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As Kyrgyz Blame Ethnic Cleansing on Uzbek Islamists, UN Council Belatedly Meets, "Humanitarian" Only

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- With ethnic Uzbeks threatened with disenfranchisement by ethnic cleansing in this Sunday's vote in Kyrgyzstan, the UN Security Council on Thursday belatedly took up the “humanitarian” issue on Thursday.

  Most Council Permanent Representatives were at a retreat in Turkey, a country which has come out in favor of the vote without Uzbeks. So second string Ambassadors gathered in the Council in New York to hear a closed door briefing from a second string UN political operative.

In Bishkek, the security agency of former UN staffer Roza Otunbayeva blamed the violence on deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and “Islamic militants,” including the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, to which Bakiyev allegedly paid $30 million.

But ethnic Uzbeks chased from Osh testify about Krygyz soldiers aiding and allowing the violence. At the UN, though, faced with a choice of blaming a failure to protect civilians on a government or on a shadowy scapegoat, the latter is easiest. Updated below

Kyrgyz soldiers on the move, right to vote not shown

Back on June 14, while the Perm Reps were in town, most of them left before the UN's Lynn Pascoe briefed. Afterward Inner City Press asked Mexico's Claude Heller, then and now the Council President, if Pascoe or any Council member had spoken of the need to re-open the border of Uzbekistan to allow those fleeing violence to escape.

Heller's answer was that there was concern about “internationalizing” the conflict, which seemed to mean the Council saw some benefit in trapping those targeted in Kyrgyzstan. Certainly Russia, which considers the region is backyard, wants to contain or bottle up the violence.

But why is the United States favoring a referendum Sunday which will disproportionately exclude the targeted minority Uzbeks? Perhaps this will be explained after Thursdays briefing. Watch this site.

Update of 10:26 am -- while most countries on the Council are represented by deputies -- including the US' Brooke Anderson -- Russia has its top three UN diplomats. Vitaly Churkin, who it was noted has not spoken to the press in some time, went on the Council's Afghanistan trip, but not its junket to Turkey. "This is about their backyard," one wag noted. And then the Council doors closed.

Update of 11:18 am -- As Council representatives (many new faces) came out, Inner City Press was told that the UN briefer didn't raise the specifics of the proposed Constitution to be voted on Sunday, certainly not the provision outlawing ethnicity based political parties. Nor, it seems, Karimov's blocking of polling in the refugee camps.

  Inner City Press asked Taranco as he came out if he had briefed about the Constitution. I have another meeting, he replied. There will be a read out. But when? From inside the Council chamber, there is cheering timed to the Slovakia - Italy World Cup game.

Update of 11:46 am -- A staffer emerging from the Council says not even Mexico remains inside now that the game is over (Slovakia 3, Italy 2 and Italy eliminated, like France, from the Cup).

  We have hit a new low: a closed door briefing about ethnic cleansing, with no outcome document and no summary from the month's Presidency.  Yellow card -- that makes two. Seeing red...

* * *

With Uzbeks Disenfranchised, UN Still Supports June 27 Kyrgyz Referendum: Security 1, Legitimacy 0

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 23 -- In the run up to the Kyrgyz constitutional referendum still scheduled for June 27, the intentional disenfranchisement of ethnic Uzbeks becomes ever more clear.

 Not only will those who fled the country not be able to vote -- many of those remaining have had their passports and other identity documents burned or otherwise destroyed.

 They will not be allowed to vote, on a constitution which would outlaw any ethnic Uzbek based political party.

Nevertheless, the UN has not retracted its envoy Miroslav Jenca's statement that the referendum “must” go forward on June 27.

  That the US and Russia, both of which have bases in Kyrgyzstan, would want to push through anything to make the de facto government there appear more legitimate is not surprising.

  But isn't the UN supposed to stand against ethnic cleansing, and disenfranchisement based on ethnic cleansing?

Uzbeks flee Osh on bus, ability to vote June 27 not shown

On June 22, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: you said in one of your readouts about the difficulty of delivering humanitarian aid because of the barricades. But some are saying that in fact, I mean, the Uzbek community put up barricades because people were coming into the community and burning their houses and killing them, and committing other atrocities. What’s been the UN’s position on the involuntary dismantling of the barricades, particularly in light of a report today that troops, Kyrgyz troops, beat and arrested ethnic Uzbek men in a neighbourhood of Osh. Is that something the UN is concerned about — the removal of barricades and increased violence?

