A special police unit from Tajikistan's Ministry of Internal Affairs during counter-terrorism training.
A program by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to provide human rights training to police in Uzbekistan has sparked controversy, with local activists arguing that such training is at best useless and would simply be window dressing.
The training, funded by the government of Germany, will train 50 police in the Kashkadarya, Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan regions. According to an OSCE press release:
Participants in the training courses will study basic principles of human rights and the international system of human rights protection. They will also discuss case studies on the role of law enforcement agencies in ensuring rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and privacy.
Well, who could object to that? It turns out, human rights activists in Uzbekistan, according to a report on UzNews.net.
Human rights activists in Tashkent are convinced that these training courses serve no useful purpose and what the OSCE and the German government are doing is simply the imitation of training.
Human rights activist Tatyana Dovlatova believes that the Uzbek police “could not care less about international law”. “All these courses of the OSCE are just idle talk,” she said....
Another human rights activist, Shuhrat Rustamov, said that training courses for the Uzbek police would turn into a mere “talking shop”.
“This event is only for appearance sake,” he said.
After an incident in which an Armenian sniper allegedly shot an Azerbaijani child across the line of contact between the two sides in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, the OSCE has called on both sides to remove their snipers from the line of contact.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, the new chairman-in-office after Kazakhstan's chairing of the organization last year, made the comments at a briefing in Kazakhstan. From Reuters:
"Withdrawal of snipers would set a good example and would be appreciated by the political community."
"We will take what your president and your minister [referring to the Kazakh leadership] did and try to promote resolution by one millimetre, two millimetres, at least to have snipers withdrawn, at least to execute, one, two or three security measures, measures of trust. We will see how it goes."
The child's death is under dispute. According to the Azerbaijan news agency APA, the victim was a ten-year-old boy, Fariz Badalov, who was shot while playing outside his house. But Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan denied that the incident occurred:
The Armenian President noted that the recent statement is a slander, since hostilities against civilians, let alone against children, run counter to the moral portrait of Armenian soldiers. As for the certain incident, similar accusations are baseless, since even territorial peculiarities of the region make it impossible.
Ezgulik, a leading human rights NGO in Uzbekistan, had its office equipment seized December 30 in order to pay fines earlier imposed by a court in relation to a libel case, according to a press release from the group circulated via e-mail. Marshals from the Shaykhontokhur District Court seized a copying machine, printer, and other equipment from Ezgulik's central office on Navoi Street to cover fines totalling 250,000 soums (about $154) .
The fines related to a Tashkent City Court ruling on August 4, 2009 regarding a press release by Ezgulik about the death of famous Uzbek singer Dilnura Kadyrjanova. Ezgulik was forced to publish a rebuttal of its previous concern expressed on behalf of family members that Kadirjanova, whose death was ruled a suicide, may have been murdered, and also had to make a public apology. The case involved Col. Jamshid Matlubov, the brother of Bahodir Matulybov, Uzbekistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who fathered a child with Kadyrjanova.
Following in the footsteps of other prominent world leaders, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has hit the lecture circuit. It would a noble development for the “Leader of the Nation, but for the fact that his foray into academic instruction was performed at the immodestly named Nazarbayev University in Astana.
In a display of somewhat touching denial, Nazarbayev is pushing the argument that the largely inconclusive OSCE summit held in the Kazakh capital last week was nothing short of a epoch-defining moment.
State-run Kazinform news agency cites Nazarbayev as saying that the Astana summit was a landmark event not only for Kazakhstan, but the international community as a whole. The summit, which will be remembered at best as an anticlimactic disappointment, will henceforth be brandished by the country's leadership as evidence of Kazakhstan's undisputed role in global diplomacy.
Adopting the mantle of a latter-day Woodrow Wilson, Nazarbayev explains to eagerly listening students that Kazakhstan has "always" been a cradle of initiatives aimed at boosting integration, convergence, friendship and brotherhood among all the nations of the world. Warming to his theme, Nazarbayev maintains that the adoption of the Astana Declaration may come to constitute "the formation of a single undivided community of Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security," even though there is nothing in the language of the document that signals any distinctive departure from things as they currently stand -- dysfunction as the norm.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev greets President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at opening of OSCE summit in Astana, December 1.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov got his way -- he made it to Astana this week for the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but human rights activists from Turkmenistan were forced to stay home, blocked by the OSCE chair-in-office, which is Kazakhstan this year.
In October and November, when OSCE ultimately allowed Turkmen activists to attend its human rights review conferences in Warsaw and Vienna despite Ashgabat's objections, the Turkmen leader had threatened to boycott the OSCE summit in Astana this week.
Earlier, when the human rights activists tried to register for the conferences, at first they were denied entry by the OSCE secretariat following Ashgabat's protest. As in past years, the Turkmen delegation doesn't even show up to these meetings due to criticism by delegations of the human rights situation in Turkmenistan.
