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Uzbekistan: Anger as US backs brutal regime - Observer, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    Anger as US backs brutal regime Human rights concerns as troops put down uprising in Uzbekistan Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow and Paul Harris in New York Sunday
    Message 1 of 1 , May 15, 2005
      Anger as US backs brutal regime

      Human rights concerns as troops put down uprising in

      Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow and Paul Harris in New York
      Sunday May 15, 2005
      The Observer


      Heated criticism was growing last night over 'double
      standards' by Washington over human rights, democracy
      and 'freedom' as fresh evidence emerged of just how
      brutally Uzbekistan, a US ally in the 'war on terror',
      put down Friday's unrest in the east of the country.
      Outrage among human rights groups followed claims by
      the White House on Friday that appeared designed to
      justify the violence of the regime of President Islam
      Karimov, claiming - as Karimov has - that 'terrorist
      groups' may have been involved in the uprising.

      Critics said the US was prepared to support
      pro-democracy unrest in some states, but condemn it in
      others where such policies were inconvenient.

      Witnesses and analysts familiar with the region said
      most protesters were complaining about government
      corruption and poverty, not espousing Islamic

      The US comments were seized on by Karimov, who said
      yesterday that the protests were organised by Hizb
      ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group often accused by Tashkent
      of seditious extremism. Yet Washington, which has
      expressed concern over the group's often hardline
      message, has yet to designate it a terrorist group.

      Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, tried to
      deflect accusations of the contradictory stance when
      he said it was clear the 'people of Uzbekistan want to
      see a more representative and democratic government.
      But that should come through peaceful means, not
      through violence.'

      Washington has often been accused of being involved in
      a conspiracy of silence over Uzbekistan's human rights
      record since that country was declared an ally in the
      'war on terror' in 2001.

      Uzbekistan is believed to be one of the destination
      countries for the highly secretive 'renditions
      programme', whereby the CIA ships terrorist suspects
      to third-party countries where torture is used that
      cannot be employed in the US. Newspaper reports in
      America say dozens of suspects have been transferred
      to Uzbek jails.

      The CIA has never officially commented on the
      programme. But flight logs obtained by the New York
      Times earlier this month show CIA-linked planes
      landing in Tashkent with the same serial numbers as
      jets used to transfer prisoners around the world. The
      logs show at least seven flights from 2002 to late
      2003, originating from destinations in the Middle East
      and Europe.

      Other countries used in the programme include Egypt,
      Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Morocco. A handful of
      prisoners' accounts - including that of Canadian Maher
      Arar - that emerged after release show they were
      tortured and abused in custody.

      Critics say the US double standards are evident on the
      State Department website, which accuses Uzbek police
      and security services of using 'torture as a routine
      investigation technique' while giving the same law
      enforcement services $79 million in aid in 2002. The
      department says officers who receive training are
      vetted to ensure they have not tortured anyone.

      The aid paradox was highlighted by the former British
      Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who criticised
      coalition support for Uzbekistan when they were
      planning invading Iraq, using similar abuses as

      Murray said yesterday: 'The US will claim that they
      are teaching the Uzbeks less repressive interrogation
      techniques, but that is basically not true. They help
      fund the budget of the Uzbek security services and
      give tens of millions of dollars in military support.
      It is a sweetener in the agreement over which they get
      their air base.'

      Murray said that during a series of suicide bombings
      in Tashkent in March 2004, before he was sacked as UK
      ambassador, he was shown transcripts of telephone
      intercepts in which known al-Qaeda representatives
      were asking each other 'what the hell was going on.
      But then Colin Powell came out and said that al-Qaeda
      were behind the blasts. I don't think the US even
      believe their own propaganda.'

      The support continues, seen by many as a 'pay-off' for
      the Khanabad base. The US Embassy website says
      Uzbekistan got $10m for 'security and law enforcement
      support' in 2004.

      Last year Human Rights Watch released a 319-page
      report detailing the use of torture by Uzbekistan's
      security services. It said the government was carrying
      out a campaign of torture and intimidation against
      Muslims that had seen 7,000 people imprisoned, and
      documented at least 10 deaths, including Muzafar
      Avozov, who was boiled to death in 2002.

      'Torture is rampant,' the reported concluded. Human
      Rights Watch called for the US and its allies to
      condemn Uzbekistan's tactics.

