Daily Archives: November 19, 2005


Foreign Affairs Committee to call British government documents on use of torture evidence

In a very welcome decision, the Foreign Affairs Committee has decided to respond to Craig Murray’s request and call for key documents from the UK Foreign Office. These documents will facilitate a much more adequate assessment of the role of the British governent in the use of evidence gained under torture, and help cut through the obfuscation of the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. November 23rd should be interesting…

From: PRIESTLEY, Steve

Sent: 17 November 2005 15:54

To: Craig Murray

Subject: RE: extraordinary rendition

Dear Mr Murray,

This is to inform you that the Committee considered your e-mail of 30 October at its meeting yesterday, 16 November, and that it has instructed me to request the FCO to provide it with access to the documents mentioned therein.

Please note that the Committee has the power to publish these exchanges and any further communications it may receive from you in due course. If you wish anything sent to the Committee to be treated in confidence, please state so and the Committee will consider your request.

The Committee will be hearing oral evidence on the FCO Annual Human Rights Report 2005 from Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State at the FCO, on Wednesday 23 November at half-past Two.

Steve Priestley

Clerk of FAC

—–Original Message—–

From: Craig Murray

Sent: 31 October 2005 11:17

To: PRIESTLEY, Steve

Subject: RE: extraordinary rendition

Dear Mr Priestley,

Thank you. I have seen the draft transcript of Mr Straw’s evidence in his recent appearance before the Committee, and his references to me.

I would strongly urge that the Committee obtain a number of FCO documents which provide essential support my assertions on the use of intelligence got under torture, which were questioned by Mr Straw. I believe this documentary evidence is much more compelling than Mr Straw’s perfectly accurate assertion to the committee that I am a bad electoral campaigner. It seems to me in poor taste for Mr Straw to rejoice to the committee that the BNP should beat anybody, and of dubious relevance to the case.

Chief among the essential documents are Tashkent telegram number 63 of 22 July 2004, and the FCO’s reply to it, plus the further response from Tashkent. The FCO reply contains reference to ‘a series of meetings’. The Committee might wish to see the minutes of that series of meetings.

I believe that for the Committee to reach the truth of the question of British use of torture material, it is essential to see the minute of the meeting held on the specific subject of torture intelligence in the office of Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe. I was summoned back to London for this meeting. I believe the date was 7 March 2003, but I might be a little out. It was the only meeting ever held between these four people. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, Matthew Kydd, Head of Whitehall Liaison Department, Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser and I, Ambassador to Tashkent. That meeting was minuted, and I have seen the minute which is held by Whitehall Liaison Department.

On 13 March 2003 Sir Michael Wood wrote a minute to Linda Duffield, copied to me, about part of the discussion at the meeting. I believe that this minute would also much interest the Committee.

I quite understand that the Committee cannot simply take my word when it is called into question by the Secretary of State. That is why I believe it is essential that the documentary evidence is made available to the committee.

I should be very grateful if you could pass copies of this email to all members of the committee. If you are precluded from doing this, I should be most grateful if you could tell me, so I may send copies directly. If a more formal means of communication is required, I should also be happy to oblige.

Craig Murray

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Germany defies EU’s Uzbek ban

From The Australian

MOSCOW: The man accused of leading the massacre of anti-government protesters in Uzbekistan in May is having cancer treatment in Germany, despite being barred last month from the EU.

German officials disclosed yesterday that Zakirjan Almatov, Uzbekistan’s Interior Minister, got a visa in October to undergo a lifesaving operation in Hanover.

Mr Almatov was in charge of security forces who fired on anti-government protesters in the eastern city of Andijan on May 13. The Government says that 187 people died, mostly Islamic militants, but witnesses say up to 500 unarmed civilians were killed.

The EU responded by announcing sanctions on Uzbekistan on October 3, including a visa ban on officials responsible for the bloodshed. It issued a list of 12 names, including Mr Almatov, this week.

EU and German officials said that he was granted a visa because the year-long ban was not in force at the time and allowed humanitarian exemptions.

But human rights activists expressed outrage that Germany, which has a military base in Uzbekistan, had made an exception for one of the ban’s main targets.

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said the decision was shameful and scandalous.

Mr Murray was recalled last year after accusing Britain and the US of toning down criticism of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan in exchange for the US military’s use of an airbase on its soil. He said he believed Germany was doing the same.

In July the US was asked to leave its base, a launchpad for its operations in Afghanistan, after joining EU calls for an inquiry into the violence.

