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Kyrgyz Probe Faults Uzbek Leaders, Interim Government Over Ethnic Violence

Ethnic Uzbek refugees who have fled from clashes in Osh cry as they gather on the border while waiting for permission to escape to Uzbekistan on June 15, 2010.
An official probe into last year's deadly ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan has blamed local Uzbek leaders and relatives of the former president for instigating the violence, but also chastised the interim government for failing to avert the unrest.

A commission was appointed last year to investigate and determine the causes and instigators of the June clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz that left more than 400 people dead and caused widespread damage in the south of the country.

In its report, presented at a press conference on January 11, the commission said local Uzbek leaders, relatives of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev, drug dealers, religious extremists, and "outside forces" shared responsibility.

"Various forces, including ethnic Uzbek leaders, wanted to take advantage of the moment when the authorities were helpless and rose in order to pursue their own interests," said Abdygany Erkebaev, who headed the commission. "That caused the anger of the Kyrgyz population and became the tipping point for a response from the Kyrgyz side.

"While the Bakievs had used only political means up to that point, now they wanted to make use of the situation and became a kind of catalyst. Criminal groups, drug traffickers, some extremist religious organizations, and even foreigners were involved [in the conflict]."

Still Serving

Authorities have previously made similar accusations of blame. But the new report goes further, by specifically naming several high-ranking officials in the provisional government -- some of whom are also serving in the new government -- as having failed to act promptly as the conflict evolved.

Commission chief Abdygany Erkebaev: "A capable government should have seen this coming."
"A capable government should have seen this coming ahead of time and taken measures to prevent it. But they were unable to avert this," Erkebaev said.

"Specifically," he continued, "these [who are responsible] are the National Security Service, the Interior Ministry, and Prosecutor-General's Office. The heads of these departments, in the view of the national commission, were unable to carry out their duties. Therefore, they should bear responsibility for the events."

The report says "partial" responsibility lies "partially" with then deputy Prime Minister Azimbek Beknazarov, special government representative for the south Ismail Isakov, security chief Keneshbek Duishebaev, Prosecutor-General Baytemir Ibraev, and Interior Minister Bolot Sher.

Duishebaev and Beknazarov remain at their posts; Isakov is a member of parliament from the Social Democratic Party and heads the parliament's defense committee; Sher is a member of parliament from the Ata-Meken Party; and Ibraev is retired.

Should Have Acted Sooner

The report says information available to them before the conflict broke out should have spurred those officials to act ahead of time, possibly preventing or at least decreasing the violence that ensued.

The report recommended the Kyrgyz president, parliament, and government take unspecified "measures" against those individuals.

Bakhtoyor Fattohov, an ethnic Uzbek, was the deputy chairman of the commission. He told RFE/RL that regional and local officials should be brought to account, too.

"The majority of local authorities were involved in criminal structures. Then criminal interests got mixed with interethnic tensions and everybody reaped their own benefits out of it," Fattohov said. "The south of Kyrgyzstan was turned into a drug smugglers' corridor.

"We are now recommending to the parliament and the president to investigate the involvement of local authorities [in the June events]," Fattohov continued. "We referred to the posts that these people are still holding. They are those who are in charge of security, including the mayors of Osh city and Jalal-Abad, the governor of Osh Province, and the mayors of Bozor-Korgon and Kara-Suu. Our clear recommendation was to bring all of them to account."

The report also found that while "the tragic events were provoked neither by [ordinary] Uzbek nor by Kyrgyz people," leaders of the Uzbek community in southern Kyrgyzstan were responsible.

The report singled out Kadyrjon Batyrov, a businessman and owner of a private university in Jalal-Abad.
An ethnic Uzbek woman expresses her anger as she holds a photo of a relative killed in interethnic clashes in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh in June 2010.

It said Batyrov initially worked with the interim government after former President Bakiev was ousted the previous April. But by May, it said Batyrov and the government "separated after Bakiev's house and a yurt with a Kyrgyz flag were set on fire."

Batyrov, according to the report, then "tried to become a leader," traveling to predominantly Uzbek areas of southern Kyrgyzstan and holding "more than 25 mass meetings" where he made various demands.

Significantly, the report states that no leader from the Uzbek diaspora ever made an official statement demanding autonomy, which was one of the reasons many Kyrgyz cited in the immediate aftermath of the conflict as having provoked the violence.

Credit To Uzbekistan

Batyrov fled the country just before hostilities started and was last reported to be in Ukraine. Another person implicated in starting the ethnic clashes and who is also now outside Kyrgyzstan is Maksim Bakiev, the son of the former president. He was last reported to be in Britain. The commission said Maksim and his uncle Janysh, who was a top security official under President Bakiev, financed the unrest.

The commission did credit neighboring Uzbekistan for showing restraint from June 10-14 when hundreds of thousands of Uzbek refugees were trying to cross the border.

At the time, even Uzbek opponents of the government were clamoring for Tashkent to send troops into Kyrgyzstan, at least to establish a cordon sanitaire to facilitate the flight of ethnic Uzbeks from the Osh and Jalal-Abad areas. The commission said Uzbekistan's decision to stay out of the events averted a potentially much wider conflict.

written by Bruce Pannier, with contributions from Alisher Sidikov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Torokul Doorov of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, and agency reports
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