Daily archives: November 2, 2005

Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands investigate CIA operations

From the Washington Post

Scottish police have launched an investigation of so-called CIA “torture flights” that allegedly transport captured terrorism suspects to undisclosed locations for interrogation, according to the Glasgow Sunday Herald. The investigation is the latest sign of growing European unease with U.S. policy of “extraordinary rendition.”

The probe was triggered by a Sunday Herald series last month that reported that CIA planes had stopped at two Scottish airports 149 times for refueling and logistical support.

“The program,” the SH said, “targets suspected Islamic terrorists, captures and delivers them to US-friendly nations which are quite happy to use torture to get the information the US wants for the war on terror.”

Former CIA counterterrorism officer Michael Scheuer defended the practice of rendition, but said he favored classifying the terror suspects as prisoners of war and questioning them in the United States under the terms of the Geneva Convention. That proposal, he says, was rejected by both the Clinton and Bush administrations

“We shot ourselves in both feet,” Scheuer told the SH.

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said the British government ignored his reports that terror suspects sent there were routinely tortured.

“I warned ministers it was illegal,” he said. “But the politicians were very keen to just keep going ahead.”

The CIA declined to comment. “One CIA official merely laughed when told that Scottish police were to investigate,” the SH reported.

As The Post’s Dana Priest reports today, “Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands have opened inquiries into alleged CIA operations that secretly captured their citizens or legal residents and transferred them to the agency’s prisons.”

View with comments

A call to suspend Uzbekistan from NATO partnership

Below is the House of Commons debate on Uzbekistan from 1 November. Greg Hands is to be congratulated on tabling the question, with very good follow up from David Drew and Alistair Carmichael.

The point on NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP)is an important one. Last Autumn one hundred and fifty British troops trained in Uzbekistan alongside Uzbek forces whose principle role is the suppression of their own people. To impose an arms embargo while retaining Uzbekistan as a member of NATO PfP is meaningless. I hope we can start a campaign to suspend Uzbekistan from NATO PfP. In the UK, please contact your MP and MEP to this effect using the fax your MP facility on the front of this website. In other NATO members please write to your own representatives, to urge the suspension of this tyrannical regime from NATO PfP.

4. Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): If he will make a statement on the steps that the United Kingdom has taken to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan on 13 May. [23244]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): We have been at the forefront of efforts to establish what happened in Andijan on 13 May. Our ambassador and his embassy team have visited the area, spoken to eyewitnesses and met NGOs. Our ambassador has spoken repeatedly to the Uzbek Government. We remain as convinced as ever of the need for a credible, external inquiry. That is why, under our presidency, the European Union has adopted a series of new measures against the Uzbek Government, including an arms embargo and a targeted visa ban.

Mr. Hands: I appreciate what the Minister says about the arms embargo, but is it not incongruous that his Government should support the Uzbekistan’s continued membership of the NATO partnership for peace programme?

Mr. Alexander: The NATO partnership for peace process relies not just on the will of one country, the United Kingdom, but on a number of other members of NATO. I respect the hon. Gentleman’s point, but I think that we have taken what opportunities are available to us to register our profound concern at the failure to establish an independent inquiry and to take the practical measures that have been outlined through the European Union.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): It would appear from the various e-mails that the Uzbek embassy kindly sends me that it has already made up its mind about the relative guilt of those who were shot. Is it not about time that the international community took the Uzbek regime much more seriously and tried to do something about it, rather than showing it far too much leniency as it has done in the past?

Mr. Alexander: I assure my hon. Friend that we take extremely seriously both the monitoring of the trial and, more generally, the need for an independent inquiry into the events in Andijan. We have led the international efforts to co-ordinate monitoring of the trial on behalf of the European Union, and we expect verdicts on the 15 defendants in only a few days. I assure my hon. Friend that the matter will continue to be of concern to the British Government.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Has there not already been a series of independent inquiries, organised by groups such as Human Rights

1 Nov 2005 : Column 713

Watch and the Institute for War & Peace Reporting? Have they not established that what happened in Andijan was at least as bad as what happened in Tiananmen square? Should we not now seek sanctions against the Uzbek Government, similar to those that were imposed on China after Tiananmen square?

