CSCE, UK Embassy Respond (and US now too)

by Nathan Hamm on 5/13/2005

The FCO has released a statement saying the things that diplomatic statements usually say.

The US Helsinki Commission has issued a press release, though it really is more of a Senator Sam Brownback and Representative Chris Smith press release. Yes, the Congressmen are Chairman and Co-Chairman of the commission respectively, but it’s worth mentioning that each of them usually have something to say about Central Asian affairs.

Smith, in my opinion, loses some credibility because he’s been very active on behalf of one Mansur Maqsudi, the ex-husband of President Karimov’s daughter, Gulnora Karimova.

Brownback has a Central Asia webpage on his Senate site and has called for accelerated democratic change.

That’s not to say that the press release is really wrong in any way. Perhaps they’ll try to draft some legislation. As long as they doesn’t seek to make an issue out of child custody cases or try to put any carts before horses, their attention may give US policy a kick in the pants.

UPDATE: The US has responded. RFE/RL coverage in the extended entry.

U.S. Urges Restraint In Uzbekistan
By Andrew Tully

Washington, 13 May 2005 (RFE/RL) — The United States was quick to express concern about today’s violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon. Spokesmen for both the White House and the State Department urged protesters and the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov to exercise restraint. But both also expressed concern that members of a terrorist group were among those released during the unrest.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said bloodshed caused by either side is not the solution to the crisis.

“We urge both the government and the demonstrators to exercise restraint at this time,” he said. “The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government, but that should come through peaceful means, not through violence.”

That violence began in Andijon overnight, when supporters of a group of men jailed on Islamist extremism charges stormed the prison where they were being held.

Hundreds of prisoners were released, and authorities said nine protesters and police were killed in the clashes that followed.

More people were feared to have been killed later, when security forces opened fire on a square where thousands of protesters had gathered.

It’s not just the violence the U.S. is expressing concern about. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there is another worry — that among those freed in the jailbreak were members of an Islamist group designated terrorist by Washington.

“While we have been very consistently critical of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, we are very concerned about the outbreak of violence in Andijon, in particular the escape of prisoners, including possibly members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organization we consider a terrorist organization,” he said.

Uzbekistan was among the first countries to offer support to the American military in what U.S. President George W. Bush calls the “war on terror.”

But Washington has continued to criticize Tashkent’s human rights record in the annual report issued by the State Department.

Boucher pointed to that criticism today: “Read our human rights report, it came out two months ago. We’ve been very clear about the human rights situation there. We’ve been very factual about it, but unfortunately the facts are not pretty.”

Boucher, like McClellan, expressed concern about the bloodshed and the release of prisoners, and he, too, urged both sides to show restraint:

“We think everybody should be doing everything they can to avoid violence, to calm down the situation and to deal with these differences peacefully.”

He said the American embassy in Tashkent has been expressing that view to Karimov’s government since the trouble began.

In Brussels, the European Union today blamed the conflict in Andijon on Karimov’s government. It said it had not paid what it called “sufficient attention” to the country’s problems with human rights, the rule of law, and poverty.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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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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