Thursday, July 01, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: OSCE should deploy police mission in southern Kyrgyzstan

Source: Human Rights Watch (HRW) - The Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should deploy a police mission in southern Kyrgyzstan that is large enough to reach all areas affected by the recent violence, Human Rights Watch said today. The Permanent Council began to discuss a proposed police mission last week, but deferred further consideration to its meeting scheduled for July 1, 2010.

"While it's good news that the referendum happened without violence, no one should be lulled into believing that the situation in Kyrgyzstan is resolved," said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Getting international police on the ground in Kyrgyzstan is critical to ensuring protection for civilians and stabilizing the situation."

The interim government of Kyrgyzstan reportedly requested police support from the OSCE last week. Last week the OSCE was considering sending up to 120 international police to the country, but the force may have a mandate limited to training and monitoring and would be unarmed.

"The OSCE response to this crisis risks being both too little and too late," Denber said. "To help rebuild confidence, the international police mission should be large enough to have a visible role on the ground in affected communities. And there is no time to waste."

The situation in southern Kyrgyzstan remains extremely tense, and the ethnic Uzbek community feels particularly vulnerable, Human Rights Watch said.

For example, at around 5 p.m. on June 29, several ethnic Kyrgyz men surrounded two ethnic Uzbek men who were on their way to a bazaar, mocking and threatening them. One of the ethnic Uzbek men told Human Rights Watch that the Kyrgyz men said to them, "What, you're not scared of us, walking around [the neighborhood]?" One of the men then kicked the other Uzbek man, his friend told Human Rights Watch, and punched the friend in the neck and then beat him, hitting him forcefully in the chest and leg. The two men managed to escape and ran back to their car.

Human Rights Watch researchers in Osh have received credible and serious allegations about the misconduct of the police and military during sweep operations and detentions, including reports of new abuses in recent days.

Human Rights Watch interviewed three ethnic Uzbeks who had been detained this week and beaten in custody before being released. One had visible bruises and all three were clearly traumatized by their ordeal. While Human Rights Watch interviewed the individuals extensively, the details of their experience are not revealed here for security reasons.

Residents of Shai-Tepe, an Uzbek neighborhood in Osh, described to Human Rights Watch a sweep operation that took place there early on the morning of June 23. They told Human Rights Watch that the personnel who conducted the sweep were armed and some were wearing masks. They said that the armed personnel beat several of the Uzbek men, and a male resident told Human Rights Watch that one of the armed personnel hit his wife in the face after their child started to cry.

Another resident told Human Rights Watch that about six or seven armed personnel kicked in the door to their home and asked to see the family's passports. The resident said that while the men were there, two mobile phones and about 1000 som (about US$20) disappeared. When the family asked that their phones be returned to them, the officers replied, "What, you think we're thieves?" Other residents of Shai-Tepe also reported that officers took valuables such as cell phones, money, jewelry, and in one case, a computer.

Residents in another ethnic Uzbek neighborhood said that on June 30, police officers who did not identify themselves detained six ethnic Uzbeks without providing any reason or informing their relatives where they were taking the men. Residents also told Human Rights Watch that an officer shot his weapon into the air several times as one of the men was being detained. The men were released later in the day without charge.

"If the security forces violate basic human rights during ongoing sweep operations, trust can't be rebuilt," Denber said. "The authorities need to ensure that anyone involved in these operations complies with the law and respects the rights of the targeted residents. Local human rights groups should be allowed to monitor these operations."