Uzbekistan, Great Britain and the Ousting of Craig Murray

A posting from the Deep Blade Journal

Paying the price for defending human rights

GUEST POST by Mike Walls

In light of new findings regarding the extent to which the US has aided and abetted the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan, I feel that a reprisal of the experiences of former British diplomat to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is timely. Back in 2002 Murray exposed the human rights abuses going on in Uzbekistan and unwittingly revealed the Blair government’s support for such abuses.

Craig Murray’s story tells of a dedicated British diplomat who felt that by bringing to light human rights abuses on the part of the Karimov regime, his government would condemn them, sever diplomatic ties with Uzbekistan and take measures to prevent such abuses from continuing. To Murray’s stunned dismay this was not to be. In a recent documentary here in Sweden entitled ”Agenda”, aired following the alleged massacres in Uzbekistan some weeks ago, Murray spoke out about his grisly experiences in Uzbekistan. On the question of torture he reports:

We received photos of a corpse, Mr Abazov, who had been boiled to death. The corpse, in addition to having its fingernails removed, showed complete scolding damage to the skin on the lower arms, legs and lower torso.

Murray made the claim that torture was systemic in Uzbekistan and that the information being procured from victims of this torture was being used by his own British government. Murray tried in vain to bring all of this to light to foreign secretary Jack Straw, as he explains:

When I first went back in November 2002 and said, ”look, America’s supporting this really vicious dictatorship here”, and the intelligence material we’re gaining has been gained under torture, maybe I was na?ve but I actually thought that if I brought this to Jack Straw’s attention, brought it up to a high enough level, then they’d stop.

Unfortunately for Mr Murray, he was being na?ve, but his na?vet? was a sign of his own human decency which contrasted greatly, as it transpired, to that of his superiors. On discovering his own government’s complicity, Murray, in the Financial Times in 2004, openly criticised MI6 and the CIA after publishing information in a Foreign Office document. This adherence to democratic principles did not bode him well, however. Murray was called home from Uzbekistan and an investigation was carried out, after which Murray was fired from his position as Ambassador. To this injury, much insult was hurled too:

So then they [the British Government] started contacting the Media, telling people I was an alcoholic, telling people I was offering visas in exchange for sex. They brought up these amazing allegations against me as formal charges which were then dropped.

According to the UN, there are currently up to 8000 people imprisoned in Uzbekistan for no more reason than their religious and political persuasions. Very few Uzbeks dare to speak out about Karimov’s crimes in Uzbekistan, but those who do have a chilling tale to tell. For example, peace activist, Surat Akrakov, told of beatings, rape and electric shock occurring as part of the torture regime.

Unwaveringly, Craig Murray, despite his ouster, travelled back to Uzbekistan in April 2003 in order to speak with one Professor Jamal Mersajdov, an outspoken critic of the Karimov regime. Unfortunately, Murray’s visit did not go unnoticed:

I left the house that evening, at 3 o’clock the next morning the body of his [Professor Jamal] grandson was dumped on the doorstep. The right hand had been immersed in boiling water or liquid for a long period. His murder was a warning to dissidents for meeting me or perhaps a warning to me for meeting dissidents.

The usual arguments from the Karimov regime were that torture is necessary in order to curb the threat of Islamic terrorism. However, dissidents and critics, alike, claim that this is merely used as a pretext in order to continue the repression and torture that is already emblematic of the Karimov regime; war on terror or no war on terror.

Craig Murray’s tenacity is to be commended in light of the many obstacles he has had to face. The sacrifices he and his compatriots in Uzbekistan have made to bring this story to light is worthy of praise too, since their sacrifices have shone the spotlight on the corrupt and despicable policies of the Bush and Blair governments since 9/11 and prior to 9/11.

Craig Murray, himself, has begun the slow journey back into politics. He has as his goal to displace the current foreign secretary, Jack Straw, for, like many of us, Murray understands the dire and dangerous consequences of a foreign policy which reneges on human rights laws and international law. To illustrate this point, Murray leaves us with a chilling reminder:

Torture breeds hatred, ill-treatment, repression, breeds hatred. That hatred is not just directed at karimov, but at the West who are seen as his close supporters. So really, we’re creating terrorism. In the future this is going to come back and hit us.

The last two sentences are a definitive mantra for our times, unfortunately. And it is one which resonates with layman and activists alike. It is encouraging that more and more people are becoming aware of the true meaning of power in relation to the US and UK. However, it is disconcerting that those, like Murray, who were once placed at power’s political epicentre are shunned and scorned when practising their duties of office, namely, to promote democracy and protect the rights of others at home and abroad. This once again reconfirms the truism that democracy in our beloved Occident is no more than rhetorical window dressing used in order to divert our attention from our leaders’ destructive Realpolitik. –Mike Walls