident intact (her family may not be quite so lucky). Nevertheless, while the world fixates on one winner of the genetic lottery, the rest of Uzbekistan’s populace languishes.
Uzbekistan is a police state run by and for what amounts to a criminal regime. Economic and civil development languish, prisoners are routinely tortured and disappeared, and any talk of even minimal civil rights is a punchline. And so the United Nations is offering Uzebekistan the opportunity to talk about improvements in its arguably worst-in-the-world system in a formal progress report.
UN bashing is an easy past-time in the West, but much of the world takes the work of the international body seriously as a guarantor of international peace and an arbiter of civilized behavior. The decision, made last May, to offer Islam Karimov a chance to explain away his dreadful record of abuse to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva during the 24th Universal Periodic Review. This decision smacks of the sort of constant engagement that treats aspiring democracies as pariahs for the occasional failure and provides cover to totalitarians, presumably on the theory that they’ll be a little less totalitarian?
Worse than giving Tashkent a chance to paper over its abuses will be the inevitable diplomatic pretense that the Potemkin report will have some value other than as a public relations exercise. The world’s largest and most important body of international law will give Karimov one more indicium of legitimacy as he continues to suffocate his country.
But instead, let’s focus on the important stuff: beauty pageants.