WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 638, December 19, 2010

MEDIA FREEDOM “WORSE” IN KAZAKSTAN’S OSCE YEAR  Local and international 
watchdogs report backsliding in a year when major improvements were promised.  
By Irina Mednikova

KYRGYZSTAN VIOLENCE “ALARM BELL” FOR CENTRAL ASIA  Regional leaders should not 
conclude that cure to unrest lies in more repression, analysts say.  By Dina 
Tokbaeva, Yulia Goryaynova, Lola Olimova

TROUBLE FOR TURKMEN ACTIVIST AFTER OSCE EVENT  Case of Vyacheslav Mamedov 
highlights freedom-of-movement issues raised at international event.  By Nazik 
Ataeva

COMMENT

KYRGYZ VIOLENCE TRIALS MUST DELIVER JUSTICE  Proceedings to date marred by bias 
and intimidation.  By Pavel Dyatlenko

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MEDIA FREEDOM “WORSE” IN KAZAKSTAN’S OSCE YEAR

Local and international watchdogs report backsliding in a year when major 
improvements were promised.

By Irina Mednikova

Media rights groups say Kazakstan’s government has ignored earlier pledges of 
reforms that it made to secure the 2010 chairmanship of the OSCE, Organisation 
for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 

As Kazakstan comes to the end of its turn in the rotating chairmanship of the 
OSCE, a bloc that promotes security and democracy among its 56 member states, 
media activists and journalists say that apart from a few welcome developments 
like discussions on a bill on access to information, the general trend this 
year was towards curtailing media.

Ahead of an OSCE summit held in Astana on December 1-2, the crowning event of 
Kazakstan’s year in the chair, the press freedom organisation Reporters Without 
Borders, RSF, issued a statement criticising the country’s performance. 

RSF said Kazakstan had made no move to pass legislation that met international 
standards with regard to criminal and civil libel, access to information and 
the penalties that could be imposed on the media.

Back in 2007, when it was lobbying hard to secure the OSCE chairmanship, the 
Kazak government promised numerous democratic reforms which, in terms of the 
media, were to include abolishing libel as a criminal offence, allowing 
journalists the preserve anonymity of sources, and ending the requirement that 
all electronic media register with the justice ministry.

RSF recalled that its annual Press Freedom Index published in April 2010 ranked 
Kazakstan 162nd out of the 178 countries surveyed – and said things had got 
worse since then.

“Media freedom declined markedly in 2010, the year that Kazakstan has been 
holding the OSCE presidency,” the statement said. “As a result of arrests of 
journalists, cases of censorship (of traditional and online media), journalists 
serving prison sentences, physical attacks on journalists and lawsuits against 
news media, Kazakstan fell 20 places in this year’s Reporters Without Borders 
press freedom index and now ranks alongside its authoritarian neighbour, 
Uzbekistan.”

RSF was not alone in judging Kazakstan’s OSCE year a disappointment. In a 
report in mid-September, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 
CPJ, said the country’s performance had been so bad as to discredit the OSCE 
itself.

“By disregarding human rights and press freedom at home, Kazakstan has 
compromised the organisation’s international reputation as a guardian of these 
rights, undermined the OSCE’s relevance and effectiveness, and thus devalued 
human rights in all OSCE states,” CPJ said.

Many of the criticisms made by international watchdogs were echoed by media 
representatives in Kazakstan itself.

Igor Vinyavsky, editor-in-chief of Vzglyad, a newspaper faced legal action this 
year, said 2010 was worse than 2009 for the media. 

“The authorities are steadily and methodically destroying those media that are 
not under their control, and nothing is deterring them from doing so,” he said.

The director of media development organisation Internews-Kazakstan, Marjan 
Elshibaeva, said, “I think there have been no significant changes to the media 
in the OSCE chairmanship year,” adding that in her view, those amendments to 
media legislation that were passed were largely cosmetic.

The media rights group Adil Soz said more violations of journalists’ rights 
were recorded this year than last, while developments that caused particular 
concern included an attempt to ban any publication of material critical of 
President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev. 

Following legal action against a number of newspapers that had reported 
allegations of corruption made against Kulibaev, a court in Almaty seized their 
print-runs and banned further publication in January. The court ruling was 
subsequently overturned following criticism by the then OSCE Representative on 
Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, who called it a “dangerous attempt at 
censorship”.

