Failure to deliver justice for the killing, rape and torture of civilians could lead to further clashes in Kyrgyzstan, Amnesty International warned today (8 June) ahead of the first anniversary of the violence that shook southern parts of Kyrgyzstan.
Four days of violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the Osh and Jalal-Abad areas between 10-14 June last year left about 470 people dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. According to local observers, around three-quarters (74%) of those killed were Uzbek and a quarter Kyrgyz. Satellite imagery showed that in Osh alone 1,807 buildings were totally destroyed.
Around 20 cases of rape and other sexual violence have been documented during the violence but human rights monitors believe the real number is much higher. Many of the victims were Uzbek women and girls and the perpetrators mostly Kyrgyz men.
One year on, Amnesty’s “Still waiting for justice” briefing calls on the Kyrgyzstani authorities to establish the truth about what happened and provide justice for the thousands of victims and their families.
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth said:
“The failure to bring to justice those behind the violence could provide fertile soil for the seeds of future turmoil and future human rights violations.
“Ethnic bias and corruption are behind the pervading impunity in Kyrgyzstan.
“Thousands of open cases relating to last June’s violence are waiting completion. In the meantime, hundreds, if not thousands, of officials and civilians, ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbek, are escaping accountability for their crimes.
“The rule of law must be upheld in order to rebuild the trust between the ethnic groups and prevent future bloodshed. All crimes, including crimes against humanity, must be investigated and tried in fair proceedings.”
In the aftermath of the violence, Kyrgyzstani security forces used excessive force in their search operations and tortured or ill-treated detainees, Amnesty’s report found.
Despite three-quarters of casualties being ethnic Uzbeks, a group that also sustained 90% of property losses, most of the people arrested have been ethnic Uzbek. According to official figures, of the 271 arrested 230 were ethnic Uzbek and only 29 ethnic Kyrgyz (only two ethnic Kyrgyz have been convicted of a serious criminal offence).
Following unfair trials, during which allegations of forced confessions were not investigated, defence witnesses were not interviewed and lawyers were threatened and physically attacked, courts have handed down at least 27 life sentences, all of them against ethnic Uzbeks.
An International Commission of Inquiry into the violence found there was strong evidence of widespread, systematic and coordinated offences against ethnic Uzbeks that would amount to crimes against humanity if proven in court. Subsequent investigations and prosecutions were flawed and ethnically biased, the International Commission’s May 2011 report found. It concluded that torture of detainees in connection with the violence had been “almost universal”.
Early on 21 June 2010 security forces entered the Uzbek village of Nariman in Osh region allegedly to dismantle barricades that had been erected, arrest suspects, and seize weapons. However, victims and human rights organisations reported that security officers beat people with rifle butts and destroyed personal documents during house searches. One man was shot and died on the way to hospital, another was beaten to death and many more were injured. No members of the security forces were prosecuted for human rights violations committed during the Nariman raid.
Azmizhan Askarov case
Azimzhan Askarov, a prominent human rights defender, and seven others, all ethnic Uzbeks, were accused of the murnd outside the courtroom. Defence lawyers were not given the opportunder of an ethnic Kyrgyz police officer during the violence in Bazar-Korgan. In September 2010, their trial was marred by repeated acts of violence against Askarov’s relatives, lawyers and co-defendants both inside aity to question witnesses, submit petitions, or call defence witnesses as the authorities were not able to guarantee their safety.
The defendants denied the charges, maintained they had been forced to confess under duress. Their allegations were not investigated and five of them, including Askarov, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Amnesty considers Azimzhan Askarov a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
Death of Makhkam Naraeva
In August 2010 in Jalal-Abad, Nasiba’s Narbaeva’s husband Makhkam was abducted from his home at night by three masked men and later killed. Nasiba, who witnessed the abduction, was threatened, bound and gagged by the intruders, whom she identified as ethnic Kyrgyz.
Following her husband’s murder, Nasiba, an ethnic Uzbek, was repeatedly questioning by local police who subjected her to ethnic insults, called her a prostitute and accused her of organising her husband’s murder. She reports being beaten, bound to a chair and having her hijab forcibly removed. When she refused to sign a confession implicating herself and a young male Uzbek relative in the killing, she alleges that police officers threatened to rape and kill her. Nasiba finally signed a confession and later fled the country. Her relative and another person were detained, allegedly tortured, given an unfair trial and sentenced to long prison terms.