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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Kyrgyzstan: My election-day interview on 'Russia Today', Sunday 10 October 2010

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections, Sunday 10 October 2010

...and extract from the accompanying article on the 'Russia Today' web site...

" The elections in Kyrgyzstan are believed will bring about a long-awaited peace to the country, after it suffered heavy clashes between the Kyrgyz population and ethnic Uzbeks in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad following the ousting of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

However, Andrew Mcentee, former OSCE observer in Kyrgyzstan, believes that a parliamentary-based government system may not lead to stability in the region.

“The curious situation is that, somehow in the political culture it is felt that while the power is being taken away from the presidency and given to the parliament, nevertheless, the prize is still the presidency. Besides, the immediate neighbors – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan – would rather see the project of creating a parliamentary-based government system fail,” Mcentee told RT. "

Saturday, 12 June 2010

MY INTERVIEW on 'RUSSIA TODAY' TV CHANNEL: Violent clashes in Kyrgyzstan

Beautiful Kyrgyzstan! Surely one of my favourite countries - not only for the scenery (see the photos of my 2007 blog post, and my 2009 blog post), but for the character and spirit of many of the people I met there during my 2007 and 2009 visits. Following Kyrgyzstan's 7th April 2010 'revolt' that saw President Bakiev flee the country to Belarus, the Interim Government set itself a 6-month timetable to complete the transition to a new national settlement. This includes elections to be held in October for a new Parliament and President. First, though, a Referendum on June 20th, to establish the conditions for the October elections.

The OSCE recently set up a ROM (Referendum Observation Mission) that coincided with my 6-week visit to Georgia for the Local Government Elections (as OSCE election observer), so I couldn't go to Kyrgyzstan this time around. However, in mid-April, I was interviewed on the TV channel 'Russia Today' about the post-revolt situation. Today, I've been interviewed again, and this time I've got a link to the interview...

Here's the accompanying 'Russia Today' web site article:

Dozens killed and injured after violent clashes in turbulent Kyrgyzstan

Published 11 June, 2010, 19:30

Edited 11 June, 2010, 23:45

An outbreak of violence in the Southern Kyrgyz city of Osh has resulted in 46 dead and hundreds injured.

Out of more than 600 who have asked for medical assistance, approximately 50 are in a grave condition.

The country’s authorities have dispatched troops to the troubled area in an effort to bring the situation under control.

Violence broke out late Thursday evening when clashes erupted between Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths and quickly spread across the whole city.

Ravaging mobs have been looting and setting buildings on fire.

Read more

A curfew and a state of emergency were quickly imposed in Osh. Armored vehicles and security forces were sent in to patrol the streets.

The troops have been given permission to bear arms against the participants of the riots in case their actions endanger the lives of civilians.

However, Itar-Tass news agency reports that, according to witnesses, those measures have failed to stabilize the situation fully.

In addition, even though security forces have the center of the city under control, gunfire is still being heard in other parts of Osh.

In a statement on a local TV channel, the mayor of Osh urged residents to remain calm. The city’s gas supply had been cut off to prevent possible fires and explosions.

International human rights lawyer and former OSCE observer in Kyrgyzstan Andrew McEntee remembers that, back in 1990, several hundred died as a result of Kyrgyz-Uzbek tension.

“Today the situation clearly is different. For some people it's an opportunity for transition, while for others it's an opportunity for frustrating the transition. There is no doubt that political actors and security services actors at local and international level are pulling the strings behind the scene trying to steer this violence as a tool for their own opportunities,” McEntee told RT.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator John F. Kerry (Democrats) is to investigate the 'Convoy of Death' and subsequent mass graves site at Dasht-e-Leili, near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

Dasht-e-Leili (red pins), Sheberghan Prison, Sheberghan town
(Google Earth image, courtesy of Physicians for Human Rights)

The Senate inquiry comes in the wake of President Obama receiving a report about the convoy and the Dasht-e-Leili graves site, from his National Security team. In July 2009, President Obama was so concerned about war crimes allegations involving US military and local Afghan soldiers, that he instructed his national Security team to "collect the facts" and present them to him in a report. There was a positive response to this from human rights organisations, including a Physicians for Human Rights response on YouTube. However, it now seems that the hoped-for Presidential investigation into the convoy and mass graves may not take place, and the report itself will not be made public.

There is no reason to believe that the Senate inquiry is being welcomed by the White House. This means that the White House is unlikely to support the inquiry. If the Senate inquiry wishes to have sight of the White House report, it may ask for it, but may not receive it.

Physicians for Human Rights will support the Senate inquiry by submitting documentation relating to the PHR forensic team's part-excavation of the grave site in 2002. PHR personnel who took part in the site excavation will also make themselves available to Senate investigators. Jamie Doran, the producer-director of the 2002 television documentary, "Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death" (YouTube short version), will also make available his film (official site) and other archive materials, and personal knowledge of the incident. Ditto yours truly.

More on this as the Senate inquiry gets under way.

