The U.S. government currently faces a decision on whether to certify that Uzbekistan is observing human rights norms, as Congress requires before providing financial aid to the Uzbek government. The Bush administration has budgeted over $48 million in assistance to Uzbekistan in 2004, including $10.5 million in military and security assistance.
"The latest moves drive home how resistant the Uzbek government is to reform," said Soros. "Uzbekistan has jailed thousands of its own citizens on political grounds, tortured them and refused registration to most of its domestic human rights groups and all of its opposition political parties. Now that it refuses even the semblance of working toward a freer society, how can anyone claim that it is observing human rights?"
: Russia in the news
June 06, 2005
George Soros blames Putin for the massacre in Uzbekistan
George Soros's accusations against Putin underscore the interest of the United States in leading former Soviet states out of Russia's influence zone. The experts we approached for comments say that Soros's activities are entirely consistent with President Bush's policy agenda.
American billionaire George Soros has declared that the Common Economic Space (EEP) project linking Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine has no prospects of success. Soros has done quite a bit to ensure the EEP project's failure: organizations under his control have funded "color revolutions" in CIS countries, consequently weakening Russia's economic and political influence over those countries to a significant degree. Now Soros has blamed President Vladimir Putin for the fact that force was used to resolve the recent conflict in Uzbekistan. According to Soros, Uzbek President Islam Karimov heeded Putin's advice - as former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma did not do last year.
It was in Kiev, one of the "color revolution" capitals, that Soros expressed his opinion of the EEP project, which includes Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Soros said that the EEP has no future; it cannot function effectively. He explained that it cannot be effective due to the differences in political regimes among the participant nations. Soros said: "I believe it is important for these countries to develop economic relations. However, the EEP is an ineffective, unpromising method of doing so." He cited the European Union as an example of effective cooperation: it relies on common political principles.
Soros's choice of Ukraine as the place to make his statements about the EEP was no accident; since Viktor Yushchenko came to power, Ukraine's participation in the EEP project has become more doubtful than the participation of the other three countries. And without Ukraine's participation, the very existence of the EEP would be placed in doubt - with relations between the four countries essentially remaining at the bilateral level.
Neither was it a coincidence that Soros chose Kiev as the place to directly accuse Putin of advocating the use of force to suppress revolutionary protests. "We know there was a precedent, when President Putin advised President Kuchma to open fire on the protesters during the Orange Revolution," said Soros. "Fortunately, Kuchma did not take his advice." Soros went on to claim that President Karimov of Uzbekistan did take Putin's advice in a similar situation, and as a result, "we have seen the biggest massacre in recent history."
Washington makes no secret of its support for the new CIS regimes established via "color revolutions." President George W. Bush recently announced the launch of a new State Department division with a budget of $24 billion, aimed at supporting new democracies. At the unofficial level, United States has also been involved in preparing revolutions: organizations controlled by Soros have sponsored opposition movements in the countries where "color revolutions" have won. In Ukraine, there is the Renaissance Foundation (in his June 3 speech, Soros promised to allocate $7 billion to Ukraine in 2005 for various projects). Soros's Foundation also has a branch in Moldova; Russia's relations with Moldova have been tense of late. In Georgia, there is the Georgian branch of the Open Society Foundation.
Uzbek Asylum Seekers Fear Potential Trap
By BAGILA BUKHARBAYEVA, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 12 minutes ago
Hundreds of Uzbeks who fled a brutal government crackdown in their hometown last month have found themselves in a new potential trap, threatened with deportation by their host country, Kyrgyzstan.
The Kyrgyz government, which came to power just three months ago after a popular uprising against a long-entrenched, increasingly autocratic ruler, itself faces a dilemma: to show that it's more democratic than its predecessor without angering Uzbekistan, a much bigger neighbor that has a notoriously poor human rights record but is backed by regional giants Russia and China.
