Kyrgyzstan detaining, torturing Uzbeks over riots: HRW

14th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Kyrgyzstan of detaining and torturing Uzbeks suspected of involvement in last month's deadly riots, warning the tactics could spark renewed bloodletting.

HRW said Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek minority was being disproportionally targeted in the probe into the clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups in south Kyrgyzstan which officials have said may have left up to 2,000 dead.

"Human Rights Watch expressed concern about what appears to be the disproportionate targeting of ethnic Uzbeks during the security operations," the international rights group said in a statement.

"The Kyrgyz authorities should take urgent steps to stop the widespread torture and arbitrary detentions of Uzbeks suspected of participation in the violence that erupted in June."

HRW said at least one man had died in over 30 cases it researched of beatings and torture in the custody of Kyrgyzstan security forces tasked with investigating the clashes.

In the southern region of Osh, Uzbek neighbourhoods have been prey to daily raids by armed groups dressed in camouflage, HRW cited witnesses as saying, describing the detentions as "unsanctioned" and "arbitrary".

Relatives of the men abducted in raids have gone days without news of those missing and have been asked to pay police bribes for their return in some cases, the group said.

Six men interviewed by HRW described being beaten with batons and rifle butts while at least two said they had been suffocated with gas masks and burned with cigarette butts, according to its report.

"While the Kyrgyz authorities have an obligation to investigate the June violence and prosecute those responsible, they must do so without violating international or Kyrgyz law," said Anna Neistat, a HRW researcher in Osh.

"Coercing confessions through torture discredits the investigation and fans the flames of the ethnic conflict."

Victims of the June clashes have told AFP the violence was an orchestrated campaign by armed Kyrgyz militias targeting Uzbeks, who make up about 14 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population of 5.3 million.

There have also been allegations that the local Kyrgyz security forces were complicit in the violence against the Uzbeks.

© 2010 AFP

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