A law passed in 2010 expands the list of prosecutable offences against the 
president, including defacing pictures of him and presenting a distorted 
version of his biography. The law will also grant Nazarbaev immunity from 
prosecution after he leaves office. 

Several other newspapers critical of the authorities have run into trouble. One 
was closed down following a libel case, while others found themselves 
unexpectedly subjected to tax inspections. 

When asked about the allegations that the government had fallen down on its 
promises, presidential advisor Yermuhamet Yertysbaev said reform-minded bills 
had been drafted, but were currently held up in the normal process of 
parliamentary discussion.

Referring to legislation which would remove libel from the criminal lawbooks, 
Yertysbaev said, “Although the president himself has already approved it, many 
deputies are against decriminalising defamation because they themselves are the 
targets of libel and insults.”

As for the close interest the taxman was taking in certain media outlets, 
Yertysbaev said newspapers were not being singled out because of their 
political views, and there had been cases where state-run newspapers had been 
investigated for tax evasion.

Another worrying trend in 2010 noted by media-watchers was the government’s 
increasing ability to buy media outlets’ loyalty by offering them contracts for 
public relations work, with the result that they tone down their editorial 
content. 

The Almaty-based MediaNet group said that up to 70 per cent of independent 
media outlets received government money this year, one-fifth more than in 2009. 
Experts fear that when a privately-owned newspaper, for example, agrees to 
carry paid advertising of government policies, it cannot help compromising its 
principles.

MediaNet’s director Igor Bratsev said his pessimistic view of the media 
situation was “largely connected to the political influence on the media, which 
made them financially dependent and had a direct impact on editorial content, 
encouraging self-censorship”.

Bratsev said explicit censorship was not even needed in an environment in which 
restrictive legislation and the frequent use of costly and never-ending libel 
suits effectively fulfilled the role of forcing media to censor themselves.

Adil Jalilov, chairman of the Media Alliance of Kazakstan, is not against the 
government supporting the media, but warned that over-reliance on the state as 
a source of income will mean that “the media stop putting the consumer of 
information first, they try to appease their [state] customer, and lose their 
competitiveness and freedom”.

Yertysbaev said he did not agree that public funding would undermine editorial 
independence, and argued that some state-owned newspapers published material 
critical of government.

One of the few positive developments in 2010 was that non-government groups 
were involved in discussions around new legislation which should make it easier 
for members of the public to access information held by government and make the 
system more transparent. Parliamentary debate and approval have been postponed 
until next year.

Irina Mednikova is a correspondent for the Golos Respubliki newspaper.

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 VIOLENCE “ALARM BELL” FOR CENTRAL ASIA

Regional leaders should not conclude that cure to unrest lies in more 
repression, analysts say.

By Dina Tokbaeva, Yulia Goryaynova, Lola Olimova

The mass ethnic violence around Osh and Jalalabad in June 2010 was a traumatic 
event that has scarred neighbouring Central Asian states as well as Kyrgyzstan 
itself.

Analysts say there is a danger other Central Asian leaders will conclude that 
the only way of preventing similar things happening is to crack down hard at 
home. Such tactics might be inadequate to deal with the multiple risk factors 
facing the region, which include massive poverty and organised crime as well as 
Islamic radicalism with connections to Afghanistan.

The fighting in June, concentrated, over several days in southern Kyrgyzstan 
left over 400 people dead, and homes and businesses looted and burned. (IWPR 
covered these events extensively, for example in Renewed Unrest in South 
Kyrgyzstan andSouth Kyrgyzstan Slides Out of Control.)

The precise causes of the conflict are unclear, but they followed months of 
political disturbances after President Kurmanbek Bakiev was driven from power 
in a popular unrest. The June clashes were of another order altogether from 
previous incidents, pitting ethnic Kyrgyz against Uzbeks in acts of 
orchestrated rather than casual violence.

Kyrgyzstan is now more stable than it was, and many hope a parliamentary 
election in October will eventually produce a stronger and more legitimate 
government than the interim administration that succeeded Bakiev. However, the 
winning parties remain locked in disputes over coalition-building, and there 
are also questions about whether governance has really been restored in the 
south, and about the fairness of trials arising out the violence.

