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OSCE Votes To Deploy International Advisory Police In Southern Kyrgyzstan

  • RFE/RL

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has agreed to "deploy without delay" a police advisory group to southern Kyrgyzstan.

The police advisory group will assist the Central Asian country in reducing interethnic tensions and strengthening the capacities of Kyrgyzstan's regional police forces, according to OSCE spokeswoman Virginie Coulloudon.

The approximately 50-strong team of police officers will assist Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies' efforts in restoring public confidence among communities, Coulloudon added.

"These police officers will not be armed, they will not have an executive police mandate, [for instance] they will not arrest people," she said. "They are here to train and to help the Kyrgyz police forces."

The OSCE Permanent Council will ask its all 56 member states to present names and resumes of the candidates for recruitment for the police advisory group. All participating countries have agreed to cooperate, Coulloudon said.

The deployment of the team is expected to begin within weeks. The group will remain in southern Kyrgyzstan until the end of December, at which time the possible extension of their deployment would be decided by the Permanent Council.

Ethnic Tensions Remain

The decision comes as the mayor of the southern city of Osh, Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov told RFE/RL that "most of the people of this city are against" deploying such a police force.

Myrzakmatov denies that local law enforcement bodies have abused detainees following the outbreak of interethnic violence last month.

Demonstrators in Osh are demanding that the government revise its approval of the international police force.

On July 21, a handful of protesters assembled in front of the OSCE's office in Bishkek to voice their opposition to claims by international rights groups that police are abusing minority ethnic Uzbeks.

In mid-June the southern Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad erupted in bloody interethnic violence that left more than 330 (335 according to the latest Health Ministry statistics) people dead and displaced some 400,000. Kyrgyz officials have indicated the death toll could be much higher.

Following the violence, tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks sought refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan and near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Many of the displaced and refugees have since returned to southern Kyrgyzstan.

Police Accused Of Abuses

Rights groups, notably Human Rights Watch (HRW), accuse Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies of arbitrary arrests and torture that primarily involves ethnic Uzbeks. In a report issued on July 14, the HRW said it has documented about 30 such cases.

At least one ethnic Uzbek has died in custody after being tortured, the HRW report said. The group has warned that "continued arbitrary arrests and widespread abuse, including torture, might further destabilize the already tense situation in southern Kyrgyzstan."

HRW had urged the OSCE to deploy an international police force to prevent further destabilization in the region.

Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva earlier agreed to the OSCE proposal to send the advisory police team to southern Kyrgyzstan. The plan was initially announced on July 16 at the OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague