Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 286- (28/10/04)
Cosying up to the US
The US has made two new friends: Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, whose pastime is to
boil his opponents to death, and Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov, whose
proudest accomplishment is to have renamed the months of the year after himself.
Both of these unsavoury despots are now the beneficiaries of US largesse: the
Saddams of tomorrow.
President Karimov met with visiting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for
Political-Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield in Tashkent on October 5th to
discuss regional security and ways to counter transnational threats.
The two men said that security in Central Asia is linked to efforts aimed at
restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan, Karimov's office told Interfax
News Agency. The Uzbek president applauded "vigorous contacts between
Uzbekistan and the United States which are intended to contribute to
Afghanistan's political and economic revival."
In fact the key to US complaisance is that it now has a military base in the
south on the Afghan border.
In profoundly corrupt settings, leaders go to extraordinary lengths to cling to
power for fear of prosecution by their successors. In Uzbekistan, Karimov has
prevailed in three flawed elections and extended his term in office through a
similarly flawed referendum.
Belarus/Uzbekistan: The last executioners
Tashkent admits to executing 100 dissidents or terrorists per year. Local human
rights activists put the figure far higher than that. They are nearly all
religious extremists with links to al-Qaeda in some cases.
Belarus and Uzbekistan are the last states of the former Soviet Union where
death sentences are still pronounced and executed. Their criminal justice
systems are flawed thus providing a fertile ground for judicial error. Amnesty
International receives credible allegations of unfair trials, and torture and
ill treatment, often to extract "confessions", on a regular basis from
both countries. Neither death row prisoners nor their relatives are informed of
the date of the execution in advance, denying them a last chance to say goodbye.
The body of the prisoner is not normally given to the relatives for burial and
they are not informed of the place of burial.
While all newly independent states retained the death penalty when the Soviet
Union collapsed in December 1991, nine have now abolished it. With Kazakstan's
declaration of a moratorium on executions in December 2003 and Tajikistan's
moratorium on death sentences and executions that took effect from April 2004,
four countries currently have moratoria in place. Russia is the only country of
all 45 members of the Council of Europe that has still not fulfilled its promise
to abolish the death penalty, which it made when joining the organization in
Many countries in the region have deported people to countries where they faced
the death penalty. Death sentences in these cases were often passed following
unfair trials accompanied by torture allegations. The deportations documented by
Amnesty International took place in violation of international treaty
obligations undertaken by the countries that facilitated the deportations.
The recall of an inconvenient ambassador
There has been a not unimportant event in Uzbekistan in mid-October. The
British Ambassador, Craig Murray, has been recalled. He has been an outspoken
critic of the human rights abuses of the Karimov regime, specifying the
appalling practices enacted in its tortured chambers.
Mr Murray, 45, was recalled to London in September last year and subjected to a
disciplinary review in an attempt to silence his outspoken attacks on abuses in
Uzbekistan. He was allowed then to return to his post only after media coverage
sympathetic to his plight embarrassed the Foreign Office.
News of Mr Murray's latest confrontation coincided with the leaking of a
classified memorandum he submitted to his superiors last July in which he railed
against the government's use of information extracted under torture in
Uzbekistan." This material is useless, we are selling our souls for
dross," Mr Murray wrote. "Tortured dupes are forced to sign
confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe -
that they and we are fighting the same war against terror. We receive
intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek Security Services, via the
US. We should stop. This is morally, legally and practically wrong.
"The practice, he added, "fatally undermines our moral standing. It
obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture; they are fully
aware our intelligence community laps up the results." The Foreign Office
indicated that it would evaluate intelligence even if it had been extracted in
other countries under torture.
"The UK abides by its international law contract," a spokesman said.
"But you have to bear in mind the need for intelligence on
counter-terrorism to avert threats to British nationals' lives. It would be
irresponsible to ignore this information."
People are being boiled alive and subjected to other unspeakable horrors.
