The US government has downgraded Uzbekistan in its Global Trafficking in Persons (GITP) report to tier III, the worst ranking available, for its use of forced and child labour to pick the country's cotton crop.

The GITP report called for Uzbekistan to "take substantive action to end the use of forced child and adult labour during the annual cotton harvest".

It is also said the country should allow international experts, such as the ILO, conduct an independent assessment of the use of forced labour during the annual cotton harvest; reissue and enforce the prime minister's decree to ban child labour in the cotton harvest for 2013; and extend the decree to ban the mobilisation of all children and adults in the cotton sector.

Human Rights Watch described the move as one of the strongest efforts in years to hold Uzbekistan accountable for its "atrocious" record on forced labour.

The NGO said that under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA), President Barack Obama must decide within 90 days whether to apply or waive the sanctions mandated for Tier III countries. If Uzbek authorities fail to invite the ILO to monitor the situation prior to this year's fall harvest, the Obama administration should impose sanctions, including travel restrictions for Uzbek officials involved in the forced labour system, it added.

"The US State Department took an important step by declaring to the world that Uzbekistan is one of the worst offenders when it comes to forced labour," said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"Now the White House needs to take the next step and let Uzbekistan know that if it doesn't allow impartial observers to visit during the harvest, there will be real consequences."

The report also found a number of cases of labour trafficking in the textile and garment industry in Russia, which also received a tier III rating. In some of the labour trafficking cases throughout the country, foreign workers died while locked in factories or employer-provided housing. In a factory in the Moscow suburbs, textile workers were beaten, poorly fed, refused medical care, and prohibited from leaving the factory, the GITP report said.