Pot Calls for Investigation of Kettle
Central Asian observers are noting the irony of President Islam Karimov calling for an international investigation of the violence in neighboring southern Kyrgyzstan. In his speech at the UN General Assembly today, the Uzbek leader called for an "objective" inquiry by the international community, according to ferghana.ru, citing a RIA-Novosti report.
This, from a leader who stubbornly resisted any investigation into the massacre in his own country by Uzbek troops of hundreds of people in Andijan in 2005, and who in fact was still persecuting the relatives of the victims five years later. Various bodies of the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as Western governments and international human rights groups have repeatedly called for an impartial and credible international investigation of the Andijan events, and have been repeatedly rebuffed and told the matter was an internal affair and the police response appropriate to the security threat.
Calls for the independent investigation of Andijan was a staple of U.S. foreign policy in Uzbekistan, but in the last year, as relations have warmed due to strategic energy and security interests, the explicit call has been retired, replaced with occasional expressions of concern.
In his UNGA speech, President Karimov warned:
The timely conducting of objective independent international investigations, excluding any bias and one-sided approach, a firm principled position by the international community can open the way for reconciliation and agreement between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbek minority in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Any departure from these positions can lead to a repeat of the tragic events, and the re-emergence of a very dangerous source of tension in the south of Kyrgyzstan.
The Uzbek leader said he had many every effort to "not let the most brutal violence spread, preserving peace on the border territory and excluding any burst of emotions, passions, and extremism, which could have unpredictable consequences." In recent weeks, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have arrested each others' border guards in clashes, and subsequently released them.
Curiously, President Karimov apparently did not mention or express explicit support for the already-existing international inquiry in Kyrgyzstan, led by Finnish parliamentarian Kimmo Kiljunen. Kiljunen, the special rapporteur on Central Asia for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, was asked by President Roza Otunbayeva in June to conduct the inquiry with other international experts. Kiljunen as well as President Otunbayeva herself appealed to the UN Secretary General for UN involvement, but apparently the UN will only provide technical assistance. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has conducted its own preliminary assessments and condemned the continued police harassment of ethnic Uzbeks.
Possibly facing some obstruction from southern Kyrgyz officials who have fiercely rejected any foreign involvement, Kiljunen's inquiry has been postponed until later this fall, and he says his report will not be completed before December. That means the findings will be published after the October 10 elections, which Kiljunen will also be observing -- and some of the perpetrators may get elected and make further probes difficult. Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group have reported their concerns that Kyrgyz government officials may have been involved in inciting and even carrying out the June pogroms.
President Karimov was the one to suggest a police deployment by OSCE which has also been stalled, refraining from backing any involvement by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which he has at times boycotted.
While Uzbek authorities themselves took testimony and forensic evidence from refugees fleeing the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan while they were in camps in the Ferghana Valley, it is not known what the Uzbek government's intentions are regarding these materials.