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Events in Andijan: Will international scrutiny get to the bottom of what happened?
HITS: 2222 | 24-08-2005, 23:28 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
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Demands for an “independent international inquiry” into the events in Andijan came thick and fast after 13th May. Getting reliable information was clearly difficult and yet providing a clear account of what happened would certainly help any peaceful settlement of the dispute. Nonetheless, the loudest voices calling for such an “independent international inquiry” have form. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has hardly encouraged openness about his own country’s role in imprisoning suspected terrorists or their treatment in US custody. The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Louise Arbour, was the Prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague, whose Canadian citizenship did not recuse her from charging Slobodan Milosevic with genocide when country Canada was participating in a war with his. The perception of Western hypocrisy is as important as the reality of any faults in the West’s treatment of suspects of terrorism or “rogue regimes”.
Louise Arbour’s response after the so-called Racak Massacre in Kosovo in January, 1999, helped to inflame the situation leading to war between NATO and Yugoslavia after 23rd March, 1999. Maybe she learnt something from her role in kindling the Balkan tinderbox to be less inflammatory in her approach to Tashkent than Belgrade six years ago. Mrs. Arbour told the BBC that the diplomats’ visit was "not a substitute for a professional international fact-finding mission which can proceed with some independence". But she reacted with caution to suggestions that the civilian death toll in Andijan could have reached 1,000: "At this point I have no independent access to information that’s precisely why I think we have to continue to press for a credible professional form of intervention"[1]
Mrs Arbour did call for an investigation of the US forces’ conduct in the siege and recapture of Fallujah on 17th November, 2004, but her ardour for pursuing that case seems to have waned. Maybe her concern about Andijan will go the same way.[2] Fallujah was a similarly sized city to Andijan, each having populations of 300,000. The US general in charge of recapturing Fallujah in November, 2004, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that his forces killed 2,000 insurgents in the process. No mention was made of civilian casualties.[3]
Proponents of the Kosovo War as the model of humanitarian intervention are more aggressive in their vocabulary and seem to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the mess created by the Kosovo War. First of all the critics of the Bush Administration’s alleged hypocrisy overlook the reality that it is precisely that team which makes and implements American policy for the foreseeable future. If you doubt their ethics, why trust them to do the right thing in Central Asia. Secondly, NATO officials have made demands for international inspections which echo the strategy employed before both the Kosovo War (1999) and the Iraq War (2003) – demand concessions, when the opponent makes concessions, demand more concessions.[4]
The United States does not always play the lead role. Often Britain is allocated the task of leading a charge – as over Kosovo six years ago when Tony Blair appeared to make much of the running against Milosevic’s government.
Fresh from his election victory over Britain’s “dissident” former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray who split the Muslim vote in Jack Straw’s strongly minority seat in Blackburn, the Foreign Secretary became the West’s lead critic of President Karimov. A few days after the Andijan events, Mr. Straw spoke at Washington’s CSIS. He was offered the Center’s traditional gift to visitors – a peace pipe – but neither his hosts nor the Foreign Secretary were in conciliatory mood. Straw managed to confuse his Central Asian “stans” in a Freudian warning to President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan rather than Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, declaring “We have to continue to support new freedoms in countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan [!] … and we need to see action urgently to address the appalling events in Uzbekistan. I therefore call on President Karimov to agree to full and immediate access to Andijon for non-governmental organisations, for international agencies and diplomats on the ground. And I call now for an independent international inquiry to find out why the killings happened, the full nature of the killings and who was responsible. That means a credible and transparent investigation.”
At CSIS Straw put no gulf between Britain, the rest of the EU and the United States. “… We have interests in Uzbekistan in terms of their strategic position and we’re perfectly open about that…” but that did not hinder the Western Allies having an agenda to change Uzbekistan. Straw made clear that Britain “indeed the whole of the European Union as well as I think the United States believes that we are in a greater position to achieve change in Uzbekistan if we are there arguing for it…”[5]
The CSIS is the think-tank home of geopolitician, Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose interests in Central Asian geopolitics and oil need no rehearsing here. His nephew, Mark, made clear the family’s interpretation of the events in Uzbekistan when he described Andijan as “a site where something very horrific happened” and blamed the Uzbek authorities. [6]
Any doubts that official Washington was moving towards isolating and undermining the Karimov regime were removed at the end of may when three US senators, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Sununu, all veteran proponents of “regime-change” elsewhere in the former Communist bloc descended on Uzbekistan to investigate what happened in the style of a Senate inquiry, i.e. denounce the guilty and then check for evidence.
Senator John McCain’s view of the need for an inquiry “or else” reflected an Alice-in-Wonderland view that more research was needed to confirm the verdict which he had already announced: “"We are concerned about the events in Uzbekistan and we will insist that the OSCE should carry out an investigation into the crime which was committed there (in Uzbekistan) and was accompanied by mass killings," Senator John McCain, who is heading a delegation of US congressmen visiting Central Asian republics, told a news conference in Bishkek” on 30th May.
