A formal complaint against the importation of cotton from Uzbekistan grown and harvested with forced labor was filed today by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a leading American human and labor rights watchdog organization. Under the Tariff Act of 1930, the U.S. Customs Service is required to deny entry to goods that arrive at U.S. ports that contain materials made with forced labor.
For decades, the government of Uzbekistan, under the dictator Islam Karimov, has forced millions of children, teachers, nurses, doctors, public sector workers and private sector employees to pick cotton under appalling conditions. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits or worse. The government combines these penalties with threats, detains and tortures activists seeking to monitor the situation and continues to refuse the International Labor Organization’s efforts to monitor the cotton harvest.
The complaint calls on U.S. Customs to issue an immediate detention order on all pending and future imports of cotton goods manufactured by Daewoo International Corporation, Indorama Corporation, and other companies processing cotton in Uzbekistan. Daewoo International, a South Korean-based company owned by the steel manufacturer POSCO (NYSE: PKX), and Indorama Corporation (www.indorama.com), a Singapore based multi-national that produces yarn, fabrics and organic cotton products, are two of the largest processors of Uzbek cotton.
According to U.S. import records, over 620 tons of cotton yarn and fabric has been imported into the United States from facilities in Uzbekistan since 2008. U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission data indicate at least 23 tons of cotton yarn from Uzbekistan entered the United States in February 2013 alone.
“U.S. federal law forbids the importation of goods produced using forced labor,” said Brian Campbell, Director of Policy and Legal Programs. “We expect U.S. Customs will conduct a thorough investigation into how cotton from Uzbekistan is escaping detection at U.S. ports of entry and effectively ban all future imports into the United States.”