Daily archives: October 24, 2005

Amnesty International Alert

Amnesty International have issued an alert for Student Marsel Isaev who was forcibly returned to Uzbekistan on 12 October, from Tatarstan, in the Russian Federation. He has not been seen or heard from since he was put on the plane, and the authorities in Uzbekistan have refused to confirm or deny that he is in custody. He is thought to be held incommunicado in a detention centre in the capital, Tashkent, and he is at grave risk of torture.

AI Index: EUR 62/029/2005

If you wish to help with the appeal please contact your local AI office.

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Sanjar Umarov arrested in Tashkent?

PRESS-RELEASE from Sunshine Uzbekistan Coalition

October 23, 2005 (13:55 Tashkent time)

Sanjar Umarov gone missing in Tashkent

Yesterday, October 22 a massive attack by General-Prosecutor’s Office was unleashed on members of Sunshine Coalition.

As the result 5 people were detained by the General-Prosecutor’s Office, including the Coordinator of Sunshine Uzbekistan, Ms. Nadira Khidoyatova.

That same day, since 10pm October 22nd, Chairman of Sunshine Coalition Sanjar Umarov has gone missing. Although unconfirmed reports have pointed that he is being detained in the General Prosecutor’s Office in Tashkent, officials from General-Prosecutor’s office have told that he is held in Tashkent City Police Department. Search is continuing.

This attack by Uzbekistan’s authorities came right after Sanjar Umarov wrote a letter of compassion to Russian Foreign Minister during his visit to Tashkent.

Update Pravada has published an article today which says that the government has arrested Sanjar Umarov on embezzlement charges.

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Minister ‘misled Commons’ over attacks by Islamic group

By Jon Ungoed-Thomas writing in the Times Online

HAZEL BLEARS, the Home Office minister, has been accused of misleading parliament by presenting ‘false’ intelligence over the threat posed by an alleged Islamic terrorist group. Blears told MPs this month that an Uzbek organisation, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), was a threat to British interests overseas and announced that it was to become a proscribed organisation.

MPs questioned the wisdom of banning a group with the stated aim of bringing democracy to Uzbekistan, a dictatorship with one of the worst human rights records in central Asia.

It was pointed out that in May Uzbek government troops killed about 700 people when they opened fire on crowds in the eastern city of Andijan following an uprising.

To make her case against the IJU, Blears told MPs that information on the group had been received directly from British intelligence sources which showed it to have been responsible for a series of bombings in Uzbekistan in March 2004.

Her account was accepted at the time by MPs but has now been challenged by Craig Murray, who was British ambassador in Uzbekistan until 2004.

He said that while he was ambassador he had warned the British government over accounts of bomb attacks connected to the IJU. He suspected they may have been concocted by the Uzbek government to justify local police killing a number of dissidents.

‘The official accounts were not credible,’ he said. ‘I went to one of the sites where a suicide bomber was meant to have launched an attack. It was a triangular courtyard and not one of the windows was blown out and there was no sign of significant damage.

‘I sent a telegram to London ‘ copied to the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) in MI5, to the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence ‘ about the inconsistencies of the accounts.

‘JTAC agreed with my assessment that the official version of events was not credible. I am amazed to find it being repeated in the House of Commons by Hazel Blears.’

Murray said an organisation calling itself IJU also claimed responsibility in 2004 for attacks on the Israeli and American embassies, but there was no convincing evidence that such a group existed.

The former ambassador was squeezed out of his post by the Foreign Office after criticising the human rights record of the Uzbek government. He says MI6 has no staff in central Asia and was relying on information from other sources ‘ possibly the Uzbek government itself.

MPs were concerned at the inclusion of IJU when its name first appeared on the list of banned groups. Blears was repeatedly questioned in parliament whether it was right to ban the organisation.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP, said: ‘Should we not tread very carefully before proscribing an organisation that has less blood on its hands than a government with whom we still maintain diplomatic relations?’ Blears assured MPs she had taken a ‘particular look’ at the IJU. She said she was satisfied that it posed a threat and cited the attacks in 2004.

A Home Office spokeswoman said Charles Clarke, the home secretary, who took the final decision to ban the IJU, had been provided with a detailed intelligence assessment.

‘IJU is a proscribed organisation by the United Nations and there was a clear case for the government to follow suit,’ she said. Blears had presented accurate information to parliament and was drawing on the ‘full intelligence picture’.

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White House seeks exception to allow CIA to continue abuse

By Eric Schmitt writing in the New York Times

“They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely”

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 – Stepping up a confrontation with the Senate over the handling of detainees, the White House is insisting that the Central Intelligence Agency be exempted from a proposed ban on abusive treatment of suspected Qaeda militants and other terrorists.

The Senate defied a presidential veto threat nearly three weeks ago and approved, 90 to 9, an amendment to a $440 billion military spending bill that would ban the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of any detainee held by the United States government. This could bar some techniques that the C.I.A. has used in some interrogations overseas.

But in a 45-minute meeting last Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney and the C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, urged Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who wrote the amendment, to support an exemption for the agency, arguing that the president needed maximum flexibility in dealing with the global war on terrorism, said two government officials who were briefed on the meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the discussions.

Mr. McCain rejected the proposed exemption, which stated that the measure “shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party, if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.”

Spokesmen for Mr. McCain, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Goss all declined to comment on the matter Monday, citing the confidentiality of the talks.

Human rights organizations said Monday that it was unclear whether the language in the changes proposed by the White House meant that the president would decide exemptions case by case or whether there would be more of a blanket authority. But they said the administration’s proposal would seriously undermine Mr. McCain’s measure.

Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the administration had interpreted an international treaty banning torture to mean that a prohibition against cruel and inhumane treatment did not apply to C.I.A. actions overseas.

“That’s why the McCain amendment is important, and that’s why this language they’re floating now would gut it,” said Ms. Massimino, who provided a copy of the administration’s proposed changes to The New York Times.

Human rights advocates said that creating parallel sets of interrogation rules for military personnel and clandestine intelligence operatives was impractical in the war on terrorism, where soldiers and spies routinely cross paths on a global battlefield and often share techniques

“They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely,” Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said. “You can’t tell soldiers that inhumane treatment is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that C.I.A. personnel are allowed to engage in it.”

Mr. McCain’s provision faces stiff opposition in the House, which did not include similar language in its version of the spending bill.

The White House has threatened to veto any bill that includes the McCain provision, contending that it would bind the president’s hands in wartime.

But Mr. McCain has kept the pressure on as the issue moves to a House-Senate conference committee, perhaps later this week or next. Shortly after the Senate vote on Oct. 5, Mr. McCain’s staff sent members of the conference committee letters endorsing the provision signed by more than two dozen retired senior military officers, including former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and John M. Shalikashvili, both former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The matter will probably be settled in a private meeting in the next week or two among four senior lawmakers: Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative C. W. Bill Young of Florida, both Republicans; and Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, both Democrats. All are on the conference committee.

Mr. McCain originally offered his measure earlier this year, when the Senate was working on a bill setting Pentagon policy. But Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, scuttled that bill, partly because of White House opposition to the amendment.

Now it appears that senators have struck a deal to revive the budget bill for Senate floor debate and action. One of the principal amendments that Democrats are expected to offer, sponsored by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, would create an independent commission to review accusations of prisoner abuse by American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere. The White House has also threatened a presidential veto if any bill comes to Mr. Bush’s desk that contains the provision.

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