Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Quick update on Uzbekistan

The situation in Uzbekistan continues to deteriorate. Human Rights Watch has released a damning report on the May 13th massacre.
The witness accounts describe the circumstances of a massacre, says Allison Gill, a Human Rights Watch expert on Uzbekistan who helped with the report.

"We tried to provide as clear a picture as we could establish of what happened -- and I think it's probably the most comprehensive picture to date of what happened -- to show that there were very serious crimes committed by the government and a lot of unanswered questions still," Gill says. "There has to be transparency and accountability around the government's use of force on civilians."

Gill tells RFE/RL that the report does not provide an estimate of casualties or the size of the crowd that gathered in a main Andijon square ahead of the arrival of government troops. But the report suggests the death toll is far higher than the official government figure of 173 dead. For example, numerous witnesses told the organization that one group of fleeing protesters numbering close to 400 people was almost completely mowed down by gunfire from government forces.
And later...
The Human Rights Watch report confirms the raid on government facilities. But it disputes the government charge that Muslim extremists were behind the uprising.

The report says the events appear to have been sparked by the trial of 23 businessmen accused of Islamic extremism. But researcher Gill says the charges lacked evidence and that the protest in Andijon grew into a large rally of people voicing anger about poverty and government repression:

"There is no evidence of an Islamic agenda of the people that we talked to," Gill says. "There is no evidence of an Islamic agenda witnessed by any of the many eyewitnesses of the events. And it's a very, very convenient excuse for the government, and we've seen the government use it many times before."
In other news, the Peace Corps has suspended its program in country and there is anticipation of terrorist attacks or further clashes between citizens and Karimov's government. This is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

--Frank

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