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Kyrgyz State Commission Challenges HRW Report

Soldiers and policemen patrol in Osh. The recent Human Rights Watch report said Kyrgyz troops were partly responsible for the ethnic clashes.
BISHKEK -- Members of a Kyrgyz National Commission investigating the deadly ethnic clashes in the southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad in June have challenged the findings of a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the unrest between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The report released on August 16 stated that Kyrgyz government forces were partially responsible for the unrest, saying some had helped facilitate attacks on ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods.

But Commission Chairman Abdygany Erkebaev said at a press conference in Bishkek today that not everything in the HRW report is accurate.

"One of the commission's major tasks was to find why and how some arms and ammunition appeared in civilians' hands,” Erkebaev said. “Here we have to say openly that some military units, their commanders, and Interior Affairs officers are accountable for that.”

“The arms were distributed [among civilians]. As the crowds found arms in their hands, the situation worsened. They climbed on to armored personnel carriers and drove them around the city, which was certainly illegal. However, there was no organized call to attack ethnic Uzbeks only," Erkebaev said.

Erkebaev said Uzbek community leaders in southern Kyrgyzstan and local Kyrgyz leaders are equally responsible for the clashes, which left at least 356 dead and hundreds wounded

He also said the clashes were planned, while HRW said they began rather spontaneously following a fight between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks at a casino.

Commission member Jypar Jeksheev said the HRW report was one-sided. He said ethnic Uzbeks used arms that they had stored at home.

"The preparations [for the unrest] seem to have gone on for a long time. So many [Uzbek] people had weapons at home,” Jeksheev said. “Also, the fact that the inscriptions indentifying houses of ethnic Uzbeks and ethnic Kyrgyz and the letters S-O-S were painted on the roofs shows that [the inscriptions] were for planes. We found out that at least 1.5 million soms ($32,300) worth of paint, which is about 15 tons, was used for these inscriptions. That was some sort of preparation for something.”

“Therefore we consider the human rights organizations' report one-sided and based upon unproven information provided by some of our law enforcement officials," Jeksheev said.

Erkebaev added that 15,000-20,000 people from the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, left Kyrgyzstan for Russia after the clashes.