Farhod Tolipov is a political analyst in Uzbekistan, a country that temporarily 
hosted tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks fleeing the fighting in Kyrgyzstan. 
He argues that for Uzbekistan, too, the violence was “without doubt the most 
significant event of the last year”.

“Since these events began moving, they have continued until now, albeit in a 
different form – they have sown deep mistrust between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in 
Kyrgyzstan. This will also leave its mark on inter-state relations between 
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan for many years to come,” Tolipov said.

“I think this was a kind of moment of truth, a signal or warning; a bell which 
has tolled across the whole Central Asian region.”

 Arkady Dubnov, a Moscow-based journalist and Central Asia expert, says the 
violence has prompted governments in other regional states to blame attempts to 
build democracy for Kyrgyzstan’s woes, in other words justifying their 
authoritarian rule and prompting them to strengthen domestic security 
arrangements further.

“The leaders of all the neighbouring countries in the region have been saying, 
and will probably continue to say, “Look at what happens when things are 
allowed to slide, as happened in Kyrgyzstan under the guise of democracy,’” 
Dubnov said.

The practical conclusion these leaders have drawn is that “they need to 
strengthen their punitive agencies and security services”. That kind of 
reaction, Dubnov added, was a feature of countries where “domestic problems are 
not resolved in a democratic fashion, which is true of all the Central Asia 
republics to varying degrees”.

As Kyrgyzstan’s politicians struggle to build a system that – under a new 
constitution passed in June – is supposed to move the country from the strong 
presidential rule typical of regional states to a fairer parliamentary model, 
Dubnov said it was important for them to steer clear of the populist, 
nationalist sentiment that has emerged this year.

Martha Olcott, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International 
Peace in Washington, agreed that this year’s turbulence made shaping 
Kyrgyzstan’s political future more difficult.

“The ouster of Kurmanbek Bakiev, and the subsequent inter-ethnic clashes in 
southern Kyrgyzstan have further divided Kyrgyz society and made it harder for 
a stable and lasting ruling coalition to be formed. Part of the difficulty in 
forming a coalition is because of the nature of the new Kyrgyz constitution, 
and its nascent political party structure,” she said.

“It is also a reflection of a more general problem that other countries in the 
region are likely to experience, which is that the limitations on political 
participation in each of these countries have limited the emergence of 
independent-minded political elites, which is likely to create a crisis of 
elite competence when political power is transferred, as it will inevitably be 
when the current political leaders in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and Tajikistan 
exit the political arena.”

Tajikistan experienced unrest of a different kind in 2010, which peaked in 
September with an ambush in which 25 soldiers were killed by armed militants in 
the eastern Rasht valley. This incident and subsequent skirmishes in the same 
area invoked ghosts of the 1992-97, as former anti-government guerrillas were 
said to be involved. (See Tajik Authorities Struggle to Quell Militants.)

 Reports that the dissident fighters were in contact with, and may have been 
assisted by, Islamic paramilitaries from neighbouring Afghanistan added an 
alarming dimension to what might otherwise have been seen as a localised clash. 
Experts say the incident shows how, given the proximity of a highly unstable 
Afghanistan, Tajikistan is at risk of becoming the weak point through which 
instability spreads into Central Asia.

 A Moscow-based Central Asia expert, Sanobar Shermatova, said the Tajik 
government should respond to challenges from dissident armed groups in a 
measured way, including the possibility of negotiating with them.

“If the government sees these people as a potential threat to itself and is 
keen to ‘sweep the area clean’, it won’t be a productive battle,” she said. 
“It’s better for Tajikistan to be a united, strong state [held together 
through] national reconciliation.”

Olcott said the deteriorating political and security situation in Afghanistan 
is, “if not spilling over into Central Asia, at least serving as a training 
ground for politically disaffected Islamists in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and 
Uzbekistan. These people are likely to try to use growing popular 
dissatisfaction in Tajikistan and southern Kyrgyzstan in particular, to their 
advantage.”

At the same time, she said it was too easy to blame radical Islamists for acts 
of violence, while there were also forces keen to create trouble in Central 
Asia.

“Criminal groups without ties to jihadist groups are also potential sources of 
terrorist attacks. Yet rather than try and confront these criminal groups, 
there is likely to be a tendency to blame radical Islam for any and all 
violence that occurs,” Olcott said, adding that “there is the further risk that 
the governments in the region will target Islamic dissenters and further 
politicise Islam, and so increase social tensions and polarise society 
unnecessarily”.