Mr. Alexander: We believe that the Uzbek authorities did use excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force, but we also believe that the case for an independent inquiry endures.

As for the specific efforts made by the British Government, I have already mentioned the imposition of an arms embargo under the British leadership and presidency, and the visa restrictions imposed on those deemed to have been responsible for the disproportionate use of force in Andijan. All technical meetings have been suspended under the European Union’s partnership and co-operation agreement. We will of course support the reorientation of the Commission’s funding programme for Uzbekistan to promote an increased focus on poverty reduction along with democracy, human rights and civil societies. We have taken action, but the Council of the European Union has not ruled out additional steps if they prove necessary.

View with comments

Uzbekistan: Jailed Opposition Leader’s Health at Risk

From Human Rights Watch

Uzbek Authorities Must Ensure Immediate Medical Care

(Tashkent, November 1, 2005) ‘ The Uzbek government should ensure immediate medical attention for jailed opposition leader Sanjar Umarov, including an independent psychiatric examination, Human Rights Watch said today. Today marks a week since Umarov’s attorney found him naked and incoherent in his cell.

The latest incident in the Uzbek government’s ruthless crackdown on dissent, Umarov’s arrest and detention appear to be politically motivated.

‘Sanjar Umarov needs to receive immediate medical care,’ said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being.’

The leader of the opposition political movement ‘Sunshine Coalition,’ Umarov was arrested on the night of October 22. When his attorney went to see him three days later in the detention facility of the Tashkent City Police Department, he found Umarov naked in his basement cell, covering his face with his hands and rocking back and forth. He did not react when the attorney called his name. Since this visit, his attorney has not been able to talk to his client or to the investigator on his case. The authorities have failed to act on his attorney’s requests for an urgent independent psychiatric evaluation.

Authorities have charged Umarov, a permanent resident of the United States, with embezzlement related to an oil company in which he formerly had an ownership interest. He apparently has no current business involvement in Uzbekistan. According to Uzbek law, since a formal arrest warrant had already been issued, Umarov should have been transferred to pre-trial detention rather than being held in the temporary detention cells of the police station, where detainees are most at risk of torture.

‘Umarov’s arrest appears to be politically motivated,’ said Cartner. ‘The authorities should release him pending an independent review of the charges against him.’

Established earlier this year, the ‘Sunshine Coalition’ is made up of businessmen and academics. It has close ties with the Ozod Dekhon (‘Free Peasants’) opposition party. The coalition openly criticizes what it terms ‘corrupt government bureaucracies’ in Uzbekistan on its website. Its Economic Advisory Council promotes a ‘Road Map for Prosperity,’ an action plan to implement liberal, free-market economic reforms. Umarov only recently returned to Uzbekistan from a visit to the United States and Russia, where he publicly discussed the coalition’s ideas for economic reform. On October 17, Umarov wrote an open letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in which he called for economic reforms in Uzbekistan and closer economic cooperation with Russia.

The Uzbek government has a longstanding record of suppressing any kind of independent opposition. The crackdown on political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists has reached crisis proportions in the aftermath of the massacre in Andijan on May 13, in which government forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians.

View with comments

The Dangers of Friendly Dictatorships

By Farhod Inogambaev writing in The Moscow Times

The political situation in Uzbekistan is spinning out of control, with anger growing in society and even among some moderate members of the ruling elite against President Islam Karimov.

The arrest last week of Sanjar Umarov, chairman of the Sunshine Coalition and the last serious opposition figure willing to work with the dictatorial regime, is just the latest sad sign of the country’s deterioration into tyranny.

Karimov, who has ruled the Central Asian state of 25 million people for more than 15 years, has shut down opposition parties and conducted a relentless crackdown on political foes and practicing Muslims, jailing thousands. In May, Karimov’s trained militia suppressed a popular uprising in the eastern city of Andijan, killing several hundred civilians — in many cases shooting them in the back as they fled the city’s central square. The arrest of Umarov — and mounting evidence that he is being “treated” with psychotropic drugs, just as political opponents were “treated” under Stalin — should be the last straw in American and Russian cooperation with the regime.

