Wednesday, June 08, 2005

HRW on Uzbek massacre

According to the Independent, Human Rights Watch has published a report on the events in Uzbekistan last month, where police and military forces gunned down hundreds of protesters in the eastern city of Andijan.

The New-York based human rights organisation said its investigation into the events of 13 May left it in no doubt that the Uzbek government had systematically slaughtered hundreds of its own citizens in a "massacre" and then tried to cover up the atrocities. The evidence it had uncovered was so compelling and the Uzbek government's duplicity, guilt and intransigence so obvious, it added, that Washington was morally obliged to shut its air base in the south of the country.

"Camp Stronghold Freedom", or K2, an air base near the southern town of Khanabad, was originally set up to supply the US invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan, and continues to play a role in Washington's "war against terror". Human Rights Watch said Washington was in negotiations that would allow it to keep a base there permanently. It called upon the US to insist upon an independent international investigation, something the government of Islam Karimov has repeatedly rejected, and to sever military and financial ties in the event of continued refusal.

"Yes, we would be giving up an asset in Uzbekistan," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in Moscow. "But if we don't act when the government slaughters hundreds of its own civilians, when are we going to act?"
"We" act when its congruent with our existing interests. In this case, it is not, so that's why you don't hear much protest out of Washington.

The US does not want to upset the status quo in Central Asia, especially when it comes to military bases, so authoritarian governments mowing down civilians is of little concern when viewed in the context of the strategic realities the Beltway types have constructed for themselves. That's the way power politics work, unfortunately. If people wish to change this, it's only going to come about by external pressure on the political process.