In the context of both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Eduard Poletaev, a political 
analyst in Kazakstan, said governments preferred to look for enemies to blame 
rather than discuss deeper problems that made instability possible in the first 
place.

“Political elites do not want to acknowledge that problems might lie with them, 
and with economic and social conditions in their country,” he said. “It’s 
easier for them to point the finger elsewhere, at certain forces that are 
trying to destabilise things…. It’s obvious that destructive forces can only 
cause instability where the preconditions exist for that to happen.”

Poletaev said that by identifying such threats to stability, governments were 
simultaneously justifying their own legitimacy and appealing for support from 
large powers like Russia or the United States. But they would be wrong to 
expect other countries to come in from outside and sort out their problems for 
them, he added.

“Foreign players are pursuing their own geopolitical interests, and they do 
need stability. But none of them wants to shed its [own troops’] blood to 
restore order, in the event that a situation of conflict arises again,” he said.

Poletaev’s conclusion is that Central Asia’s leaders should try to work 
together to address common problems. “The one thing that’s clear is that we’re 
bound together by much more than our [common] Soviet past,” he said.

Regional cooperation and integration have been difficult to achieve in the two 
decades since the Central Asian republics became separate countries, and they 
are often in dispute over water, energy, and border issues.

As Poletaev pointed out, matters are complicated by the fact that many of their 
leaders do not get on with one another. “The modern history of Central Asia is 
written mainly by the relationships between leaders, and these personal 
relationships are well known to all,” he said.

Dina Tokbaeva is acting regional editor for Central Asia; Lola Olimova is 
IWPR’s Tajikistan editor and Yulia Goryaynova is an IWPR editor covering 
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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.


TROUBLE FOR TURKMEN ACTIVIST AFTER OSCE EVENT

Case of Vyacheslav Mamedov highlights freedom-of-movement issues raised at 
international event.

By Nazik Ataeva

The case of a Turkmen human rights defender who was stopped by Russian border 
officials while returning from a conference in Kazakstan highlights the 
restrictions on movement that face Central Asian activists.

Vyacheslav Mamedov heads the Turkmen Civil Democratic Union, an émigré group 
based in The Netherlands, and was the only rights activist representing 
Turkmenistan who managed to get to an NGO event held in the Kazak capital 
Astana on November 28-29, timed just ahead of a summit of the Organisation for 
Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE.

Other Turkmen activists based abroad were unable to make it, accusing Kazakstan 
– the current chair of the OSCE – of denying them visas, and of succumbing to 
political pressure from Turkmenistan. Instead, they sent a collective open 
letter describing the dire state of affairs in Turkmenistan and raising 
concerns about political prisoners.

Unlike his colleagues, Mamedov did not need a Kazak visa as he was travelling 
on a Russian passport; he has dual Turkmen-Russian nationality.

Travelling through Moscow, he stayed in the city for a couple of days and was 
stopped twice by frontier officials at Sheremetevo Airport, on his way in from 
Astana on November 29, and on his way out to Amsterdam on December 3.

On the first occasion, the passport control officer cited a technical glitch in 
the computer system for holding him up, while the second time the official said 
he was just following orders. Mamedov’s passport was scanned and copied.

Mamedov said he had not experienced problems in Russia on previous occasions, 
including a trip there in September.

“Three months have passed since then, and in that time my criticisms of human 
rights violations has been directed at the authorities in Turkmenistan and 
Kazakstan; the situation in Russia was never mentioned ,” he told IWPR.

“It’s more than possible the Russian security services are acting at the behest 
of their Turkmen colleagues,” he said.

Mamedov is uncertain whether he can now travel safely to Russia as he fears his 
dual nationality could mean he is detained and extradited to Turkmenistan.

The Turkmen government exercises tight control over society and no human rights 
groups are allowed to operate in the country.

Officials from the country pressured organisers of two earlier events held in 
the run-up to the OSCE summit to block rights groups from participating. These 
OSCE review conferences were intended to give NGOs an opportunity to submit 
“alternative reports” giving a different perspective from that of their 
governments.

