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At UN, Ban Praises Kyrgyz Vote But Takes No Question on Low Uzbek Turn Out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- Capping a month of weak UN action on ethnic cleansing in Kyrgystan, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday morning read out a statement to the Press lauding a high voter turn out over the weekend on the Constitution, which outlaws ethnicity based political parties.

Inner City Press began to ask Ban a question, for Ban's and the UN's estimate of turn out for the targeted ethnic Uzbek group. We can give you information at the noon briefing, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky cut in. Ban smiled.

In the Kyrgyz border town of Suratash, to which ethnic Uzbeks fled to escape violence and targeted rape, only 100 of 4000 people were able to vote on the constitution, according to the Associated Press. How can the Ban and the UN be praising such a turn out, and then refusing to take questions? To some it smacks of propaganda.

Ethnic Uzbeks on the move, right to vote and UN answers not shown

Nesirky chose only three questions for Ban to take, doing so in such a way that Kyrgystan was unlikely to come up. The first question was on Israel and Palestine; the next was on Iran. The last question was on Haiti. All three were high diplomacy questions, none implicating the UN and the decisions it makes.

Now Ban flies off to the Congo, saying he will express the world's solidarity with the Congolese people on the 50th anniversary of the DRC's independence. What about the pending nepotism report against Ban's envoy to the Congo, Alan Doss? Watch this site.

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As Uzbeks Forcibly Returned as Props for Kyrgyz Voting, UN Speaks of “Mixed Feelings”

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- Ethnic Uzbeks chased out of Kyrgyzstan by targeted violence are now being forced to return from Uzbekistan, so that the Kyrgyz de facto government can claim they had a chance to vote in Sunday's referendum purportedly legitimizing that government and its new constitution.

The UN, which despite the disenfranchisement of Uzbeks is supporting Sunday's referendum, coyly reports that many of those who fled are returning “with mixed feelings.” Inner City Press on Friday asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky to square this with reports of people being forced onto a bus in Uzbekistan, at the request of the Kyrgyz government. Video here, from Minute 11.

  Nesirky said “we are aware of those report.” Ok, but is UNHCR present in Uzbekistan to see if people are being forced to return?

  “UNHCR is not in a position to monitor all.. including from the Uzbek side of the border.” So, no. UNHCR is not looking at the returns, but is bragging about the numbers going back.

As Uzbeks cry of violence, Kyrgyz gov't is eying vote, legitimacy not shown

But forcibly bussed to an election in an area just the scene of ethnic cleansing is not the same as voting. The interim Government dropped the minimum turn out percentage for the referendum from 50% to 30%. Inner City Press asked what is the UN's number, below which even the UN will admit there a legitimacy problem?

We're not playing a numbers game,” Nesirky said of the election. What other game is there to play? Watch this site.

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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...

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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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 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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