Umarov’s arrest comes after a visit to the United States and Russia in September where he outlined his coalition’s economic reform program. Umarov sent an open letter in late October to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting Uzbekistan at the time, expressing his intention to seek a solution to the political crisis in Uzbekistan by establishing a dialogue between the opposition and the government. Apparently this, along with his denunciation of the Andijan massacre, was enough for Karimov to consider him a threat.

The only good news surrounding Uzbekistan these days is that Western governments are finally starting to see the true face of Karimov’s regime. Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, Uzbekistan began receiving large sums of money for hosting American troops at its Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, called K-2, a few hundred kilometers from the Afghan border. The base played a crucial role in the coalition’s success in Afghanistan, and Karimov was rewarded not just with American money, but also with legitimacy. In March 2002, he visited the White House at the invitation of President George W. Bush to sign a joint declaration on strategic relations. Karimov used his newfound friendship with Washington as cover to intensify human rights abuses throughout Uzbekistan.

The Andijan massacre caused the U.S. administration and EU governments finally to reconsider their policies toward Karimov’s Uzbekistan. In September, the European Union introduced limited sanctions, including an arms embargo and a travel ban for senior Uzbek officials. This doesn’t just mean no more shopping trips to Paris or London for Karimov’s family and their cronies; it also makes it difficult for them to access their European bank accounts and other property in Europe.

The United States also criticized Karimov’s response to the Andijan uprising and joined in the chorus of governments and rights groups calling for an independent international investigation. In response, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry sent an ultimatum letter to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent calling for U.S. withdrawal from the K-2 base within 180 days.

Hopefully this will spell the end of American cooperation with the Karimov regime. According to a recent State Department report on foreign aid, U.S. assistance to Uzbekistan from October 2004 to September 2005 amounted to $91 million, with $63 million of that earmarked for security and law enforcement. The United States should cease all support, financial and otherwise, to Karimov and introduce targeted sanctions similar to those the EU has imposed. There is growing support for this in Congress.

But businesses with major operations in Uzbekistan and ties to the Karimov family — like Coca-Cola, the Newmont Gold Company, cotton trader Dunavant Enterprises and agricultural equipment manufacturer Case — have a strong interest in maintaining the status quo.

Coca-Cola is a good example of how business is done in Karimov’s Uzbekistan. In 2001, The Coca-Cola Company, which holds the franchise for bottling in Uzbekistan, allowed its joint venture with the Uzbek government to be taken over by Karimov’s older daughter, Gulnara Karimova. In a communist-style, gangster approach to a takeover, Karimova’s estranged husband, Mansur Maqsudi, who owned the majority of Coca-Cola Uzbekistan, found that his shares had been nationalized and his employees chased out of the country. With the approval, if not assistance, of The Coca-Cola Company, Karimova proceeded to loot millions of dollars from the Coca-Cola Bottlers Uzbekistan joint venture.

The American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce, which represents Coca-Cola and others, is lobbying Washington to keep up good relations with Karimov. In an August letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chamber president James Cornell said the recent downgrades in relations with Tashkent “threaten several vital interests of the United States, including long-established trade and investment relations between the two countries.” The United States should not bow to this corporate pressure, but rather maintain a consistent, principled foreign policy that promotes democracy and punishes gross violations of human rights. Nowhere is this more needed today than in Uzbekistan.

Russia, too, needs to come to grips with the fact that its partnership with Karimov is more of a liability than an asset. As Karimov has turned toward Russia and China in the wake of U.S. criticism, Moscow has acquiesced by endorsing Tashkent’s official version of the events at Andijan, calling the protesters Islamic terrorists and fundamentalists.

But the Kremlin must understand that it is not in its long-term interest to have a political basket case in its backyard, and that a democratic, economically liberal Uzbekistan is in everyone’s best interest.

Farhod Inogambaev, an Uzbek political exile and recent research fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.

View with comments

A gushing book review from Shirin Akiner

What Miers is to Bush, Akiner is to Karimov. Here his cheerleader introduces one of his execrable books in terms. These are compulsory study at all levels of Uzbek education, from primary school to PhD. I met a lady submitting her PhD work in Maths, who was worried because she had to sit a compulsory exam reproducing and praising Karimov’s work.


The review was written about ‘Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century: Challenges to Stability and Progress’ which was written by Karimov and published in 1998.

The text in its original context can be viewed here

The book is also still available from the Uzbek government web site

View with comments