“If President Islom Karimov continues these actions and the authorities impede carrying out an independent investigation, including one with the OSCE's involvement, then the USA should take respective measures," McCain said.
The senator also said that "at present it is early to say what these steps will be". "First, it is necessary to know the Uzbek government's position but it is inadmissible for the Uzbek government to shoot civilians," he said.
"I cannot speak about those actions that may be taken by the US government but the US Congress might revise its relations with this country,” McCain told the Bishkek press conference, but since he has been a lead attack-dog in past regime change offensives, the senator was probably too reticent in suggesting that he doesn’t know which way Washington’s policy is headed. [7]
This sort of belligerent demand for an independent inquiry to reinforce a verdict already reached was based on the idea that the three-hour long visit of various ambassadors to Andijan on 19th May was too brief. Maybe they were prevented from meeting ordinary people or seeing every site they wanted to inspect and a longer visit would have helped clarify matters. What happened as a result of the brevity of the visit was that journalists like Jonathan Miller of Channel 4 News could report that “eyewitnesses say troops turned into death squads” but did not meet the diplomats. Threats to their security were cited by Uzbek authorities as reasons for not allowing the diplomats to stray: “Some of those freed in the jail break which kicked off the rebellion were still on the loose… The whole tour last two hours.” They saw where policemen were held hostage and beaten. Interestingly enough the authorities had not cleaned up the government building and allowed the humiliation of a portrait of President Karimov left lying on the floor to be filmed. But reporters complained the diplomats were “not taken to the school compound where eyewitnesses told C4 that men,. Women and children were shot down like rabbits.”[8]
There was some confusion about whether a school was used to house corpses of those killed on 13th May or whether as Brian Hanrahan told BBC News 24 viewers that the delegation in Andijan “complained they weren’t allowed to see the school where witnesses say hundreds where shot down”![9] However, President Karimov himself has insisted that UN and OSCE offices in Tashkent have the facilities and personnel to investigate and may do so: “I have been repeatedly asking the UN and the OSCE representatives who are here, I would not name names, you know them well, tell me who is restricting you? Who is restricting your access to information? You have the right to ask questions from any person who live in Uzbekistan. You can even put questions even to those who have suffered, who is not pleased with the results of all this, or even he is in aggressive mood. Talk to them. Talk to anyone you like. But who is restricting your work? What are you here for? Why should I organize a trip for you and take you there? And you do not want to go there on your own. Why? Under such circumstances everyone rushes to visit the place, in order, it is your duty to see everything for yourself, to write everything down, film and send them to your initiators who so persistently insist on setting an independent commission. Who is impeding you? Who is impeding you to carry out your duties here? You are here for this as representative missions of the UN and the OSCE.”[10] This would suggest that Tashkent thinks that the local international representatives have been reluctant to find out for themselves what happened. It certainly raises questions as to whether the OSCE is acting as it did in Kosovo in 1998-99 as a factor in escalating a crisis by one-sided activities.

[1] See “UN rights chief steps up pressure for Uzbekistan probe” thenews/may2005-daily/21-05-2005/world/w1.htm,
[2] For Madame Arbour’s demands re. Fallujah see as well as the sensitive blogs added to the report,
[3] As told on Wolf Blitzer’s Memorial Day tribute to US forces in Iraq, “Behind the Lines” (CNN International, 10.10am, 30th May, 2005),
[4] For the demands, see NATO’s new media friend Al-Jazeera: NR/ exeres/554FAF3A-B267-427A-B9EC-54881BDE0A2E.htm?printguid={0851F37D-CAED-4F7B-8CE9-A4381E85FE5C},
[5] See the CSIS transcript of Straw’s remarks and answers to questions on 18th May, 2005, @,
[6] Channel 4 News carried Straw’s comments (7pm, 18th May, 2005). Mark Brzezinski spoke on BBC News 24 (7.19pm, 18th May, 2005). See Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard. American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York, 1998). A former US Marine and commentator on Uzbek-US relations, the evangelical Christian activist, Chris Seiple, linked Halford Mackinder’s century-old geopolitical interests in Central Asia’s “pivotal” role in world affairs with current events in his paper for the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, “Heartland politics and the Case of Uzbekistan” @ mackinderuzbekistan.html. Seiple is also author of The US Military/NGO Relationship in Humanitarian Intervention (US Army Peacekeeping Institue: Carlile, Penn., 2004),
[7] See BBC Monitoring’s report from Interfax news agency, Moscow, in Russian (1151 gmt, 30 May, 2005,
[8] Re-broadcast on CNN (5.10pm 19th May, 2005),
[9] 9pm News, BBC News 24 (18th May, 2005),
[10] See his interview on the eve of his departure for China, Uzbek Radio first programme, Tashkent, in Uzbek 1100 gmt 25 May 05 as monitored by the BBC.



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