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House Panel Probes Religious Freedom in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan

From USINFO.State.Gov

Absence of countries on list of worst offenders in State’s report questioned

By Jeffrey Thomas

Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – A congressional hearing examined the State Department’s annual report on religious freedom November 15, questioning the absence of the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan from the list of the worst violators.

The State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2005 November 8. The report ‘ the seventh in the annual series — examines religious freedom in 197 countries and what the United States is doing to improve the conditions for this central human right. The report is mandated by the U.S. Congress under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). (See related article.)

No country in Europe or Eurasia is listed in the report as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) — the category reserved for the worst offenders that engage in or tolerate gross infringements of religious freedom.

The 2005 report lists eight countries as CPCs: Burma, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, the People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam. The panel of witnesses at the hearing November 15 agreed these countries were gross violators of religious freedom and urged greater U.S. efforts on behalf of those who are suffering for their faith.

Although Uzbekistan was not on that list, it was cited in the report for ongoing serious abuses of religious freedom.

The report cited Turkmenistan as one of two Eurasian countries (along with Georgia) in which the conditions for religious freedom have continued to improve over the past year. (See related article.)

CONCERNS RAISED OVER REPORT’S TREATMENT OF UZBEKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN

At the hearing, Committee Chairman Christopher Smith said he considers Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to be among those countries ‘where the rights of believers are seriously threatened.’

John Hanford, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, testified first at the hearing, providing the committee with a summary of the report.

The United States continues to engage a number of additional countries on serious violations of religious freedom, he said, citing Uzbekistan as an example. After recounting some of the mistreatment and abuses in Uzbekistan, he added: ‘We are continuing engagement with the government to encourage respect for religious freedom for all groups.’

Hanford also noted ‘positive developments’ in Turkmenistan, including the release of a number of political prisoners and the first-ever roundtable involving government officials with representatives of religious minorities. ‘Nevertheless, serious problems remain,’ he said.

Hanford said the report is ‘always going to miss things and we always welcome criticism ‘ and try to respond to those criticisms.’

‘We’re there to be a ‘gold standard’ on the facts,’ he said of the annual report.

He wanted to make clear, he said, ‘that we are in final CPC negotiations on one or two fronts. We anticipate making an additional CPC announcement in the near future.’

U.S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WEIGHS IN

Michael Cromartie, the chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the commission stands by its recent call for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to be ranked among the worst offenders against religious freedom in the world. (See related article.)

The commission also was established by IRFA. The law charges the commission with monitoring the status of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief globally and making recommendations to the president, the secretary of state and Congress as to how the U.S. government better can protect and promote religious freedom and related human rights in its relations with other countries.

‘The omission of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan from the CPC list is particularly troubling and a discredit to Congress’s intent in passing IRFA,’ said Cromartie.

‘Turkmenistan, among the most repressive states in the world today, allows virtually no independent religious activity,’ he continued. ‘The government of Uzbekistan places strict restrictions on religious practice and continues to crack down harshly on individuals and groups that operate outside of government-controlled religious organizations.’

‘The ambassador-at-large [John Hanford] and the State Department have for years attempted to engage the governments of these two countries in an effort to seek improvements. However, the response has been extremely limited. In the face of the severe religious freedom violations perpetrated by the Turkmen and Uzbek governments, the continued failure to name them as CPCs undermines the spirit and letter of IRFA.’

Cromartie took particular issue with the annual report on Turkmenistan containing the ‘startling claim that the status of religious freedom improved during the period covered by this report. Even more disturbing is that Turkmenistan is listed in the Executive Summary as one of the countries which has seen significant improvements in the promotion of religious freedom.’

‘This conclusion is regarded as erroneous not only by the commission but by most human rights organizations and other observers of Turkmenistan,’ he said.

A coalition of nine human-rights groups submitted a joint statement supporting Cromartie’s concerns, calling the evidence of severe and widespread violations of religious freedom in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan ‘overwhelming,’ and providing detailed criticism of the annual reports on the two countries.

Another witness, Lawrence Uzzell from the nongovernmental organization International Religious Freedom Watch, added his voice to the criticism of the sections on Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Uzzell suggested that U.S. diplomats ‘fall into the trap of paying too little attention to indigenous minorities, even if those minorities may be suffering harsher repression than American missions and missionaries.’

The problem is not, Uzzell said, that the report has too many references to such U.S.-based groups as the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘The problem is that the report gives too little attention to other groups.’

The prepared statements of all the witnesses at the hearing as well as a webcast of the hearing itself are available at the Web site of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations.

The full text of the 2005 report and previous reports are available on the State Department Web site.

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