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Uzbekistan: Activists Still Lobbying For Justice On Andijon


A portrait of President Karimov hangs over an Andijon street on May 17, 2005 (epa) It has been one year since Uzbek government troops gunned down hundreds of unarmed protesters in the city of Andijon. But, the pressure group Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted today, no one has yet been held accountable for the crime. The organization is joining forces with other rights groups to urge the international community to do more to ensure justice for victims of the May 13, 2005, massacre.


MOSCOW, May 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Human rights campaigners around the world say they are disappointed with the international response to the Andijon tragedy.


In a report released today, HRW blames the international community for failing to compel the Uzbek authorities do bring the perpetrators to justice.


Allison Gill until recently headed HRW's Uzbek office, and she is now the director of HRW's Moscow branch.


Speaking to a press conference in Moscow today, she lamented what she described as "the stunning lack of accountability" for the Andijon massacre and called for fresh sanctions on Uzbek authorities.

"Amnesty International once more would like to draw the international community's attention to the fact that the Uzbek authorities are using the bloody Andijon events as a pretext to crush freedom of expression in the country." Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International, Russia

"We are calling on the European Union, the United States, Russia, and other allies of Uzbekistan to continue calls for accountability," Gill said. "This includes calling on the Uzbek regime to immediately stop the persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and members of the opposition, to free human rights defenders imprisoned after the Andijon events."


A Call For More Sanctions


She also called on the international community to impose further sanctions on the Uzbek government.


In November 2005, the European Union imposed an arms embargo on Uzbekistan and a visa ban on 12 high-ranking Uzbek officials. The United States, however, has yet to follow suit, although some members of the U.S. Congress have drafted legislation that would do so.


HRW today urged Western countries to extend the visa ban to Uzbek President Islam Karimov, as well as the country's prosecutor-general, justice minister, and other high-ranking officials. HRW also recommended freezing the foreign bank accounts of those subjected to the visa ban.


The organization blamed countries such as Germany for undermining international pressure on Uzbekistan by breaching some of the sanctions. In November 2005, Uzbekistan's Interior Minister Zokir Almatov, who tops the visa ban list, traveled to Germany for medical treatment. In December, the German government announced it had earmarked 19 million euros ($24.3 million) in direct aid to the Uzbek government.


Human rights activists also urged the international community not to close its eyes to the crackdown on human rights defenders, independent journalists, and civil-society institutions since the Andijon events.


Crackdown In Uzbekistan


"Amnesty International once more would like to draw the international community's attention to the fact that the Uzbek authorities are using the bloody Andijon events as a pretext to crush freedom of expression in the country," said Sergei Nikitin, the director of Amnesty International in Russia. "Amnesty International calls on the international community not to close its eyes on the unending torture and murders that continue to be committed today in Uzbekistan."


Nikitin called for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into the massacre.


Sergei Nikitin (left) and Allison Gill at the May 11 Moscow press conference (RFE/RL)

Speakers at the press conference also condemned Russia for consistently supporting Karimov's claims that the Andijon violence was provoked by terrorists.


Referring to the Andijon events, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Uzbek counterpart at a Kremlin meeting in June 2005 that Russia was "satisfied that the situation has successfully been brought under control."


Vitaly Ponomaryov, who runs the Central Asian program at the Russian rights organization Memorial, told today's press conference that Russia and other CIS countries continue to illegally deport Uzbek nationals accused by their government of involvement in the Andijon protest.


Pointing The Finger At Russia


"The special services of these countries -- I am referring to Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and, recently, Ukraine -- often use illegal methods in their cooperation with Karimov's regime," Ponomaryov said. "Refugees are sold, abducted, extraditions are carried out under cover of administrative deportations, although what awaits these people in Uzbekistan is well known. This breaches the international obligations of these countries."


Russia, however, seems unlikely to respond to such accusations.


Putin's press service announced today that the president had ratified a partnership agreement between Russian and Uzbekistan aimed at cementing political, security, and economic ties between the two countries.

Andijon Anniversary Conference

Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan, on May 14, 2005 (epa)

TALKING ABOUT ANDIJON: On May 9, 2006, RFE/RL, the National Endowment for Democracy, and U.S.-based human rights organizations cohosted a conference on the May 2005 events in Andijon and their aftermath in Uzbekistan and throughout the region. The first panel featured Andijon eyewitness GALIMA BUKHARBAEVA, National Endowment for Democracy Fellow NOZIMA KAMALOVA, RFE/RL Central Asia analyst DANIEL KIMMAGE, and others. The second panel featured presentations by U.S. Senator JOHN MCCAIN and U.S. Congressman CHRISTOPHER SMITH, who used the forum to announce they had introduced legislation calling for sanctions and other measures against the government of President Islam Karimov.


LISTEN

Listen to the Andijon conference.
Part One (70 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media
Part Two (60 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media
The Uzbek government's response:
Real Audio Windows Media


THE COMPLETE STORY: A dedicated webpage bringing together all of RFE/RL's coverage of the events in Andijon, Uzbekistan, in May 2005 and their continuing repercussions.


CHRONOLOGY

For an annotated timeline of the Andijon events and their repercussions, click here.

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