The Kyrgyz government has flip-flopped, sending back four Uzbeks secretly and jailing 29 more at Uzbekistan's request, then bending to international pressure and vowing no more asylum seekers would be deported. Remaining at the camp are 426 people.
The promises carry little weight with the residents of this bleak refugee camp 25 miles from the Uzbek border, where the asylum seekers landed after an all-night trek from the eastern city of Andijan following the May 13 uprising and the bloody suppression by Uzbek troops.
Uzbek government troops fired on protesters in Andijan after militants seized a local prison and a government building. The Uzbek government denied that troops fired on unarmed civilians. Authorities say 176 people died in the unrest, but human rights groups say up to 750 people were killed.
"We are ordinary people who became witnesses to something terrible," Zukhra Karimova said Tuesday. "We want to hope that we will be treated fairly."
Practically since their arrival, Uzbekistan has been applying severe pressure to the Kyrgyz authorities and the asylum seekers themselves. Uzbek authorities have been sending to the camp busloads of asylum seekers' relatives, who beg and plead loudly for them to return, Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva told reporters in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on Monday.
When able to snatch a private moment, however, the relatives whispered that they were being forced to come and advised the camp residents not to return under any circumstances, camp residents said.
The asylum seekers and rights groups including Human Rights Watch say the camp is also being visited by Uzbek security agents disguised as relatives.
Camp residents were shaken one day earlier this month when about 30 Kyrgyz villagers arrived and demanded that the Uzbeks go home within three days or face being kicked out. Some of the villagers later apologized and said they were manipulated by some Uzbek elders who had come from Andijan, Otunbayeva said.
"This is all to keep us under constant psychological pressure," said one of the refugees who asked not to be named for fear of deportation. In his hands was a list of 17 Uzbeks taken by Kyrgyz authorities from the camp last week, and he said that the four who had spoken most to journalists had been handed back to Uzbekistan. Kyrgyz officials "ignored our women's cries," he said.
Alexander Petrov, deputy head of Human Rights Watch's Moscow bureau, said the real goal behind Karimov's seeking the return of the refugees is "to eliminate a source of information for the international community on the Andijan events."
"Kyrgyzstan can not protect Uzbek refugees"
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for international protection for 455 Uzbeks, who are now living in refugee camps in the neighbouring country Kyrgysztan. "It is not possible to secure the safety of asylum-seekers in Kyrgyzstan", said a UNHCR-spokesperson. Kyrgyzstan is under pressure of its larger neighbour Uzbekistan, which is demanding the extradition of the refugees. A meeting took place in Geneva on Friday with representatives of countries that could possible host them, among which Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the US and Canada. [..]
The UNHCR is especially concerned about the fate of 29 asylum-seekers, who at the moment are imprisoned in the Kyrgyz town of Osh and are threatened with deportation, the spokesperson said. The other 426 Uzbeks are in a refugee camp near Sassyk. According to the findings of this newspaper, there are also leaders of the insurrection, living underground, in this camp.
Kyrgyzstan: Uzbek Asylum Seekers Need Refuge
After fleeing the May 13 massacre in Andijan, Uzbek asylum seekers in Kyrgyzstan now face the danger of unlawfully being sent back to Uzbekistan, where they would be at risk of torture and other grave abuses, Human Rights Watch said today.
Western governments should press the Kyrgyz authorities to allow the Uzbek asylum seekers to be safely resettled to countries outside the region, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch also called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to prepare an emergency plan for the humanitarian evacuation of all Uzbek asylum seekers and refugees from Kyrgyzstan should the situation there suddenly deteriorate. [..]
"It's hard to imagine a group of people more at risk," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. [..] Despite promises to the United Nations and others that it would not engage in any further forcible returns, the Kyrgyz government has indicated that it will soon start returning the 29 Uzbek asylum seekers detained in Osh to Uzbekistan. Human Rights Watch staff on the ground have also learned that Kyrgyz authorities intend to detain another 40 or more Uzbeks at the Sasyk refugee camp in Jalal-Abad in apparent preparation to return them to Uzbekistan. To date, the Uzbeks have requested the extradition of a total of 133 of the asylum seekers.
