WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 636, November 30, 2010 BLAST IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL RAISES TENSIONS Authorities accuse Islamic radicals of planting bomb, though others are not so sure. By Yevgenia Kim, Timur Toktonaliev
INTERVIEW TIME FOR TAJIKISTAN TO END DEATH PENALTY Government should move from moratorium to full abolition, leading lawyer says. By Zarina Ergasheva KYRGYZSTAN ON ALERT AFTER OSH CLASH Security service insists operation targeting armed group was pre-planned and does not mark return to instability. By Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Dina Tokbaeva TOUGH TIMES FOR KYRGYZ WOMENS GROUPS As foreign grants dwindle, NGOs turn to cash-strapped government. By Asyl Osmonalieva, Nargiza Ryskulova **** NEW ************************************************************************************ LATEST PROJECT REVIEWS: http://iwpr.net/make-an-impact/project-reviews VACANCIES: http://iwpr.net/what-we-do/vacancies **** IWPR RESOURCES ****************************************************************** CENTRAL ASIA PROGRAMME HOME: http://www.iwpr.net/programme/central-asia CENTRAL ASIA RADIO: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia/central-asia-radio NEWS BRIEFING CENTRAL ASIA: http://iwpr.net/programme/news-briefing-central-asia CENTRAL ASIA HUMAN RIGHTS: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia-human-rights-reporting-project STORY BEHIND THE STORY: http://iwpr.net/report-news/the-story-behind-the-story BECOME A FAN OF IWPR ON FACEBOOK http://facebook.com/InstituteforWarandPeaceReporting FOLLOW US ON TWITTER http://twitter.com/iwpr **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** RSS FEEDS: http://iwpr.net/syndication/builder DONATE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/donate **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** BLAST IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL RAISES TENSIONS Authorities accuse Islamic radicals of planting bomb, though others are not so sure. By Yevgenia Kim, Timur Toktonaliev A bomb blast in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek is the work of the same shadowy group whose members were involved in a gunbattle with police in Osh less than 24 hours earlier, officials say. The bomb went off a day after a firefight between police and unidentified armed men in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh (For more, see Kyrgyzstan on Alert After Osh Clash.) It also came just two days before United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to visit Kyrgyzstan, which hosts an American military air base. The explosion happened at about nine in the morning on November 30 outside a sports facility where the high-profile trial of members of former president Kurmanbek Bakievs administration has been going on since mid-November. They are accused of ordering police action that caused the deaths of at least 70 people during protests in April that led to Bakiev being ousted. Kyrgyzstans interior ministry said two policemen and a civilian were injured by the explosives, placed in a drain at the Kojomkul Palace of Sports. It happened about five minutes walk from the White House, where the Kyrgyz parliament sits. Interior ministry and National Security Service officers launched an immediate investigation to identify the nature of the explosive device and track down possible culprits. Marat Imankulov, the secretary of Kyrgyzstans Security Council, said the blast was so powerful that part of the manhole cover over the drain was blown 300 metres away. The explosive device was activated by a remote control unit or a mobile phone, so in theory the perpetrator could have been observing as a bus transporting police drove up to the Palace of Sports. But the bus drove off, and ten seconds later there was a powerful explosion, he said. Imankulov said there was undoubtedly a link to the group targeted by the police operation in Osh the previous day. He also said he believed the attack was intended to disrupt the trial in the sports facility. The authorities have already said one of the men killed in Osh was positively linked to a plan to stage terror attacks in Osh and the Kyrgyz capital; this was discovered in an earlier police operation carried out on November 22. That raid resulted in several arrests and the seizure of home-made explosives and remote control detonators. Following the Bishkek blast, the deputy head of the National Security Service, Kolbay Musaev, said the main suspects had connections to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU, and the Islamic Jihad Union. The IMU conducted raids in Central Asia in 1999-2000 and is currently operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Islamic Jihad Union is a splinter group which broke with the IMU in northwest Pakistan some years ago, apparently over future plans for militant action. IWPR asked Artur Medetbekov, formerly deputy chief of the National Security Service and now head of a private security agency called Alfa-Antiterror, to comment on possible motives for the bombing. He said it was a professional attack designed to sow fear among the public and send a warning to the authorities. He too made a connection with the ongoing trial. Kadyr Malikov, head of the Religion, Law and Politics Centre in Bishkek, remains sceptical that the IMU or other Islamic groups were behind the bomb. He told the AKIpress news agency that Islamic radicals would have little interest in disrupting the Bishkek trial, as it covers only unrest in April and not the mass ethnic violence that left over 400 dead in southern Kyrgyzstan this June. In addition, the pan-Islamic agenda involved uniting different ethnic groups against the state. The IMU is interested in winning wider support among the public and uniting ethnic groups around the ideology of political Islam, he explained. It isnt in the IMUs interest to draw attention to itself with explosions [targeting] the public, particularly the Kyrgyz-speaking public, as this could lead to ethnic conflict. Malikov believes other hands are at work. He sais there is insufficient information to identify them but they may well be forces with economic or other vested interests, which could exploit instability and chaos to their own advantage. Political analyst Marat Kazakpaev expressed concern that Kyrgyzstan could see more attacks of this kind, as police raids appeared to have failed to capture and neutralise the group involved. Other analysts say incidents like these point up the need for more effective policing. In the April unrest, police were accused of meting out harsh treatment to demonstrators, and following the June ethnic violence, they came in for a lot of criticism for failing to protect the public impartially. Political analyst Mar Sariev suggested that the authorities might use the Clinton visit to ask for more counter-terrorism assistance. Yevgenia Kim, Timur Toktonaliev are IWPR-trained journalists in Kyrgyzstan This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. INTERVIEW TIME FOR TAJIKISTAN TO END DEATH PENALTY Government should move from moratorium to full abolition, leading lawyer says. By Zarina Ergasheva A lawyer working for the Tajik interior ministry says that five years after introducing a moratorium on executions, it is time to abolish capital punishment altogether. In an interview for IWPR, Karim Soliev, deputy head of the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the move would bring Tajikistan into line with its obligations under international law. Tajikistan introduced moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in 2004 and no executions have taken place since then. But capital punishment remains on the lawbooks, making Tajikistan the only Central Asian state where this is the case for common crimes, as opposed to exceptional circumstances such as in time of war. IWPR asked Soliev to explain why he thinks it is time to move forward to total abolition. Karim Soliev: There always have been and always will be supporters and opponents of the death penalty, and Tajikistan is no an exception. The announcement of a moratorium on the death penalt, in a speech to parliament which the president of Tajikistan [Imomali Rahmon] delivered in April 2004 was an important step for our country. As the head of state noted, no one can deprive anyone else of the right to life. It should be recognised that the death penalty issue and attitudes to it in our country is gradually changing, I would say in a positive way. Evidence of this can be seen in state policies such as initially cutting the number of crimes subject to the death penalty, and subsequently applying a moratorium to ordering the death sentence and carrying it out. There can be no doubt that in the near future, there can be no place for the death penalty in a civilised society, all the more so given that Tajikistan has declared itself to be part of the international community, which means respecting and following its principles. The next step for the countrys political leadership and legislature should be to abolish this ultimate punishment, as has been done in many countries of the world, including members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. IWPR: Is the public in Tajikistan ready to accept the idea of abolishing the death penalty? Soliev: The public generally finds it hard to accept the idea of dropping the death penalty from the list of criminal penalties. Thats probably a result of the difficult history of violence [1992-1997 civil war] and harsh circumstances which people have endured. This shapes the view that crime must be dealt with by harsh measures. Hence, the public often demands that criminals are executed. I believe that we need to conduct a survey to find out what public view is. I dont think theres a need to put it to a referendum; that wouldnt produce a positive outcome for resolving this problem. I can say in advance that the majority of Tajikistans population would favour preserving the death penalty. If public opinion had been taken into account, no country would have abolished it. I think the authorities should demonstrate political courage and push through the solution of the problem, unilaterally. According to the human rights organisation Amnesty International, more than 100 countries have abolished capital punishment. Several dozen of countries retain and use the punishment. When the First World Congress Against the Death Penalty took place in Strasbourg in 2002 under the aegis of the Council of Europe, participants called on all world countries to abolish the death penalty. Terrible statistics were presented at the congress, estimating that about seven per cent of the death sentences carried out were erroneous or were handed down unfairly. IWPR: The moratorium in Tajikistan means capital punishment is replaced by life imprisonment. The authorities say there arent suitable facilities to accommodate convicts serving life sentence. Ought this problem to be solved first? Soliev: An institution of this kind needs to be built, we mustnt forget about it. But we cannot wait until new facilities for lifers have been built, and fail to live up to our international humanitarian obligations. IWPR: En route to abolition¸ the Tajik government needs to work on public attitudes and also amend the national legislation. What needs to be done in the latter regard? Soliev: One of the objectives of the legal system reform currently being carried out in Tajikistan is to bring national legislation into line with the standards of international law. The 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which seeks the abolition of the death penalty, is of no small importance here. But our country has not ratified this protocol yet. Second, we need to overcome what seems to be a constitutional problem article 18 of Tajikistans constitution permits the application of