She Was Only A Dictator’s Daughter 26

The inordinately stupid Lola Karimova has just lost a libel case against a French newspaper for calling her a “Dictator’s daughter”. The French court decided that her father, Islam Karimov, undeniably is dictator of Uzbekistan. As the OSCE has ruled all of Uzbekistan’s elections as sham, and as Uzbekistan features in every list of the world’s worst human rights abusers, the outcome of the trial was never in doubt. So why did Lola do it?

The answer is a misunderstanding of French, and western, society. In Uzbekistan there is absolutely no notion of judicial independence. Every case goes the way the government wants. Criminal cases in Uzbekistan, for example, have a conviction rate of over 99%.

European Union governments have been falling over themselves to fawn on Lola’s dictator father. Recently, for example, the European Council voted to increase tariff free access for Uzbek cotton to EU markets, despite the fact that millions of child slaves are used to hand pick that cotton. The situation is so notorious that Tesco, Walmart, Marks and Spencer and many other retailers boycott Uzbek cotton and have systems to check there is no Uzbek cotton fibre in their lines. Yet the EU governments accepted an incredible assurance from the EU Commission that there is no serious problem.

The Karimovs believed that if this kind of surreal denial of the facts was practised by EU governments, it would be practised by the French court as well. Fortunately they were wrong.

Most European governments are obsequious to Karimov because of their desire to get hold of Central Asian natural gas through the Nabucco pipeline scheme. For the British government, they will do anything Karimov says as long as he keeps the supply lines to NATO troops in Afghanistan open through the Northern Distribution Network. This year saw the first official visit by the Uzbek foreign minister to the UK – a visit conducted in total secrecy by the FCO to avoid human rights protest.

There is a very revealing recent interview here with Laurie Bristow,  a senior FCO official visiting Uzbekistan, in which he lists UK priorities for Uzbekistan and makes not one single mention of human rights, democracy, good governance, corruption or child slavery. It rather upsets me that this clueless disgrace is actually standing in my old office in this video!

But even worse is the British government’s failure to react to the Uzbek government’s conviction of a member of Embassy staff, Leonid Kudryavtsev. Leonid’s crime was organising meetings inside the Embassy with Uzbek human rights groups.

All Embassies have some local staff, and in British and most western embassies they are often engaged in quite sensitive work. They have no diplomatic immunity, and their position is legally rather anomalous. In practice they depend for protection on the prestige of the country which employs them and its willingness to make waves to protect them. If you read Murder in Samarkand there is a great deal about my local staff – Leonid is there under a false name – and certainly while I was Ambassador to Uzbekistan the Uzbek government did not dare touch them. I even was able to give effective protection to some human rights activists by giving them cards for honorary positions advising the Embassy. It worked.

Leonid Kudryavtsev was convicted for just doing his job inside the Embassy. What he was doing was also in itself a human right – organising meetings. The meetings were about human rights. But in Uzbekistan, any meeting involving NGOs to be lawful must have permission of government – which will of course never come. It will not be refused, but you just will not get the permission. It is impossible for genuine NGOs to operate in Uzbekistan (and indeed over 700 western NGOs have been banned, including every one you have ever heard of).

To apply such a law to meetings on Embassy premises and to the local staff of the Embassy is unheard of. I have consulted seven other former Ambassadors and we could not think of a case. But the FCO reaction to this attack on our Embassy in Uzbekistan is disgraceful. We are actually going to do nothing at all in retaliation. We are going to stop inviting human rights activists to the Embassy. A junior FCO minister had voiced “serious concern” adding – and this is the punchline – “They were also entirely in line with President Karimov’s expressed wish to create an improved awareness of human rights in Uzbekistan.”

This about the man whose opponents are regularly tortured to death and who has some 10,000 political prisoners, and profits massively from child slavery.

I honestly do not know how they can do it, which of course is why I am now unemployed and they have the chauffeur driven cars. But I really just cannot comprehend how people can do it. It is utterly sickening.

Is it any wonder that Lola believed the court would ignore reality, and rule her father is not a dictator?

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26 thoughts on “She Was Only A Dictator’s Daughter

  • YugoStiglitz

    How silly that the defendant might have had to prove that Karimov was a dictator. He’s a public figure. His daughter is a public figure. The legal inquiry should stop there. But perhaps I’m too American.

  • Jon

    Indeed Yugo – they should speed up much-vaunted libel reform.
    Craig, is this case known to Amnesty International? If they were to accept Leonid as a prisoner of conscience, they could ask for people to write in his defence. I should think if you were then also to publish contact details on your blog for the Uzbek ambassador to London, and for the prison where he is being held, some of your readers would write too. Might make a difference.