[..] As part of its efforts to cover up its role in the massacre in Andijan on May 13, the Uzbek government has been placing massive pressure on the Kyrgyz government to send back these asylum seekers. Family members of the asylum seekers have been threatened with imprisonment by the Uzbek government if they fail to convince their relatives to return to Uzbekistan. Uzbek security forces near the camp in Kyrgyzstan are believed to have access to the camp, posing a danger to those sheltered there. A Human Rights Watch researcher recently witnessed an attempt by two unidentified men to drag an asylum seeker out of his tent and to the camp entrance. The men were stopped only after camp security officials intervened. Western governments should pressure Uzbekistan not to threaten or otherwise harass the families of those who have sought refuge abroad.
The Assistant U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Kamal Morjane, stated on June 27 that Uzbek security forces appeared to have access to the camp and that there have been threats of asylum seekers being abducted by Uzbek authorities.
Uzbek asylum seekers need urgent resettlement, says UNHCR
Four of the asylum seekers were forcibly returned to Uzbekistan on June 9. UNHCR and other international organisations have tried unsuccessfully to get access to them and have repeatedly sought information about them from Uzbek authorities. Yesterday, the refugee agency received unofficial information that one of the four was in critical condition at a military hospital.
Morjane pledged UNHCR and international support for Kyrgyzstan [..]. He added that UNHCR is making every effort to find a rapid solution to this situation while ensuring international protection standards are met. This means that there should be no forcible return, or refoulement, which is prohibited under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention Against Torture, both of which Kyrgyzstan has signed.
Uzbek asylum-seekers in Kyrgyzstan need emergency resettlement - UN refugee agency
1 July 2005 - Concerned that Kyrgyz authorities may not withstand the pressure they are under by the Government of Uzbekistan to extradite some 450 Uzbek asylum-seekers, the United Nations refugee agency today held crisis talks in Geneva with traditional resettlement countries in an urgent effort to find an emergency safe haven.
"I have been to Sasyk camp [..], I have talked to the people there," UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane told government representatives [..].
"From what I have been able to see, they are people like you and me, who have left their country, and often their family, because they were scared. They are still scared, perhaps even more today. There is little doubt what will happen to them if they are sent back to Uzbekistan. The international community cannot let this happen," Mr. Morjane told representatives of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
[..] Expedited resettlement procedures are especially urgent for 29 of the asylum-seekers facing the threat of deportation. [T]hree UNHCR lawyers have been conducting accelerated status determination for the 29, but it is not clear if the Kyrgyz authorities would be willing to release them for resettlement.
Mr. Morjane told the officials at today's meeting that he had been shocked by the precarious situation when he visited the camp earlier this week. [..] He said that if the situation deteriorated further, a humanitarian evacuation might have to be organized for the entire group. Given the lack of an independent investigation into the May 13 events in the Uzbek town of Andijan that led to their flight, UNHCR considers that the Uzbek asylum-seekers deserve the benefit of the doubt, and should be given international protection.
Several countries, among them the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have expressed a willingness to accommodate the Uzbek asylum seekers, negotiations with the UNHCR are continuing in Geneva.
The US has signalled it could withhold aid to Uzbekistan if it continues to snub calls for an international inquiry into a bloody crackdown in Andijan.
Thursday, July 14, 2005. Issue 3208. Page 4.
Uzbek Agents Offer Cash
The Associated Press
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Uzbek security agents are offering large amounts of money to people in this impoverished region to turn in people who fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan after an uprising that was violently put down, rights activists and others say.
The agents are also trying to stir up ethnic tensions in the region to make Uzbeks return to their country, said people interviewed by The Associated Press.
Hundreds of Uzbeks took refuge in Kyrgyzstan after a May 13 uprising in the Uzbek city of Andijan was violently put down by police and troops.
