OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Supports Kyrgyz Inquiry; UN Response Awaited
As the Kyrgyz Health Ministry reports a higher death toll of 355, and NGOs continue to bring forward allegations of many more deaths, victims of the conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan are hoping for an impartial international investigation that could establish the facts. Facing ongoing persecution, thousands of Uzbeks have already left for Russia and other countries, EurasiaNet reports, making tracking of their testimony difficult.
Petros Efthymiou, the newly-elected president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), said today his organization supports the efforts of Finnish parliamentarian Kimmo Kiljunen, who began putting together an international commission to investigate the atrocities in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier this month.
“I am pleased to offer my support to Kimmo Kiljunen; his extensive experience of working with Central Asia for more than a decade makes him eminently qualified to fulfil this role,” Efthymiou was quoted as saying in a press release on the OSCE PA website.
Kiljunen, a member of the Finnish Social Democratic Party and the OSCE PA Special Representative for Central Asia, said " I hope to gather all relevant parties in a joint effort intensifying this important task and its contribution to the reconciliation process in the country,” adding he had been asked by Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva to lead the investigation. He will be traveling to Moscow and Geneva next week to continue building support for his commission.
Kiljunen said he wanted his commission to include the OSCE, the EU, the UN and the Commonwealth of Independent States. "Co-operation with other organizations such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Co-operation Organization will also be explored," he said. The CIS, CSTO, and SCO do not perform human rights investigations, although the CSTO has offered to help in identifying suspects. The CSTO declined to send any kind of peace-keeping operation in June when Otunbayeva requested it, although some equipment and logistical back-up have been supplied to Kyrgyz police.
The ambitious call for an inquiry with so many multilateral bodies represented
prompted some observers close to the OSCE to question whether so many diverse agencies in fact were all backing such an operation. Other branches of the OSCE say that despite offering to help, they have not been asked to participate. The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has conducted such inquiries in the past.
"ODIHR would be ready and able to conduct an inquiry into the events in the south of Kyrgyzstan if requested to do so by Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE Chairmanship or the Permanent Council," Jens Eschenbaecher, spokesman for ODIHR told EurasiaNet July 26.
Eschenbaecher says ODIHR's director Janez Lenarcic met with Otunbayeva on June 28 and conveyed readiness to conduct such an inquiry in Kyrgyzstan but has not received any request since then. ODIHR has conducted such inquiries in the past, such as the human rights assessment mission to war-affected areas following the conflict in Georgia in 2008, which was requested by the then-Finnish Chairmanship.
By contrast, the current Chair-in-Office, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev has not yet commented on the international investigation. Frane Maroevic, deputy spokesperson of the OSCE, told EurasiaNet, "The Chairmanship and ODIHR have not received any request to participate in this Commission and participation in the International Investigation Commission is outside the scope of the mandate of the High Commissioner on National Minorities." While both Kiljunen and Otunbayeva originally told reporters the HCNM would participate, the OSCE spokesperson said its role will be limited to an offer to provide training to experts advising the commission.
Kyrgyzstan would need to request other specific OSCE bodies to participate in the investigation and has not done so, he added. As with the Georgian investigation, support from the chair-in-office and the human rights office of the OSCE could strengthen the institutional backing for the findings.
Otunbayeva, a former member of the Kyrgyz parliament and herself a former member of the OSCE PA, wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General on July 21 asking for UN cooperation and is awaiting reply.
The prospects for any action from the UN Security Council are bleak, especially now. Russia has the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in August, and has blocked any UN action on Kyrgyzstan, saying it is a regional matter to be addressed by bodies such as the OSCE and CSTO. Even so, the Security Council may get a briefing from Amb. Miroslav Jenča who runs the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia in Ashgabat, who has visited Kyrgyzstan and briefed the Council in spite of Russia's objections in the past. And there is a precedent for the UN Security Council supporting a commission of inquiry organized by the Secretary General in Guinea.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights separately sent a team to Osh and High Commissioner Navi Pillay has expressed concerns about ongoing human rights violations. So far she herself called for an independent investigation to take place rather than joining this one. The UN usually performs investigations alone in order to control the standards.
Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, testified to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on July 27 that “the United States welcomes President Otunbayeva’s decision” to ask Kiljunen to organize the investigation.