On May 3, 2011, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry or the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC) released its final report on the interethnic violence and clashes between the country’s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities last year. The KIC was formed based on an initiative from the Nordic countries for an independent international inquiry and was accepted by the President of the Kyrgyz Republic. It includes seven prominent members from Finland, Australia, Estonia, France, Russia, Turkey and the United Kingdom with expertise in human rights, conflict analysis, international humanitarian law and international criminal law. The Commission is chaired by Dr. Kimmo Kiljunen, Special Representative for Central Asia of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The KIC was mandated by the Kyrgyz government to investigate the facts and circumstances relevant to incidents that took place in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, qualify the violations and crimes under international law, and determine responsibilities and make recommendations.
The ethnic clashes mainly centered in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, on the fringes of the volatile and densely populated Fergana Valley where the Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks intermingle and live in close proximity – also where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan meet. Interethnic violence followed weeks of turmoil after the ousting of then President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a mass uprising in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in April 2010. The final report’s findings are based on extensive interviews of some 750 witnesses (45 percent of them Uzbeks, 40 percent Kyrgyz), 700 documents and nearly 5,000 photographs and 1,000 video extracts.
Key Findings of the Commission:
All in all, the KIC blames the interim government and Kyrgyzstan’s weak security apparatus for failing to stop the violence, stating that “fragile state institutions and the weak rule of law” allowed the historic interethnic tensions to escalate into full blown clashes. The KIC reports that the violence of June 2010 “was reasonably foreseeable and that the Provisional Government should have developed a contingency plan that would, in the event that it occurred, have contained it.” Had the military been properly instructed and deployed, it would have been possible to prevent or stop the violence,” the report said. “The failure of the security forces to protect their equipment against seizure raises questions of complicity.” “Further, some members of the military were involved in some of the attacks on the mahallas” or Uzbek neighborhoods.
The investigation said mobs attacked security forces and grabbed their weapons, and also commandeered armored personnel carriers to attack Uzbek areas. The KIC believes that the presence of “expertly driven” armored vehicles was a sign of military involvement in the conflict – “such discipline and order is not commensurate with the normal actions of spontaneously rioting civilian crowds.”
According to the Commission, the Uzbeks made up 74 percent (as opposed to 25 percent Kyrgyz) of the 470 people killed, and a disproportionately high number of Uzbek-owned properties were destroyed. While the Health Ministry data showed that Kyrgyz accounted for the majority of the 1,900 people treated in hospitals. Fifty-nine Uzbeks and 7 Kyrgyz have so far been tried in connection to the violence, the report says. The Commission chairman Kimmo Kiljunen said that “eighty percent of prosecutions…in Kyrgyzstan have been focused on Uzbeks, although 74 percent of those killed were Uzbeks, so there is imbalance.”
More than 410,000 people were displaced by the clashes. According to RFE/RL, the KIC found that “there was also significant property damage, again to a disproportionately high number of ethnic Uzbek owned properties,” adding that Kyrgyz communities also suffered “very significant losses, in terms of life, health and property.”
The report found that although the violence of June 2010 “does not qualify as either war crimes or genocide,” certain attacks on Uzbek neighborhoods of Osh, if proven beyond doubt in a court of law, would amount to “crimes against humanity” adding that “there were many other criminal acts and serious violations of international human rights law.” The use of violence against women was particularly brutal, the KIC found: gang rape was employed because women are “markers of group identity and honor.”
The Reaction of the Kyrgyz Government:
The Kyrgyz authorities have dismissed the KIC conclusions and accused the authors of bias. They rejected the findings that security forces were complicit in the violence and blame the former regime of Bakiyev for the interethnic clashes – “they were a result of a protracted policies implemented by former regimes,” a government statement said.
The government also disagreed that the Uzbeks bore the brunt of the violence. “Kyrgyzstan considers it completely unacceptable that the documents clearly display an overwhelming tendency that only one ethnic group has committed crimes, ignoring the victims and deaths of this very group,” the government said.
The fact that the Kyrgyz government allowed an international commission to investigate the interethnic clashes that took place inside of the country is exceptional by the region’s standards. It’s reaction to the findings, however, is disappointing.
First, the violence happened under the Provisional Government’s watch so blaming Bakiyev and his cronies makes Rosa Otunbayeva and her administration look bad, if not criminal. It should accept full responsibility for the violence instead of pointing the finger at somebody else. It’s obvious to everyone when the king has no clothes.
Second, while one could understand that the provisional government wasn’t in full control of the country at the time, the fact that the authorities’ statements disagree that ethnic Uzbeks were largely the victims of the violence questions the credibility of Bishkek in general. They might as well dispute the Moon landing.