After the violence, according to local activists and residents, Uzbek authorities began a massive operation in southern Kyrgyzstan trying to return those who had fled -- some to be prosecuted and others so that they could not give accounts to the outside world about what happened in Andijan.
The governor of the Osh region, Anvar Artykov, said, "It's quite possible that Uzbek agents are searching around here."
In June, Kyrgyzstan secretly handed over four Uzbeks to Uzbekistan in violation of its obligations under the international refugee and anti-torture conventions -- torture is routinely used in Uzbek jails, a UN report said.
Dilyor Jumabayev, a spokesman for the radical Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Osh, said, citing police sources, that the four were sold by Kyrgyz police to Uzbeks for $25,000. Jumabayev claimed as many as 20 Uzbek agents were operating in Kara Suu, a border town.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Uzbekistan, calls for formation of an Islamic caliphate.
Izatullo Rakhmatullayev, a rights activist in Osh, said that in June, Kyrgyz police had helped Uzbek authorities to catch and transfer to Uzbekistan at least two Uzbeks who fled after the Andijan violence but were outside the refugee camp.
A journalist in Osh, Alisher Saipov, said he was approached by a man who said he was an officer from the Andijan security service and offered him $10,000 for helping him track down a leader of the uprising, Kabuljon Parpiyev.
Uzbekistan evicts United States from air base
Sat Jul 30, 2005 1:30 PM ET
By Joanne Morrison
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Uzbekistan has told the United States to leave a military base that has served as a hub for missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, U.S. officials said on Saturday.
The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent was informed of the decision on the Karshi-Khanabad air base, also known as K2, used by the United States since it began searching for Osama bin Laden.
"I can confirm that our embassy in Tashkent received a diplomatic note from the Uzbek government late this week to terminate the agreement for use of the K2 air field," said State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck.
"This is a bilateral agreement between two sovereign nations and under that agreement either side has the option to terminate the agreement," she said without elaborating.
Uzbekistan will give the United States six months to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, The Washington Post newspaper reported. The Pentagon and State Department declined to comment on any timeline.
The U.S. military is working with the State Department to evaluate the note "to see exactly what it means," Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood said. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
The action could create logistical problems for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan as well as relief workers in the region.
"The air field has been important to us and the U.S. allies in operations over there," Flood said.
The United States has regarded its bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as vital for operations in Afghanistan. However, U.S. presence in Central Asia has caused tensions with Russia and China, which joined the five ex-Soviet Central Asian states this month to demand a deadline for leaving the bases.
U.S. relations with authoritarian Uzbekistan also have been strained by the Uzbek government's bloody suppression in May of a rebellion in the eastern town of Andizhan, which drew U.S. criticism.
Just last Monday, however, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to a question about maintaining the base in Uzbekistan by saying: "We've had a good relationship. It's a good relationship now."
He was speaking during a visit to Kyrgyzstan, whose defense minister said the United States would not need a military presence in that country once stability had returned to Afghanistan.
Uzbek refugees in Romania
Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung (my translation)
With the aid of the UN refugee organisation UNHCR, 440 of the 455 refugees from Uzbekistan have left Kyrgizia. The Uzbeks had fled into the neighbouring state Kirgyzia after the massacre Uzbek state troops committed on civilians in the city Andijan on 13 May. They were expected in Romania on Friday.
The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the refugees will stay in Romania for half a year and then find refuge in other countries, the US, Canada and The Netherlands amongst others. The Kyrghiz authorities refuse to allow fifteen refugees who are detained together with others in a jail in [..] Osh. They are to be prosecuted at the request of Uzbekistan for possible crimes in relation to the unrests in Andijan. The evidence that´s been proposed by Uzbekistan was judged unpersuasive by UN representatives.
