Daily archives: March 23, 2006

Saving Central Asia from Uzbekistan

By Chris Patten in the International Herald Tribune

To the list of the world’s most self-destructively repressive regimes we should add one name that is too often overlooked: Uzbekistan. Like North Korea or Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan suffers under a brutal authoritarian system that not only impoverishes and commits massive abuses against its own citizens, but also threatens to spread violent instability to its neighbors.

The international community needs to develop new strategies to prepare for such a potential meltdown in Central Asia. True, Uzbekistan represents no direct security threat to Europe or the United States, and the government in Tashkent is not at risk of imminent collapse.

But when the regime does snap in the medium to long term, this will have a significant impact on Western interests. It could, for example, prompt an aggressive Russian intervention in the region and stimulate the undercurrents of Islamist extremism that so far have been more of an irritant than a major threat.

Never a shining light of freedom since the former Soviet republic became independent in 1991, Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov has grown increasingly authoritarian. This process accelerated on May 13, 2005, when state security forces opened fire on a demonstration of mostly unarmed protesters in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon, killing hundreds. That massacre sparked a new surge of state repression against the survivors and their families, and Tashkent has been pressuring neighboring states to hand over refugees.


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Human Rights Watch: Do Not Close U.N. Refugee Office

From HRW

(New York, March 21, 2006) ‘ The Uzbek government’s closure of the U.N. refugee agency in Tashkent will deprive refugees in Uzbekistan of international protection and set a terrible precedent, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the Uzbek government to reverse its decision.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated yesterday that on March 17, the Foreign Ministry ordered it to close its office in Uzbekistan within one month, claiming that UNHCR was no longer needed in the country.

‘Uzbekistan is one of the few countries ever to kick out UNHCR,’ said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. ‘If a government can get away with expelling UNHCR every time it objects to the agency assisting its nationals abroad, the international refugee protection regime will fall apart.’


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The rendition row: history and hypocrisy

‘This illustrates how dangerously out of touch the US State Department is with most of Western opinion’ Andrew Tyrie, chairman of Britain’s all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary renditions

By Hannah Strange in London for ISN Security Watch (22/03/06)

As Europe probes allegations that US intelligence flights involved in renditions of terror suspects passed through its territory, Washington is moving to bolster the case for the practice, which it insists is an essential tool in the fight against terrorism.

The policy of extraordinary rendition – under which individuals suspected of terrorism are transferred to detention facilities abroad – has been denounced by critics as immoral, uncivilized, and counterproductive. But the US administration is now attacking what it calls the ‘recharacterization’ of the policy, which it says was for decades widely regarded as an acceptable, and even heroic practice.

Renditions were ‘an important tool for all countries in fighting terrorism’, a senior US State Department official told ISN Security Watch earlier this month. It had been practiced ‘for many decades, by many countries’, and until its recent recharacterization had been an ‘accepted practice and not a dirty word’, he said.

‘The purpose of rendition is not to send people where they could be tortured,’ he said. ‘It is to ensure that people who are wanted for terrorist acts around the world are brought to justice.’

The practice had been reviewed and upheld by the European Court of Human Rights, he said, specifically in the case of Carlos the Jackal, a terrorist captured in Sudan in 1994 and rendered back to France, where he is now imprisoned. It used to be that finding terror suspects and bringing them to justice ‘was a heroic thing to do [‘] people were applauding this’, he continued.

Asked why terror suspects would be transferred abroad for interrogation if it was not to evade human rights protections, the official said that in the majority of cases, renditions took place because an individual captured in one country was wanted by another country. ‘What happens is, all intelligence agencies around the world share information with each other and cooperate with each other,’ he said.


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