Spokesperson Nesirky: We remain concerned about the tensions that there are in Osh, particularly in Osh, and elsewhere in the south of Kyrgyzstan. And we’re obviously concerned, and the Secretary-General himself is following closely the reports of some renewed violence and bloodshed. On the barricades, Miroslav Jenc(a, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, has been in Osh, and has been speaking to security officials and other local officials and also to local people. And he’s fully aware of the sensitivities that there are amongst the ethnic Uzbek population, and about the concerns that they have. And I know that he’s been speaking to the authorities there precisely because of those concerns.

Inner City Press: Also on Kyrgyzstan, yesterday I was informed by a well-placed person that the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has informed the UN and Kyrgyz authorities that there can be no polling in the refugee camps that have been established for people that fled across the border. I wonder, one, if you can just, I mean, I think this is true, but whether you can either now, or later today, confirm the UN’s understanding. And then if you do confirm it, explain how the UN can support an election that will, will you know, absolutely, or formally disenfranchise at least 80,000 people based on what many people see as ethnic cleansing.

Spokesperson: First of all, Mr. Jenc(a made clear in that audio briefing on Friday that the question of holding the referendum is one for the authorities of Kyrgyzstan. That’s the first thing. The second is that there are obvious concerns about people who are not in a position to vote. And I know that UN officials and others, including from the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] and the European Union, are talking to the authorities of the interim government of Kyrgyzstan about how one handles that. I will come back to you with some more details particularly on that, the part of the question about the Uzbek President having communicated with the UN about polling on his territory.

Inner City Press: And just one follow up on that, because I think there is a Bloomberg or Business Week story in which Mr. Jenc(a is quoted as saying the referendum must go forward. Has there been a change in his position since he said that, or was he misquoted when he said that?

Spokesperson: Well, you heard what Mr. Jenc(a said here, or in this, by audio here on Friday. It’s for the Kyrgyz authorities to decide on that. There are many factors that are involved; the balance of legitimacy versus security.

   For now, Security 1, Legitimacy 0...

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As Uzbekistan Bars Refugees from Krygyz Vote Banning Ethnic Parties, UN and US Support

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- The inability to vote in the June 27 Kyrgyz referendum will be added to the impacts of ethnic cleaning on the more than 80,000 people who fled to camps in Uzbekistan, Inner City Press is informed by well placed diplomatic sources.

  Uzbekistan's longtime strongman Islam Karimov has told the UN and Kyrgyz electoral officials that he will not allow anyone who crossed into his country to vote in the Constitutional referendum. Those who fled are ethnic Uzbeks, who are justifiably afraid to return home, much less by this Sunday.

  If they do not recross the border is six days, however, they will not be allowed to vote. This disenfranchisement is being supported not only by the UN, but also the United States and others.

  The draft Constitution that will be voted on and presumably approved, with ethnic Uzbeks disenfranchised, has a provision which would outlaw ethnicity based parties. Shades of Rwanda.

  The UN's story, here as there, is that this is the best that can be done, that the interim government of former UN staff member Rosa Otunbayeva is losing power by the day.

  While it seems common sense to delay the referendum, with 100,000 people just chased out of the country and 300,000 internally displaced, the UN argues that any long delay would send the message that further violence could result in the cancellation of the referendum.

Fleeing Osh, ability to vote in Kyrgyz referendum not shown

  While the UN is aware of, and apparently not even contesting, Islam Karimov's decision that no one in his country can vote, it argues that mobile polling stations will be available at some of the rag tag IDP camps on the Kyrgyz side of the border - while acknowledging that it will be difficult if not impossible to vote.

  How will a Constitution which outlaws organizing on an ethnic basis be legitimate, if jammed through while the disfavored and targeted ethnic minority has just be chased from the country, or into IDP camps where they can't vote? And why are the US and others, and the UN, supporting this? Watch this site.

* * *

Amid Uzbek Arrests, UN Silent, Turkey Vs Turkic, PGA to Condemn Acts But Not Actor Like Flotilla and Soon Cheonan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- The more the targeting of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan looks like planned ethnic cleansing, the less the UN does or says about it. An Uzbek human rights activist, Azimzhan Askarov who filmed some of the killings and reported Kyrgyz government involvement was arrested for "inciting hatred." Inner City Press asked, days later, what the UN had said or done about it. Nothing, apparently. Video here.