      Uzbekistan on the brink as clashes spread

      Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
      Sunday May 15, 2005
      The Observer


      The violence that has reportedly killed hundreds of
      protesters in eastern Uzbekistan appeared to be
      spreading to neighbouring towns last night, raising
      fears that the volatile Central Asian state could
      erupt into a full-scale revolution.
      As human rights workers in the flashpoint town of
      Andijan warned that the death toll there could reach
      500, an official from the neighbouring country of
      Kyrgyzstan said sporadic rioting had broken out in the
      border town of Karasu, with government buildings and
      police cars on fire and military helicopters circling

      One local official was reported by the Russian
      Interfax news agency to have been heavily beaten by
      rioters. The Uzbek President, Islam Karimov, claimed
      that troops had opened fire on protesters in Andijan
      only when they were advanced on.

      Visibly angry, he told reporters in the capital,
      Tashkent: 'I know that you want to know who gave the
      order to fire at them ... No one ordered [the troops]
      to fire at them.' He said 10 soldiers were killed in
      the clash and 'many more' protesters.

      Galima Bukharbaeva, a reporter with international
      monitoring group the Institute for War and Peace
      Reporting, who witnessed the killings, described a
      column of armoured personnel carriers firing
      indiscriminately and unprovoked at protesters.

      They had stormed the city prison after 23 businessmen
      were put on trial for alleged Islamic extremism. They
      took over the local administration centre and
      blockaded the city centre, some demanding that the
      government resign.

      Karimov responded: 'To accept their terms would mean
      that we are setting a precedent that no other country
      in the world would accept.' He dismissed claims that
      children had been among the dead. 'In Uzbekistan,
      nobody fights against women, children or the elderly,'
      he added.

      Among those who hurriedly left the city were seven
      British tennis players due to take part in the F4
      Futures Event. Information was scarce inside Andijan,
      with most phone lines blocked as part of an apparent
      news blackout in the region. Human rights worker
      Lutfulla Shamsutdinov told Agence France-Presse
      yesterday: 'This morning I saw three trucks and a bus
      in which 300 dead bodies were being loaded by
      soldiers. At least one third of the bodies were
      women.' The claims were impossible to verify.

      One witness said that he saw 1,000 people, mostly
      women and children, gathering in the city centre
      yesterday morning. 'Some were bringing their dead.
      Many of them were old people or women, some were
      throwing stones at the soldiers. I saw over 20 dead,
      but someone told me they had seen many more piled up
      near the central square.'

      A reporter for Associated Press said that he saw 30
      bodies on streets spattered with blood and littered
      with spent cartridges. The dead had all been shot and
      the head of one had been smashed in.

      Daniyar Akbarov, 24, one of those freed from jail on
      Friday, tearfully beat his chest in the square
      yesterday. 'Our women and children are dying,' he
      said, claiming he had seen 300 people killed.

      The military claimed to control the town last night.
      The news website www. ferghana.ru reported dozens of
      flights arriving at an airport in the region,
      suggesting extra troops were being flown in.

      As the violence continued to spread, Russian President
      Vladimir Putin phoned his Uzbek counterpart. 'Both
      sides expressed concern about the danger of
      destabilisation of the situation in the Central Asian
      region,' a Kremlin statement said.

      On Friday night, the United States raised fears that
      members of a 'terrorist group' may have been released
      from prison during the riots, but urged both sides to
      show restraint. The former British Ambassador to
      Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who claims that he lost his
      job for exposing the human rights abuses of the US's
      new ally in the war on terror, said the Islamic
      elements in the Andijan crowds were moderate - 'more
      Turkey than Taliban'.

      He added: 'This has really blown up in the US's faces.
      When will the US and UK call for fair, free and early
      elections in Uzbekistan?'

      America gives $10 million a year in aid to the Uzbek
      security services and police, agencies which it says
      indulge in torture as a 'routine investigation
      technique'. Murray said: 'The US will claim that they
      are teaching the Uzbeks less repressive interrogation
      techniques, but that is basically not true.

      'They help fund the Uzbek security services and give
      tens of millions of dollars in military support as
      well.' He said the money was a 'sweetener' in return
      for the Uzbeks allowing the US to have an airbase in
      the southern town of Khanabad, vital for operations in
      neighbouring Afghanistan.

      Russian state television carried comments from
      politicians and analysts, saying the unrest was a
      'green revolution' - a suggestion that it was an
      Islamic fundamentalist revolt. A junior foreign
      minister said the unrest was caused by 'the weakness
      of the authorities, social problems and the influence
      of extremist groups'.

      Officials from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan said that
      hundreds of refugees had tried to cross the border.

      More Information on Central Asia and Uzbekistan at:

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