The Third Degree

by Nathan Hamm on 8/6/2004 · 3 comments

While I don’t necessarily agree with the use of the term “witch-hunt” and the conclusion that the details of the story indicate that authorities are using last week’s bombings to crush all dissent, this is worth a read.

All officials and employees of organizations, ministries, and departments located in central Tashkent are expected to provide complete information on themselves and their families including profession and social standing, current job and address, trips abroad, previous troubles with the law, etc. Strange though it may appear, journalists of absolutely all newspapers regardless of what they specialize in are among the first from whom the information is expected. Judging by the latest developments sparked by the recent explosions, Uzbek law enforcement agencies have no idea of organized the terrorist acts and therefore resort to traditional means of investigation (comb everybody in the hope of catching the criminal).

Don’t attribute evil where incompetence suffices as an explanation.

If you want to know why I think this, check out this story from Bukhara in 2001. I may or may not have mentioned it, but, I was accused of potential involvement in this crime as were a few other Peace Corps Volunteers in Navoi by some employees of Project Hope. The authorities didn’t take it seriously at all, they were just wondering why this agency was using the internet so much and the doctors suggested that maybe the Americans knew something about the murders in Bukhara. A PCV serving in Bukhara at the university where one of the suspects worked was brought in by the director and given the third degree. He was asked a laundry list of very specific questions about his past and where he lived and what he did in America.

I still don’t quite buy the official explanation for the murder in part because all public discussion of it was banned after it had been “solved.” However, I think it’s a good reminder that, in a place where the authorities have a whole lot of power but are sorely lacking in investigative abilities, the net is dragged pretty wide because of the lack of knowledge and incompetence, not necessarily because the investigation is being used as a pretext for repression.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Laurence August 6, 2004 at 12:34 pm

Well, Bush asked Karimov to back off after the first bombings, so he did. Then the US cut off aid. If Uzbekistan is now going back to Soviet methods to combat terrorism, should we really be surprised?

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