At the first event, held in Warsaw in late September and early October, Farid 
Tukhbatullin, head of the Vienna-based Turkmen Human Rights Initiative, 
Nurmuhammed Hanamov, leader of the exiled Republican Party and Annadurdy 
Khajiev of the Bulgaria-based Turkmen Helsinki Foundation were denied 
registration. At the second, held in Vienna later in October, Hanamov and 
Tukhbatullin were again refused entry. However, after delegates from the 
European Union, United States and Canada raised objections with OSCE officials, 
the two were allowed to attend the following day. (See Turkmenistan Tries to 
Bar Rights Activists From OSCE Event.)

The NGO event which Mamedov attended in Astana submitted recommendations 
concerning freedom of movement in the OSCE region, and urged member states to 
stop obstructing human rights defenders from travelling as part of their work. 
The NGOs suggested that the OSCE hold conference on freedom of movement next 
year to discuss these matters, including the use of blacklists and travel bans. 

Finally, they called for changes to regional agreements that contradict OSCE 
members’ wider commitments. The 1993 Minsk Convention signed by the former 
Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States includes reciprocal 
arrangements for judicial practice and criminal law that have been used to 
extradite detained persons between signatory countries without regard for 
international conventions on refugee status, asylum and torture.

Mamedov says he plans to submit a complaint to Russia’s prosecutor general and 
frontier service. As a Russian citizen, he believes that he has a right to know 
why his passport was copied and how this information will be used.

Nazik Ataeva is a journalist from Turkmenistan.

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.


COMMENT

KYRGYZ VIOLENCE TRIALS MUST DELIVER JUSTICE

Proceedings to date marred by bias and intimidation. 

By Pavel Dyatlenko

Kyrgyzstan is now the scene of not one but two separate judicial processes 
arising from unrest earlier in the year. Both are taking place with an 
unprecedented degree of openness, yet there are serious concerns that the 
trials are politically loaded and that justice is not being administered in a 
fair, unbiased manner.

Since mid-November, the capital Bishkek has been the scene of a highly 
publicised trial of members of former president Kurmanbek Bakiev’s 
administration, accused of ordering police action that caused the deaths of at 
least 70 people during anti-government protests in April. The uprising ended 
with Bakiev being swept from power. (Reporting on casualties at the time 
included Kyrgyz Mourn Uprising Victims and Riot Deaths Spark Kyrgyz Turmoil.)

On a separate legal track, 152 criminal cases are in train in southern 
Kyrgyzstan in connection with the outbreak of ethnic violence in and around Osh 
and Jalalabad that left more than 400 people dead, according to official 
figures. (IWPR covered these events extensively, for example in Renewed Unrest 
in South Kyrgyzstan and South Kyrgyzstan Slides Out of Control.)

Finally, five individuals have been on trial since September, accused of 
attacking homes and property in the village of Mayevka in April, shortly after 
Bakiev was removed from office. Five people died in this attempt to seize land 
in this settlement close to Bishkek that is home to Meskhetian Turks, Russians 
and Kyrgyz. A verdict is expected in mid-December. (See Kyrgyz Leaders Struggle 
With Land Wars.)

All these trials are important in that they stem from key events that have 
shaken Kyrgyzstan to its heart this year. But the location, timing and conduct 
of the proceedings, and the way they are being covered in the media, create 
serious concerns that the national leadership is using them for its own ends

On the positive side, the court proceedings have been open and accessible to 
the public. Trials relating to the unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan are being held 
in situ in local courtrooms, while Bakiev’s associates are being tried in the 
Palace of Sports, chosen as the biggest venue in the country. An explosion on 
November 30 last month, however, has led to plans to switch this trial venue. 
(See Blast in Kyrgyz Capital Raises Tensions.)

Such transparency and accessibility has to be welcomed as a sign of how far 
Kyrgyzstan has come since becoming independent in 1991. This contrasts markedly 
with the aftermath of the 1990 ethnic conflict in Osh, when proceedings were 
conducted strictly behind closed doors at the Supreme Court.

So from one perspective, holding open judicial examinations that are clearly in 
the public interest can been seen as an attempt to abandon stage-managed 
political trials.

But there are also indications that the reverse might be true – the authorities 
may wish to create a distraction to channel the popular anger that has built up 
over months of turbulence, instability, and disappointment that the hopes 
vested in the post-Bakiev administration have come to nothing.