capital punishment for particularly grave crimes. Now, crimes of this kind may be committed in peacetime and may be of a non-military nature. The constitution allows deprivation of life, but it does not require it; it makes [executions] possible but not mandatory. This leads us to conclude that this constitutional provision is optional rather than fundamental. The constitution needs to contain a clarification that declaring the citizens rights, freedoms and interests as the supreme good presupposes abolition of the death penalty in peacetime, although it does not exclude its use in wartime, for the most heinous war crimes. I believe this would allow us to bring our national legislation fully into line with the Second Optional Protocol. Zarina Ergasheva is an IWPR-trained reporter in Tajikistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. KYRGYZSTAN ON ALERT AFTER OSH CLASH Security service insists operation targeting armed group was pre-planned and does not mark return to instability. By Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Dina Tokbaeva Security officials in Kyrgyzstan have appealed for calm after a firefight with suspected militants in the southern city of Osh, insisting the authorities are in control and there will be no repetition of the mass violence seen in June. The interior ministry said four armed men were killed on November 29 when they put up resistance to a raid by security forces targeting a group of national separatists. Three appear to have been shot and the fifth killed himself by detonating explosives. Four members of the security services were injured. The clash took place next to the central bus station in Osh, and five minutes walk from the main market, one of the citys most crowded locations. This part of Osh is mainly home to ethnic Uzbeks. A statement from the National Security Service appealed to people not to be led astray by rumours that Osh was about to undergo a renewed wave of ethnic violence. Osh and Jalalabad and rural areas around them experienced a sudden, brief and brutal outbreak of clashes involving the ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities in June. The fighting left more than 400 people dead, according to the government, and a trail of deliberate destruction in its wake. The security service statement said the police were in full control in Osh, patrolling the streets and setting up checkpoints at entry points to the city. It said at least one of the men had been positively linked to a plan to stage terror attacks in Osh and the Kyrgyz capital, which was foiled by a police operation carried out on November 22. That raid resulted in several arrests and the seizure of home-made explosives and remote control detonating devices. In Osh, the sound of gunfire sparked panic among locals who feared the June bloodshed was about to start all over again. The mood of fear has since subsided, eyewitnesses say. A market trader who gave his name as Rahmon recalled how people in the city market started fleeing after hearing an explosion. Kyrgyz and Uzbeks started running away from the bazaar without thinking of their goods and belongings anything just to get away, he said. The Osh bazaar came close to a standstill following the clashes this summer, and trade has picked up slowly. When the explosion described by Rahmon happened, it was near the end of trading and people were beginning to leave. The driver of a minibus taxi described the scene of panic, There was a stampede, but none of my passengers got hurt. A construction worker called Akmal left the building site he was on near the market after hearing the blast. There were rumours that an ethnic war had started, he explained. We could see that people were scared, above all of being in the one place, in this market. They were fleeing in droves. Early accounts of the armed groups identity were unclear. The secretary of Kyrgyzstans Security Council, Marat Imankulov, told a press conference in Bishkek that the police operation in Osh was a follow-up to earlier raids in which alleged supporters of the Islamic Movement of Turkestan were detained. This is presumably a reference to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a known group active in Central Asia in 1999-2000 and currently operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. At press conference earlier in the day, before the explosion in Osh attracted public attention, Kyrgyz interior minister Zarylbek Rysaliev said the suspects arrested in the police raid a week ago were part of a group with underworld connections, and no link to international terror organisations. These armed men, he said, were hired to destabilise Kyrgyzstan by a group of individuals whom he did not identify. But after the fighting was over, the interior ministry spoke of national separatists, without giving any further explanation. Analysts say southern Kyrgyzstan remains vulnerable to disruption and the authority of central government remains weak there. Kadyr Malikov, head of the Religion, Law and Politics Centre in Bishkek, says there are any number of potential threats to stability supporters of ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was ousted during popular unrest in April; new forces thrown up by the ethnic violence; organised crime groups, old and new; Islamic extremists, either from known organisations like the IMU and Hizb ut-Tahrir or new ones as yet unidentified; and hired troublemakers, paid by some external force. Experts say the authorities need to ensure their narrative of events hits the right note and avoids stirring up tensions. The most important thing for this country and society right now is to prevent this incident in Osh being labelled as ethnic, Elmira Nogoybaeva, head of the Polis Asia think-tank in Bishkek, told IWPR. This could happen with lightning speed, given that there are many pretexts for ethnic manipulation, which destructive forces can use to their advantage. Nogoybaeva said excessive speculation in the media would be unhelpful, When people get agitated, it has a snowball effect on the level of rumour-mongering. Thats dangerous and it will have consequences, because the public reacts to such things immediately. What happens today in one individual region of Kyrgyzstan reverberates across the whole country. Isomidin Ahmedjanov is an IWPR-trained journalist in Osh. Dina Tokbaeva is IWPRs Kyrgyzstan editor. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. TOUGH TIMES FOR KYRGYZ WOMENS GROUPS As foreign grants dwindle, NGOs turn to cash-strapped government. By Asyl Osmonalieva, Nargiza Ryskulova The few womens crisis centres that exist in Kyrgyzstan are finding it hard to carry on as the international donor support they rely on is drying up. In the absence of domestic charity fundraising opportunities, the best hope seems to lie in applying for state funding. But with the Kyrgyz government itself seeking bail-outs from Russia and other countries to cover its most urgent expenditures, there is unlikely to be much spare cash around. There are currently 12 crisis centres for women across the Central Asian state, according to Alexandra Yeliferenko, who heads an association bringing these groups together. Most are able to offer legal advice, counselling, and where necessary food and medicines to women who suffer abuse in the home or who find themselves destitute. Few, however, can offer shelter to victims of domestic abuse. Crisis centres dont have the resources to maintain temporary refuges, Tahmina Ashuralieva, coordinator of a domestic violence protection project, said. To do so, they need premises and the cost of food, utility and staff wages. Until recently, Sezim was the only group with the resources for a shelter for abused women, located in Bishkek. Two more have now opened in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad in response to the ethnic violence this June that left over 400 people dead and left widespread devastation of buildings and social disruption in its wake. Rights activists say the international donors that have provided training and grants for womens crisis centres over the last ten or 15 years are now encouraging them to sustain themselves from other funding sources. The support provided by international organisations has now come to an end, as they believe that this is the states problem; that its up to the state to take care of its own citizens, Mahabat Turdumamatova, who heads the domestic violence and gender discrimination department at the Kyrgyz ombudsmans office, told IWPR. Turdumamatova said that under Kyrgyzstans National Action Plan for Gender Equality, local government should be providing crisis centres with office space, and contracting them to provide welfare services in cooperation with police and the healthcare system. This doesnt always happen in practice, she conceded. Bubusara Ryskulova, the head of the Sezim group, says her group has been given premises by the Bishkek mayors administration, as has the Ak Jurok crisis centre in Osh. But that isnt enough, she said, explaining that the need to assist vulnerable women was greater than ever. When unemployment is rising, the economic situation is getting worse, the flow of labour emigration is increasing, and all this increases stress levels, then it becomes essential that international donors and the government support crisis centres. Kyrgyzstan passed a law in 2008 allowing the government to contract NGOs to carry out social programmes on its behalf. Yeliferenko agreed that government funding was now the main option still remaining, but she noted that despite the 2008 law, government spending constraints meant there were currently few state-funded projects on offer to NGOs. Aziza Abdurasulova, head of the Kylym Shamy human rights group, agreed that more help from the state was essential, but noted, This is a problem that faces not just crisis centres, but also the entire NGO sector in Kyrgyzstan. Abdyrasulova suggested Kyrgyzstan could copy models used in other countries where taxpayers can elect to have a small proportion of their taxes paid to charity. Aida Alymbaeva, director of the Social Studies Centre at the American University in Central Asia argues that with government finances in such a dire state, NGOs including womens groups cannot rely wholly on state funding. The state is already doing its bit by maintaining childrens homes, rehab centres and other institutions, she said. We should now be working to develop a culture of charitable giving in society. Responsibility for promoting such a culture rests with business and with successful individuals. Hollywood stars, for instance, give charitable donations and set an example to others. Here, such actions are one-offs. Ryskulova doubts that groups helping women in difficulties will become a magnet for private donors. Charity isnt at all well-developed in our country, she explained. Sometimes people bring humanitarian aid to our centre, but that happens very rarely. Wealthy people sometimes provide assistance for disabled institutions or childrens homes, but crisis centres are not generally a focus of attention for benefactors or sponsors. Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR-trained journalist. Nargiza Ryskulova is a freelance reporter in Bishkek. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists, the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly basis. The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better local and international understanding of the region. IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The service is published online in English and Russian. The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR. REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan; Senior Editor and Acting Central Asia Director: John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule Mukhametrakhimova. 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