Bishkek Drags Feet on Calls for Violence Inquiry

The European Parliament has issued the latest appeal for Bishkek to allow an independent, international investigation into the June 10-14 violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.
The legislative body urged the Kyrgyz authorities “to immediately conduct independent investigation into the reasons of recent interethnic unrest in the country,” read a statement from Strasbourg, ITAR-TASS reported on July 8. “Perpetrators of crimes must receive just punishment.” 

For weeks, foreign observers and governments have called on the Kyrgyz government to support an independent investigation. The idea has received widespread backing from academics and activists in Bishkek. Salavat Usmanov, head of International Relations faculty of Kyrgyz-Slavonic University in Bishkek, for one, says the inquiry must be led by outsiders “due to a sharp political struggle between different factions [in Kyrgyzstan].” 

“All of us are somehow related to someone or to something here. Therefore, we need a totally objective and fair assessment of the events in the South,” he added. 

On July 7, Human Rights Watch said Bishkek had requested help preparing an investigation, though no government officials have thus far publicly backed an internationally led investigation. 

The Kyrgyz interim government set the establishment of the commission in motion on July 6, 2010, with a request to an official of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to "coordinate the preparation process" for an independent international commission of inquiry into the violence.

Such an inquiry would be meaningless unless the commission includes “internationally recognized experts from intergovernmental and regional organizations, such as “investigators, regional specialists, forensic experts - medical and non-medical, and experts in international human rights law,” Human Rights Watch added, noting how “authorities largely failed to prevent the massive violence and to protect the population. [Human Rights Watch] also found that some individual members of government forces may have been involved in violent attacks.”

Given that any independent inquiry may unearth some unpopular findings during the parliamentary campaign season – such as guilt or complicity among members of the security forces – observers worry Bishkek is dragging its feet. Elections are currently scheduled for October 10. Yet waiting could increase instability during the campaign season, said one Bishkek-based international observer who asked to remain anonymous, as reconciliation between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks becomes an entrenched stumbling block. 

Many in southern Kyrgyzstan fear another outbreak of violence could happen at any time. 

In addition to the inquiry, the interim government is negotiating with the OSCE to send a team of international police officers to southern Kyrgyzstan as a monitoring force, Acting Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbayev said earlier this week. 

Worryingly, Kyrgyz security officials seem hesitant about the idea of introducing a neutral foreign force. Kyrgyz security services are predominantly made up of ethnic Kyrgyz, whom human rights activists say are unfairly harassing ethnic Uzbeks. 

Earlier this week, Acting Defense Minister Ismail Isakov discouraged calls for foreign police monitors.

General Isakov told RFE/RL on July 6 that he cannot imagine how a foreign police force would serve its peacekeeping mission and train Kyrgyz police without knowing the local languages and traditions.

He added that "it would be much better instead if Kyrgyzstan received assistance with technical equipment and infrastructure reconstruction."

Trusting military officials in southern Kyrgyzstan with more “technical equipment,” when some of the existing equipment was reportedly used during the pogroms, is unlikely to be a popular idea amongst western donors. 

Bishkek Drags Feet on Calls for Violence Inquiry

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