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In Uzbekistan, UN Development Program Abandons Local Hire to Torture by Karimov

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 24 -- While in Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov celebrates his claim of receiving 88% of the vote for president, over candidates who each issued endorsements of Karimov, the lack of support by the UN Development Program for one of its employees in Uzbekistan who has been charged with espionage and sentenced to 25 years in prison has been called into question.

            On the election, Inner City Press on December 24 asked the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon if he would have any comment on the Uzbek election. The answer was that, with a few exceptions, he does not comment on elections, but rather sends a letter when the leader is inaugurated -- in Karimov's case, in less than two months.

            Inner City Press has previously asked UNDP about its engagement with the Karimov regime, which it helps to collect taxes and, apparently, to censor the Internet. UNDP's resident representative Fikret Akcura has responded to Inner City Press than human rights are not a part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

            Apparently not. In late 2004 Uzkek Erkin Musaev, after serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in Karimov's ministry of defense, was hired by UNDP. Insiders opine that UNDP frequently hires ex-government officials to try to curry favor with the former employers. It did not work in this case. Following the anti-Karimov uprising at Andijan in May 2005, Karimov had a wide range of people arrested, including Musaev. In a letter to his sister, Musaev describes being tortured to confess:

"They said if I do not agree with this accusation they will accuse me [of] sister, Mr Musaev told how he has been tortured in an attempt to obtain a confession from him of drugs trafficking and personal involvement in the Islamic movement. They said they can put literature or drugs in my house [] and accuse me on this [basis]."

            In a trial without a lawyer, Musaev was convicted of spying for the U.S. and for the United Nations, and given a sentence of 15 years. Six years were added in a second proceeding, in which Musaev was charged with financial fraud at UNDP. With UNDP providing no assistance, and claiming that Musaev was not a staff member, only a contract employee -- a distinction also proffered regarding the whistleblower about UNDP's close relations with the Kim Jong-il government in North Korea -- Musaev's family reached out to a retired Dutch general Ton Kolsteren who had worked with Musaev in a joint program between former Soviet states and NATO. In March 2007, Gen. Kolsteren reportedly sent a petition to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as to UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis and Associate Administrator Ad Melkert.

Karimov votes, UNDP and Musaev not shown

            Melkert belatedly responded that Musaev was not a member of UNDP staff, and referred to "the necessity to maintain a working relationship with the Uzbek government on an ongoing basis." Apparently Melkert and UNDP think this requires looking the other way when a local hire is hauled before a kangaroo court, charged with spying for the UN based on a confession obtained by torture, and given a multi-year sentence.

            On December 17, Inner City Press attempted to pose questions to Ad Melkert in the UN General Assembly lobby. Many UN officials take and answer questions this way. But Mr. Melkert, who once when asked by Inner City Press about transparency said "you ain't seen nothing yet," now rushes by with no answers. "I have to get to the ice bridge," he said on December 17, a rush belied by his companion stopping to get suggestions about coverage and about art. Well, a week later all that is left of the ice bridge outside the General Assembly is two medicine ball-sized chunks of ice.  If answers emerge, they will be reported on this site.

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540