Kyrgyz gov’t rounding up Uzbek community leaders

Ethnic persecution of Uzbek communities in Kyrgyzstan continues, according to the Times:

Dozens of Uzbek community, religious and political leaders have been arrested recently by the local police and accused of inciting ethnic violence, rights groups say.

They were detained as part of an investigation into the unrest that raged through ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods here last month in which thousands of people, most of them Uzbeks, were thought to have died. The investigation itself, which was authorized by the government of Kyrgyzstan’s interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, has been turned into a campaign of persecution against ethnic Uzbek political and religious leaders, human rights groups say.
The arrests are based on a section of the Kyrgyz criminal code that bans inciting ethnic hatred, after the ethnic Uzbek leaders accused the police and army of instigating and in some cases participating in the original violence. “We are concerned that most of the arrests seem to be targeted against the Uzbek communities,” said Ole Solvang, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who documented what he called unjustified detentions of Uzbeks, in a telephone interview. “The government has to investigate, detain and prosecute all violators, and not just members of one ethnic group.”
Valentina A. Gritsenko, director of a local human rights group, Justice, confirmed in a telephone interview that several of the Uzbek leaders who made public allegations of police or military complicity in the ethnic violence had been arrested.

Azimzhan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek and the director of a human rights group in the town of Bazar-Kurgan, was arrested on this charge, according to his lawyer, Nurbek Toktokunov, who said Mr. Askarov had bruises on his back suggesting he had been tortured in custody.

This week, Front Line, a Dublin-based group monitoring mistreatment of human rights workers, said two activists in southern Kyrgyzstan documenting the causes of the violence were interrogated by the police and later approached on a street in Osh by unidentified men and threatened.

Various people interviewed agreed with suggestions (that I’ve mentioned previously) that they won’t feel secure as long as they’re at the mercy of the domestic Kyrgyz police and military and would prefer an international security force.

The Kyrgyzstani military and police are dominated by ethnically Kyrgyz members and were involved in the violent attacks against Uzbek civilians in southern Kyrgyzstan — near the border with Uzbekistan — several weeks ago. It’s also unclear how much control they’ve taken over the interim government, but it seems the civilian authorities aren’t in charge to the degree they claim.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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