That impression is made all the stronger by the interruptions and intimidation 
that have marred trial proceedings. We have seen frequent and aggressive 
interruptions by relatives of those killed in April and other members of the 
public, shouted threats at defendants and their lawyers, ethnic slurs directed 
at non-Kyrgyz defendants, and calls for harsh punishment, even lynching. 
Neither judges nor the police officers deployed to provide security have acted 
resolutely enough to curb such behaviour.

Although it is understandable that revisiting such traumatic events will is 
highly emotive, there is a clear line between public accessibility and active 
disruption, and it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure order and security 
at trials.

The attempt to gloss over the ethnic aspect of the June violence is worrying. 
Right groups like the New York-based Human Rights Watch point out that the 
majority of defendants are Uzbeks. Meanwhile, most of the police force in the 
south are Kyrgyz.(IWPR interviewed a Human Rights Watchrepresentative in Kyrgyz 
Unrest Trials Show Bias, Discrimination.)

Human Rights Watch quotes prosecutors as saying in August that of the 243 
people in detention, 29 were ethnic Kyrgyz, and more than 200 were Uzbek.In a 
speech in November, President Roza Otunbaeva said 100 Uzbeks and nine Kyrgyz 
had been convicted to date in Osh region, and 30 Uzbeks and 22 Kyrgyz in 
Jalalabad.

Yet government officials continue to assert that has been no ethnic bias during 
the investigative and prosecution phases.

"There has been no discrimination against the Uzbek community in judicial 
proceedings in the south of Kyrgyzstan," Otunbaeva said.

There must be grave concern that due process has not been observed in trials 
and sentencing. Failure to ensure this could be storing up trouble for the 
future. Yet the issue is being ignored at political level and is not being 
reported in the media.

Thousands of people took part in the disturbances of April and June, but only 
dozens have been brought before the courts. And they are only the alleged 
direct participants, while those who coordinated and incited acts of violence 
have got off scot-free.

The flawed conduct of these historic proceedings suggests that the political 
elite and state institutions of Kyrgyzstan are incapable of delivering justice 
and holding perpetrators to account.

It may well be that by keeping a lid on the more difficult aspects of these 
cases, the authorities are trying to avoid resolute action such as imposing law 
and order in the south, and tackling nationalist sentiment.

At the same time, the conduct of these trials has led to mounting unhappiness 
among some influential groups associated with the defendants, who served under 
Bakiev.

In the Bishkek trial, most defendants are former members either of the now 
dismantled presidential security service or of the elite Alfa force, part of 
the National Security Service. Certain southern politicians previously 
associated with the Bakiev administration are also unhappy with the process.

There were always risks to prosecuting representatives of such powerful forces, 
but doing so in a manner that is not seen to deliver justice will do little 
more than alienate some in the police services.

All in all, it is hardly surprising that some people in Kyrgyzstan view the 
process as a series of show-trials devoid of justice.

This presents grave risks – respect for human rights and due process may be 
devalued, public confidence in the police and courts may decline, and populist 
politics may be encouraged, leading to further ethnic conflict and mob justice. 
That, of course, is the worst-case scenario.

Holding these historic trials in the public view is thus inadequate if the 
intention is to uphold human rights, judicial independence and the fair 
administration of justice. The rule of law must be paramount, the rights of 
every citizen must be protected, and courts must be seen to be independent 
actors capable of delivering fair verdicts.

Unless this is achieved, Kyrgyzstan’s new constitution and the parliamentary 
system it is supposed to generate, and in which the public has such high hopes, 
will fail to produce major changes for the better.

Pavel Dyatlenko is a political analyst of“Polis Asia”, a think-tank 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.

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strengthening civil society and securing human rights. Amid war, dictatorship, 
and political transition, IWPR builds the level of public information and 
responsible debate. IWPR forges the skills and capacity of local journalism, 
strengthens local media institutions and engages with civil society and 
governments to ensure that information achieves impact.


IWPR - Europe, 48 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 20 7831 1030

IWPR – United States, 1325 G Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005, 
United States
Tel: +1 202 449 7717

1515 Broadway, 11th Floor, New York, New York 10036, United States
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Tel: +31 70 338 9016

For further details on this project and other information services and media 
programmes, go to: http://iwpr.net/

ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2009 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting 

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