Then Western diplomats led by the U.S. and European Union invoked a point of order, and eventually several activists, including Annandurdy Hajiev and Farid Tuhbatullin were allowed to participate -- angering the Turkmen government. Kazakh diplomats were then dispatched to Ashgabat for talks with the Turkmen Foreign Ministry and eventually some kind of agreement must have been raised.
Bitter divisions between member states are hampering agreement on the wording of a declaration due to be signed within a few hours as a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) enters its second and last day in the Kazakh capital.
Host President Nursultan Nazarbayev opened this morning’s proceedings urging delegates not to miss a historic opportunity to reshape the future of the OSCE and to “overcome disagreements and reach consensus.”
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, who is chairing the first session on December 2, said negotiators were still working on the wording of the document. At this late stage, that implies that there are some serious hurdles to overcome before the Astana declaration can be signed – if it is.
Summit proceedings opened December 2 at 10:00 Astana time and are due to close at 12:30, so frantic delegates will have to pull out all the stops behind the scenes to come up with a wording that suits everyone.
Astana has always acknowledged that Russia is its chief foreign policy ally, but it also enjoys warm relations with the United States that were hailed by Hillary Clinton on December 1. Now’s the time for Kazakhstan to put into play its “multi-vector” foreign policy, which is based on forging good relations with all major world players, and demonstrate its vaunted bridge-building role within the OSCE.
A group of Uzbek asylum seekers facing extradition to Uzbekistan from Kazakhstan has appealed to human rights organizations to use the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) opening in Astana today to pressure Kazakhstan, this year’s OSCE chairman, not to extradite them to Uzbekistan.
“We ask you to do your best to prevent the extradition of Uzbek refugees,” the appeal, distributed by e-mail, said, asking them to lobby for the issue to be discussed at the summit.
The asylum seekers have almost exhausted their legal options. The Kazakh Prosecutor-General’s Office has ordered their extradition to Uzbekistan, where they say they risk being tortured.
Kazakhstan is signatory to international conventions prohibiting refoulement (extradition to a country where a deportee may face torture). However, human rights organizations say regional security agreements often override such commitments for Kazakhstan – a bit of realpolitik to keep authoritarian neighboring states sweet.
It’s confirmed: Uzbek President Islam Karimov will not attend the much trumpeted OSCE summit in the Kazakh capital on December 1 - 2. Instead, Karimov will send his foreign minister, Vladimir Norov.
Observers link Karimov’s absence in Astana to rifts with his Central Asian neighbors. Instead of engaging to solve cross border problems – such as mounting disputes over water resources – the Uzbek leader is offering his archrivals from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan an opportunity to put forward their views and win the international community’s sympathy, Uzbekistan-watchers say.
Ignoring the international meeting in Kazakhstan and missing a chance to catch up with world leaders is strange behavior, they say, especially when even the president of “neutral” Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov – no dependable Karimov ally – has decided to make the Astana pilgrimage.
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Kazakhstan's Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev
Turkmen human rights activists are concerned they will not receive visas to travel to Astana for events related to the summit of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights reported, citing a statement from the Russian Memorial Human Rights Center.
Memorial is one of the participants in a parallel NGO conference of civil society organizations to be held November 28-29, before the official summit December 1-2 in Astana.
Annadurdy Hajiev, co-founder of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights based in Bulgaria, is reportedly being denied entry to Kazakhstan. With only days remaining before the third and final OSCE review conference in Astana and subsequent parallel meeting, he has not yet been granted a visa to Kazakhstan.
"We are getting the impression that Kazakhstan is deliberately dragging out the issuance of visas to obstruct my participation in conferences in Astana," Memorial quoted Hajiev as saying.
"Without a visa, the airline has thrice cancelled my preliminary reservation on a flight to Astana. The same is happening with my reservation for a hotel," he said.
Kazakhstan’s not famous as a staunch defender of political freedoms and human rights, and its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year hasn’t been noted for its focus on democratic values. Given Astana’s controversial record, that’s perhaps not surprising. Nevertheless, President Nursultan Nazarbayev is now lecturing other member states on their commitment to the core values of the OSCE and its predecessor, the CSCE, which include respecting democracy, media freedom and human rights.
“Unfortunately, today the principles and obligations set out in the CSCE/OSCE founding documents are ever more not being observed to the full," Nazarbayev lamented in an interview with Euronews (the text of which was carried by Kazakhstan’s state news agency Kazinform).
He knows what he’s talking about. For a start, Kazakhstan has never had an election judged free and fair by the OSCE’s observer missions. The last parliamentary election in 2007 saw Nazarbayev’s own party, Nur Otan, sweep up all elected seats in the lower house amid cries of foul play by the opposition, leading to a rubber-stamp one-party parliament that Nazarbayev described at the time as “a wonderful opportunity” to modernize Kazakhstan.