Karimov's torturers have stolen a leaf from the book of Saddam Hussein's in this
regard. They routinely haul in the victim's family, friends and work colleagues
to force them to behold him being tortured. In the case of many a fake reprieve
the relatives and others are then required at gunpoint to carry out the
The aim of this particular form of intimidation is to terrorise the entire
population. As local observers agree it is in fact only serving to create new
recruits for the violent wing of the opposition, who are, indeed, increasingly
resorting to terrorist tactics. Bombings took place outside police stations in
Tashkent and Bokhara in March and April, killing 47.
Mr Murray's exposures of President Islam Karimov's ruthless repression of
Muslims and use of torture played a part in America's decision to withdraw aid
from Uzbekistan this year, infuriating Tashkent. Both America and Karimov have
brought pressure to bear on Britain to silence its ambassador, with little
Mr Murray believes intelligence coming from Uzbekistan is compromised not merely
because much of it is extracted under torture, but because it is in Tashkent's
interest to convince the West it has a vested interest in combating a
His removal is undoubtedly a blow for the moderate opposition. It is likely to
convince the opponents of the regime that the West has finally abandoned it and
make them more prone to take the terrorist route. That suits a Karimov and his
henchmen just fine, justifying their repressive rule and confirming Tashkent as
a staunch ally of Washington in the 'War against Terror'.
The UK is being widely condemned for its behaviour, acting at the bidding of the
US to the sacrifice of its liberal principles. The US has been benefiting from
the use of a crucial military base near the Afghan border and has been extending
aid and credits. The Foreign Office is insistent that the recall of Murray has
nothing to do with his stance on human rights and is for quite other reasons,
including certain diplomatic misdemeanours he was supposed to have perpertrated
last year, as well as his poor medical condition.
Nobody believes them, including, one may be sure, the Uzbek authorities, who
must be extremely gratified at the turn of events. The signal has gone out loud
and clear. They can torture and execute oppositionists to their hearts content
without their being any more than private, informal reproof from the West. They
can live with that easily and pocket aid in the process. No doubt the
"sophisticates" in the FCO will convince themselves that higher
considerations can justify this extraordinary betrayal of Western liberal
values, but to the rest of the world it smacks of Pontius Pilate - or "the
FOOD & DRINK
Uzbekistan to sell stake in Coca-Cola bottlers
Uzbekistan's State Property committee plans to sell it 57 per cent stake of
charter capital in the US-Uzbek joint venture Coca-Cola Bottlers Uzbekistan Ltd,
Interfax News agency reported.
A source in the committee said the stake is estimated at 14m Euro. Coca-Cola
Bottlers Uzbekistan was set up in 1993. Its founders are the US Coca-Cola Export
Corp with 42 per cent of the shares and the state association Uzpishcheprom with
57 per cent. Small investors own the rest of the shares. "There are
investors who are ready to buy this package," the source said. He was
silent on being asked whether the shares would be sold at an auction or through
direct talks with potential investors. Three chilled beverage plants are part of
the joint venture. The company had 80 per cent share of the chilled beverage
market in 2001. The enterprise stopped producing product in the middle of last
year due to a lack of turnover funds to buy concentrate for producing beverages.
National Bank sign US$20m framework loan agreement
The National Bank of Uzbekistan signed a US$20m (Kc 520m) framework loan
agreement with the largest Czech bank, Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka (CSOB)
recently, the Czech Business Weekly reported.
The agreement is aimed at boosting Czech exports to the Central Asian country.
Around 85 per cent of the loan agreement is insured by the Czech state export
guarantee and insurance company. A number of Czech companies are trying to win
large orders in Uzbekistan at present.
MINERALS & METALS
Uzbekistan ups steel output
Uzmetkombinat, Uzbekistan's only steel mill, smelted 378,400 tonnes of steel in
the first eight months of the current year, up 15.8 per cent on an annual basis.
On September 30th, the company said it had increased roll production 15.6 per
cent to 354,530 tonnes, including value-added products, output of which grew 19
per cent to 264,640 tonnes, Interfax News Agency reported.
Production of grinding balls for ore mines increased 6.6 per cent year-on-year
to 89,900 tonnes. Uzmetkombinat smelts scrap metal. It has the capacity to
produce 750,000 tonnes of crude steel per year. The company produced 446,521
tonnes of roll and exported 180,700 tonnes in 2003.
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