Kirghizistan´s interim Prime Minister Adachan Madumarov meanwhile asked for understanding for Bishkek´s position: Kirghizistan is not only tied to the Viennese human rights convention, but also to the Minsk treaty between the CIS states of 1992. It commits signatories to the extradition of criminals and suspects.
... pphhh, Germans[/size]
Uzbek Senate Backs U.S. Eviction From Base
By AZIZ NURITOV, Associated Press Writer
16 minutes ago
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - The Uzbek Senate on Friday endorsed the government's decision to evict U.S. troops from an airbase that has been an important hub for American military operations in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan's ties with Washington have deteriorated since the Bush administration joined other nations in urging an international investigation into the suppression of a May uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan.
Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, who has ruled the Central Asian nation for 16 years and tolerates no dissent, blamed the violence on Islamic militants.
He has rejected the demands for an outside inquiry, and, facing Western criticism, has found a strong support in Russia and China. Both of them are wary about the U.S. military presence in the strategic and resource-rich region.
The 93 Senators present at the session voted unanimously to support the July 29 order from Karimov's government giving the United States six months to vacate Karshi-Khanabad, an airbase in the southern Kashkadarya region.
No further action is necessary from the lower chamber, as the government-loyal, 100-seat upper chamber has the final say on parliamentary decisions.
The vote was not necessary to confirm the government's order. Rather it was seen as an attempt to give that ruling a symbolic show of popular support and legitimize it in the eyes of the international community.
"We know that fundamentalist moods arise wherever U.S. bases appear. Enemies of the United States appear wherever there is a U.S. military presence, and we don't want to be caught in-between," Kashkadarya governor Nuritdin Zainiyev said before the vote.
The head of the Senate's foreign relations committee and the country's former foreign minister, Sadyk Safayev, said the people of Kashkadarya had demanded the troops leave, alleging they had caused environmental damage. He also questioned the need for the troops in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan issued the demand for the U.S. withdrawal just hours after hundreds of Uzbeks who had fled to Kyrgyzstan after the Andijan uprising were relocated to Romania, a staunch U.S. ally, by the United Nations refugee agency.
"If the U.S. is a friendly country ... how could they prevent the return of Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan?" Senator Surayo Abdukhojayeva demanded.
The United States and other Western countries harshly criticized Uzbekistan for using force against mostly unarmed civilians in Andijan on May 13. Rights groups said up to 750 people died in the crackdown. The government put the death toll at 187.
Zainiyev also complained that Uzbekistan had spent $160 million to maintain the infrastructure of the Karshi-Khanabad base since the arrival of U.S. troops, and the U.S. "didn't pay anything."
The base has been an important staging point for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan since the earliest days of the war, which began in October 2001. More recently, the base has been used to move supplies, including humanitarian aid, into northern Afghanistan. It also is a refueling point for transport planes.
I suspect, though, that they'll ignore it in the not unreasonable belief that it will "go away."
Rights Groups Allege Uzbekistan Cover-Up
Mon Sep 19
By HENRY MEYER, Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW - Two leading human rights organizations have accused Uzbekistan of covering up the killings of hundreds of protesters and are calling on the United States and the European Union to increase pressure for an international investigation into the bloody May crackdown.
Both the United States and Europe appear to have backed off rather than implement a more robust strategy to hold the Uzbek government accountable for the loss of life," the New York-based rights monitoring body said.
Its report documents what it terms a brutal police campaign forcing people to confess falsely that they belong to extremist religious organizations, that the May 13 protests in the eastern city of Andijan were violent, and that the protesters were armed.
London-based Amnesty International said witnesses have been intimidated to prevent testimony on what they saw, relevant records and documents were reportedly destroyed and international organizations, journalists and human rights defenders were prevented from access to the citypolice also detained and questioned hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people with any connection to the May 13 events, including people who lived in the vicinity of the main square in Andijan, according to Human Rights Watch.
One former detainee, who was given a pseudonym to protect his identity, said he was interrogated daily and subjected to prolonged beatings to force him to confess to extremist activity.