Monday, 4 January 2010


On 30th December, in a hearing related to the Dasht-e-Leili 'Convoy of Death', a US federal judge criticised the Department of Defense (DoD) for its weak response to a Freedom of Information request by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The judge ruled that DoD agencies should have searched for, and handed over, relevant documents existing between 1st November 2001 and now, rather than merely documents existing in November and December 2001.

The ruling gives a boost to the efforts of PHR and others, in our claim that US government agencies have been suppressing evidence relating to war crimes. The suppressed documents may corroborate claims that the bodies of up to a couple of thousand prisoners were buried in a mass grave site at Dasht-e-Leili in northern Afghanistan, at the end of 2001.

The DoD agencies, including Central Command and the Defence Intelligence Agency must comply with the ruling by no later than April.

Here's a report of the hearing from the Maryland Daily Record:

December 30, 2009

Federal judge orders DoD to supply Taliban papers

By Brendan Kearney <>

Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

The U.S. Department of Defense did not adequately respond to a human rights group’s Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the American investigation of a Taliban mass grave in northern Afghanistan, a federal judge in Baltimore ruled Wednesday, representing a “substantial” victory for government transparency advocates.

The U.S. Central Command, a DoD component agency known as CENTCOM, must now conduct a temporally broader search for internal documents related to the Dasht-e-Leili gravesite, and the Joint Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency must submit to U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett certain documents it had previously turned over to the Physicians for Human Rights only in redacted form.

Judge Bennett, who is handling the Washington, D.C., case because the district court there is overworked, otherwise ruled for the government defendants, determining that they had performed a reasonably thorough search and that they offered legitimate reasons for redacting portions of the relevant documents.

The decision, which comes during a presidential administration that has promised to be more forthcoming in response to FOIA inquiries, offers a series of important reminders, according to Eugene R. Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

“It’s a substantial victory, and it’s a reminder of the importance of FOIA,” said Fidell, who has submitted many FOIA requests to the Defense Department with “uneven” results and teaches at Yale Law School. “It is a reminder that we have someone looking over the government’s shoulder to enforce transparency. … It’s a reminder that the federal court helps the government turn square corners.”

Nathaniel Raymond, who has led the Physicians for Human Rights investigation into what happened at Dasht-e-Leili in late 2001, said the plaintiff organization is “heartened” by Bennett’s decision, “but the proof is in the pudding with what the Department of Defense produces.”

“We still don’t fully know what the U.S. knew, when they knew it, and how they knew it,” Raymond said. “But what we do know is this: Department of Defense personnel, namely the Special Forces teams on the ground … were operating with Northern Alliance forces at the time of the massacre.”

A Pentagon spokesman said only that the “DoD will review the ruling and take the appropriate action.”

The events underlying the lawsuit allegedly occurred in the months following the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the ouster of the ruling Taliban.

According to media reports, several thousand Taliban fighters surrendered to the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan, after a battle in Konduz. The defeated Taliban were then transported, in sealed cargo containers, 200 miles to a Northern Alliance prison in the city of Sheberghan, according to Bennett’s memorandum opinion.

During the journey, approximately 1,000 of the prisoners died of asphyxiation and were allegedly buried in a mass grave in nearby Dasht-e-Leili, according to the opinion. Raymond said he has seen State Department documents that have “a redacted three-letter intelligence agency” reporting an even higher body count.

Investigators from the Physicians for Human Rights, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit composed of health care professionals devoted to investigating alleged human rights violations, learned of the gravesite in January 2002 from Taliban prisoners at Sheberghan, according to a lengthy report in Newsweek magazine in August of that year.

Since then, the PHR has had only limited success in learning about the official American government investigation. It sued in February 2008 after the defendant agencies did not respond adequately to its June 2006 FOIA request. DOD, the State Department and the CIA have since provided approximately 60 documents to the PHR, some of which were heavily redacted.

In his 34-page opinion, Judge Bennett examined each defendant agency’s search procedures and explanations for what was not disclosed as laid out in their representatives’ affidavits. Most were “sufficiently detailed” or “not unreasonable under the circumstances,” he found, but with respect to the temporal scope of the search, the defendants interpreted PHR’s request “far too narrowly.”

“While the underlying events occurred in November and December of 2001, PHR have clearly requested all records ‘pertaining to’ or ‘relating to’ the underlying events, including any subsequent investigations,” Bennett wrote.

And in ordering the Defense Intelligence Agency to submit unredacted documents, Bennett found that division’s explanations for why their documents were exempt from disclosure “clearly deficient.”

CENTCOM must conduct its new search — from Nov. 1, 2001 to present, rather than just November and December of 2001 — then produce all responsive and non-protected information and renew its motion for summary judgment by April.

The Joint Staff must submit its September 2002 U.S. Space Command Situation Report and the DIA must, by February, submit two intelligence reports it claims contain code words and names of international organizations with which the DIA shared intelligence in one instance and geocoordinates and an evaluation of a classified source in the other.