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Amnesty Faults Kyrgyz Justice Efforts

A burned-out Uzbek cafe in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, one of the many businesses destroyed during the June violence.
Amnesty International says that ethnic Uzbeks are being disproportionately targeted in the Kyrgyz authorities' efforts to find those responsible for ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan this June.

The claims are contained in a report released today: "Kyrgyzstan urged to provide truth and justice for victims of violence."

The report questions the conduct of the investigations, trials, and sentencing of people allegedly involved in the killings, looting, and arson that wracked the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions in mid-June.

More than 400 people were killed, hundreds more injured, and hundreds of thousands fled their homes during several days of clashes.

Amnesty said in its report that as of early November, 271 individuals had been arrested in relation to the violence, and that "the overwhelming majority of those brought to trial for their involvement in the June events had been ethnic Uzbeks."

Nicola Duckworth, the director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program, said that, though they have no printed statistics, Kyrgyz authorities told Amnesty International that "the majority of those arrested for the most serious crimes in the June violence were of Uzbek nationality."

"And when you look at their own statistics of how many people died they were majority Uzbek nationality so given the ethnic dimension of the conflict I think one would assume that most of those responsible for those deaths would be ethnic Kyrgyz or of a different ethnicity," Duckworth questioned. "So it seems that there is a disproportion there in terms of the ethnicities who are being targeted for arrests in connection with the violence."

The findings were rejected by Kyrgyz authorities, with Security Council Secretary Marat Imankulov stressing, "We don't pay attention to the ethnicity. It doesn't matter for us who committed the crime, their ethnicity, age, or religion. Everybody is equal in front of the law. It doesn't matter if they're Kyrgyz, Uzbek, or Russian, or any other ethnic group."

Reports Fan Further Questions

The report contains similar accusations to those made for some time by other rights groups, both international and local.

It says that trials of ethnic Uzbeks have been "seriously flawed with lawyers being harassed outside the courtrooms, and judges refusing to call defense witnesses or recognize that 'confessions' may have been extracted under torture."

It says that "arbitrary detentions, torture, ill-treatment, and unfair trials" continue, a situation Duckworth says, which "leads in the end to a prevailing sense that a number of those responsible for some of the horrible acts that took place, I mean we're talking about murders, arson and so on are going free and unpunished." Duckworth says this has created a sense of "impunity for the perpetrators" and "injustice among the victims."

The Amnesty report says that "unless the trend is reversed quickly, the opportunity to ensure that justice prevails will be lost."

The report also questions the role of the police and security forces in the violence, saying there were reports some officers did nothing to stop the violence from escalating.

It also cites testimony from witnesses that security forces may have participated in some of the violence or looting and that there has been little effort to investigate such allegations.

"There's a lot of video material and other consistent and that speak to this aspect of them taking advantage, not actually stepping in to stop the violence, other reports that they themselves actually did participate in the violence," Duckworth explained, though she couched, "again, difficult to substantiate even from some of the video evidence."

Amnesty concluded that "in the current climate of fear, mistrust, rumor, ethnic polarization and continuing instability, the international inquiry now offers the best hope for a comprehensive, unbiased and credible investigation."

Kyrgyz officials have previously pointed out that several ethnic Kyrgyz have also been convicted in connection with the June events, including at least six for theft and looting in Suzak district.