Uzbekistan has an appalling human rights record. Elections are fixed, and political parties who disagree with the government refused registration (and effectively banned). Thousands of people have been incarcerated on religious charges (for heinous crimes such as attending an unregistered mosque or following an imam who is out of favour with the authorities). Police and security agents routinely torture people to compel them to confess, and people regularly die under torture.
For example, in 2002 Human Rights Watch reported on the case of Muzafar Avazov. He was accused of a religious crime, but died during his interrogation. He had burns on his legs, buttocks, lower back and arms covering 60-70% of his body. Pathologists reported that such burns could only have been caused by immersing Avazov in boiling water. He also had a large wound on the back of the head, heavy bruising on the forehead and side of the neck, and his hands had no fingernails. Sources in the prison alleged that he had been tortured for refusing to stop praying while in custody. Uzbek prison authorities maintain that Mr Avazov died after inmates spilled hot tea on him!
His mother (Fatima Mukhadirova) took photos of her son's injuries to the British Ambassador (Craig Murray) who passed them to Glasgow University's pathology department. They concluded that he had clearly been immersed in boiling water. Soon after, Mrs Mukhadirova was arrested and sentenced to six years hard labour for (you guessed it) religious crimes. Murray landed himself in trouble with the Foreign Office by confirming his (very reasonable) opinion that the conviction was a punishment for speaking out about the torture and death of her son. He was already in the bad books because he had previously questioned the transfer of prisoners from the US and accused the CIA of violating the United Nations' Prohibition Against Torture. He warned that the UK could not use any of the intelligence obtained from Uzbekistan because it had been elicited through torture and stated "We should cease all cooperation with the Uzbek security services - they are beyond the pale," The Foreign office reacted to his request for support for Mrs Mukhadirova by beginning an investigation - into the Ambassador! To his credit, Murray forced the Uzbek authorities to release the woman by highlighting her cause, but it cost him his job. The Foreign Office has declined to answer Mr. Murray's allegations.
Now, Human Rights Watch has published a report on the massacre of civilians by Uzbek government troops in Andjan on 13 May 2005. The report, based on eye witness accounts, alleges that the Uzbek government used indiscriminate, lethal force against an unarmed crowd who were protesting against poverty and repression.
The protest began when a group of armed men stormed a jail and freed a local businessman who was accused of a religious crime. They took government officials hostage and occupied a local government building. This was clearly an illegal act, and the authorities had the right to respond. However, a crowd of thousands of unarmed people gathered outside the building. According to eye witness accounts, the crowd were chanting "Freedom" (the government claim they were chanting "Allah is great"). The Uzbek troops sealed off the area and began to fire at the crowd from armoured trucks. One witness described how a group of 400 people were mown down as they tried to flee. After the attack, people were warned not to talk about the incident (or face arrest and torture) and journalists had all materials confiscated and were forced to leave.
The government claims the death toll was 173, but the opposition party have claimed it was as high as 745.
Kenneth Roth (executive director of Human Rights Watch) stated "The Uzbek authorities are trying to whitewash this massacre. Our investigation is a first step towards setting the record straight. But only a full-fledged international investigation, with access to official records, can give a true picture of the tragic events in Andijan."
Bush was asked why he has not commented on the massacre at a recent press conference. He replied "Thanks for bringing it up, we've called for the International Red Cross to go into the Andjan region to determine what went on and we expect all our friends, as well as those who aren't our friends, to honour human rights and protect minority rights".
This has to be one of the most hypocritical and blatantly false statements made by this habitual liar.
It is considered very likely that US trained troops took part in the massacre. A group led by Senators Patrick Leahy and John McCain are pressing for an investigation of the US involvement in the massacre and have made it clear that all deals with the country should be halted until this impartial international investigation has been conducted. Of course, there will be no investigation.
Since 2002, Bush's government has given Uzbekistan $79 million in aid. When Colin Powell tried to prevent an additional gift of $18million to the Uzbek security forces in July 2004, he was overruled by General Myers and a further $3million was given to the regime despite the state department confirming that torture was used as routine investigation tool. In May 2005, Condoleezza Rice waved a State Department restriction on providing aid to regimes with dreadful human rights records. This will allow the construction of the permanent US military base Bush wants.
Furthermore, the New York Times reported in May 2005 that the US has sent a number of prisoners to Uzbekistan for interrogation under the "rendition" program, to avoid the restrictions of US law. Bush is well aware of what is going on in Uzbekistan, and it suits him just fine. After all, Uzbekistan is a good ally in the "War on Terror" and they have lots of highly lucrative gas.
The Uzbek dictator, Islam Karimov, has refused requests by the EU, Nato and the UN for an impartial review, and claims that the massacre was caused by Islamic fundamentalists. Three weeks after the massacre, the Red Cross have still not been allowed access to the wounded or arrested following the massacre, and have not been allowed to investigate the deaths.
It is hard to see why we consider Uzbekistan a reasonable ally. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declined to send observers to the election in 2000 because they considered there was no possibility that the election would be fair. Karimov responded by stating "The OSCE focuses only on establishment of democracy, the protection of human rights and the freedom of the press. I am now questioning these values."
Our "beloved" Tony has now pretty much admitted that we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was evil, but Karimov is cut from the same cloth. In fact, he seems to have a particular penchant for nasty torture methods. So the "War on Terror" is shown in all its glory as nothing more than a method of increasing US power. In Iraq, it suited the US to remove a vicious tyrant to get access to the vital oil resources. In Uzbekistan, it suits the US to support a vicious tyrant to get access to the gas and establish an important military base.