  Likewise, on the Uzbekistan side of the border, two journalists have been arrested for covering the plight of refugees: Alesky Volosevich then Vasily Markov. Has the UN said anything? No.

  In fact, the UN's Ban Ki-moon has offered nothing but praise for Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. While Karimov has a friend in Ban Ki-moon, he has enemies in Turkey. Back in 1994 there were Turkey-based plots against Karimov. His regime demanded that thousands of Uzbeks studying in Turkey return to Uzbekistan. Some say this explains Turkey's striking failure to stand up for the ethnic Uzbeks, who are called "more Turkic" than the Kyrgyz.

Uzbeks, barbed wire, UN and Turkey not shown

  A year ago, Turkey called events in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region "genocide." Now, faced with ethnic cleansing and killing of Turkic Uzbeks, Turkey instead throws its weight behind a Constitutional referendum to be held with Uzbeks out of the country and out of their homes. What explains the double standard?

   In what passes for news at the UN, President of the General Assembly told Inner City Press that his Office will be issuing a statement tonight "deploring" the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. As with the Security Council's statement on the Gaza flotilla (and soon on the sinking of the Cheonon), deplore the act without naming the actor....

* * *

To Uzbek Karimov, UN's Ban Does Not Raise Border Closure or Maxim Popov, Omitted from Transcript

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 18 -- With tens of thousands of people seeking to flee attacks in Kyrgyzstan blocked at the Uzbek border, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke on June 16 with Uzbekistan's strongman Islam Karimov. Ban did not, however, ask Karimov to open the border. This was confirmed on June 18, when Inner City Press asked Ban himself if any request had been made to open the border. Ban's two minute answer included no such request. Video here, from Minute 10:14.

  Nor did Ban raise to Karimov, when he visited Tashkent in April, the plight of UN-funded AIDS educator Maxim Popov, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for blasphemy. Inner City Press has twice asked Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, about Popov.

  On June 9, Sibide told Inner City Press that "I personally tried to be sure the Secretary General during his trip to Uzbekistan was able to raise this issue" of Popov. Video here, from Minute 10:02. Inner City Press then asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office if Ban had raised it, without answer.

  Inner City Press asked Ban directly on June 18, saying "the head of UNAIDS said you were prepared to raise this issue of Maxim Popov, in jail for seven year." Ban did not answer this part of the question, so Inner City Press repeated it. Video here, at 13:06.

  Ban replied, "United Nations relevant agencies will continue to work to address that issue." Not only is the logic circular -- UNAIDS says they prepared Ban to raise the issue, then Ban says "agencies" will be the ones to raise it -- when at 6 p.m. the UN put out their transcript of the press encounter, they omitted Inner City Press' Maxim Popov question, and called the follow up "inaudible." Compare video to UN transcript, below.

UN's Ban and Karimov, border closure and Popov not shown

Compare video to UN transcript--

Inner City Press: You mentioned the people that are waiting to cross the border out of Kyrgyzstan. When you spoke with President [Islam] Karimov of Uzbekistan, did you ask him to open the border? Also, when you were in Uzbekistan, were human rights a part of your conversation with President Karimov of Uzbekistan?

SG: When I had a telephone call with President Karimov just two days ago, I appreciated his willingness to accommodate 80,000 refugees who have crossed the border. I know that there is a serious difficulty in accommodating these 80,000 people and also in feeding them, providing necessary assistance. He told me that their capacity would run out in three to four days. That is why I have immediately spoken with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other United Nations agencies in mobilizing all humanitarian assistance. UNHCR has delivered more than 200 tons of immediate, urgent food assistance. Now it is important that borders are open, but at the same time, I know I know that there is concerns on countries in the region of how to manage this border security when addressing all these tens of thousands of people at one time. I will continue to discuss this matter. [Special Representative] Mr. Miroslav Jenca is on the ground in Bishkek talking to all the neighboring countries and he is closely coordinating with the Special Representatives of the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and Shanghai corporation organizations and other individual countries. I understand that you have been briefed by Mr. Jenca, by the way, at this afternoon's noon press briefing. So we will closely monitor what will be the best way to address this humanitarian issue including this border management.

Inner City Press: [inaudible, not into microphone]

SG: Again, United Nations relevant agencies will continue to work to address that issue.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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