  • craig Post author

    Hi Jon,

    He has been fined US $1500 and released. But as a convicted political dissident, his life – and the lives of his family – will be hell now.

  • Wikispooks

    Thanks for the Laurie Bristow (FCO apparatchik) link.

    That is one smooth operator – Comes close to persuading me that he actually believes what he is saying.

    Quite scary really – the clarity of the real agenda

  • Clark

    Craig wrote: “I honestly do not know how they can do it”.
    The answer is in the video. Laurie Bristow repeatedly assumes that the objectives of governments are to benefit their people, through greater trade, security and stability. He completely overlooks that this is a matter of degree. The extent of that degree is determined by how much the members of these governments share the same environment as their people. In the UK, somewhat. In Uzbekistan, much less.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I agree completely, Yugostiglitz – and indeed, US law is far better and more sensible in this area of libel, etc. So, now, please would you share with us your views of President Karimov of Uzbekistan and his family. Thank you again.

  • mark_golding

    Suhayl – defamation law in the US is much less plaintiff friendly than UK libel/slander law unless the slander/libel is considered defamatory per se. Per se exist as 4 categories:
    (1)accusing someone of a crime; (2accusing someone of serious sexual misconduct; (3)alleging that someone has a foul or loathsome disease; (4)adversely reflecting on a person’s fitness to conduct their business or trade. All else is normally thrown out.

  • mark_golding

    Thus when Larry defames me by stating in public that I gain personally from COIA I can sue him on clause 4 which includes charitable work with a good chance of conviction..

  • Paul

    I really hope (but frankly it’s hope rather than expectation) that the FCO paid his $1500 fine and that he is now back at his post.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray,

    You protected not only UK Embassy staff or Human Right activist but also ordinary Uzbeks like myself. If you remember you accompanied me to the police station in ……. along with your brother Stewart (I believe). Because of you they (Uzbek police) let me go that day and you also gave me your personal phone number so that I could call you anytime which I did late night one day when they were going to take me to the questioning. I will not go into too much details in order not to reveal my identify to some readers of your web blog.

    As I stated in my feedback to your Brilliant book, UK Embassy is no longer a place which represents great democratic nation. It is now equal to all other western embassies which are in Uzbekistan to promote cooperation by shutting their eyes on Human Rights abuses that have actually intensified since 2004. It is with regret that one should understand that experiencing a ‘set-back’ with you FCO will now be very careful with appointing Embassy staff and sending anyone to Uzbekistan. So there is no surprise that current British envoy along with this senior FCO official turn their blind eye to every aspect of the values that by definition the embassy of the great democratic nation should be promoting.

    With regards to Lola’s actions I think that she just could not let it go. If she did not react in the way she did then it would have been silent agreement with the newspaper’s statement. She might have understood that her case would be lost but yet again she had to try. And you are also right that her actions were prompted partly by not understanding how real judicial system works.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Just to let you know that Uzbek Embassy in London employs one of the most bigoted staff ever known in diplomatic community. They treat Uzbek citizens in the UK the same as Uzbek authorities do back in Uzbekistan. Those Uzbeks who require consular assistance in London had to go through 7 levels of hell in order to get just an advise and had to wait for months for the papers and stamps that take just minutes to produce.

    Thus, emailing or mailing Uzbek Ambassador in London does not make any sense. I bet 100% that any correspondence will be destroyed and no actions will be taken in order to resolve an issue.

    Other and more viable option is to contact your local MP and ask them to raise this issue (probably through FCO) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan and here is there web site Uzbek Ministry will at least respond to the formal enquiry (hopefully).

  • Suhayl Saadi

    ‘Waiting for Yugostiglitz’: a new play off-Broadway. In relation to President Islam Karimov and his family, why the reticence, Yugostiglitz? We all are puzzled. Please explain. Thank you.

  • YugoStiglitz

    For the record, I do think that there are a number of areas where UK society is preferable to American society. Incarceration rates and religiosity immediately come to mind.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “For the record, I do think that there are a number of areas where UK society is preferable to American society. Incarceration rates and religiosity immediately come to mind.” Yugostiglitz

    Thank you, Yugostiglitz. I would agree, though no room for complacency wrt the UK situation, as the prisons here are overflowing. We do tea better as well, btw (though I do miss proper, quality ice-tea and iced coffee, which are difficult to get in the UK!). Have you see the film, ‘Paul’, about Brits travelling around the US accompanied by an alien? It’s really funny in these regards.
    But you haven’t answered my very simple question about your views on the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov and his family. What do you think of the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov and his family?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thank you, Yugostiglitz, I do really appreciate you providing us here on this excellent blog with that opinion, with which I fully concur. Good on you.

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