A Year After Khorog, Are We Closer To Finding Out What Happened?
Today is the one-year anniversary of the controversial military operation in Khorog, Tajikistan, and human rights groups took the occasion to present to the government a report they have prepared on the events. The report has yet to be publicly released, but a report in Asia Plus summarizes the findings. Most of them have to do with the difficulty of determining exactly what happened:
The right to establish the truth. Although a year has passed since the Khorog events, there is now access to reliable information about: goals and objectives of the government military operation conducted in Khorog; the number of military personnel participating in the operation; number of casualties that occurred during and after the special operation; and investigation into the operation and post-operation deaths.
Access to information. Mobile and fixed-line communications as well as Internet were cut off in Khorog during the operation. Besides, several websites were blocked after fighting in Khorog.
Use of force and weapons. International standards provide for the requirements of proportionality and necessity of use of force and weapons and planning any operations in order to minimize possible casualties. According to some sources, 22 civilians and 23 military personnel were killed during the operation. Lack of information about the exact number of casualties among civilians and military personnel evokes serious concern.
Investigation. Although a year has passed since the Khorog events, there is still no information about the number of criminal proceedings instituted regarding the operation and post operation deaths and wounds.
The activists who prepared the report say it will be released publicly after the government and other sources for the report have a chance to comment. I recently spent a couple of weeks in Khorog and published a story on the events here. The main takeaway was that virtually everyone in Khorog opposes the government action and the support for the "warlords" who fought the government is much wider than expected. Particularly intriguing, especially for an American audience, is the role that U.S. training and equipping of the Tajikistani special forces who carried out the attack. "If the U.S. gives money to our army and law enforcement agencies, they need to control where these funds go," said Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, a human rights lawyer in Khorog (and one of the authors of the report). "The Americans should ask why their money is being used to attack civilians instead of attacking terrorists and drug traffickers."
And the U.S. said it is reviewing its security assistance policy toward Tajikistan:
"The United States regularly reviews the full range of our bilateral aid programs to Tajikistan, including our security assistance," said Emily Horne, a State Department spokeswoman. "As with all countries, this ongoing review is part of our efforts to ensure our assistance dollars are being appropriately and effectively used. Because such reviews are ongoing, I'm not going to speculate on possible next steps."
But in general both the government in Dushanbe and the U.S. have been been very quiet about this; U.S. embassy officials in Dushanbe declined to speak to me while I was there and the embassy doesn't seem to have made any statement today. Will the release of this report spur any more public discussion of the events?