05/15/2008, 00.00
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Three years after the Andijan massacre torture and manhunts continue

In May 2005 the army shot at unarmed demonstrators, killing hundreds. Since then eyewitnesses have been tortured, made to disappear or forced to “confess” their errors, this according to Human Rights Watch, which has called on Uzbekistan’s neighbours not to repatriate Uzbek fugitives.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/HRW) – Three years after the massacre of Andijan, where the army shot at unarmed demonstrators killing hundreds (see photo), the Uzbek government continues to persecute witnesses. Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges Kyrgyzstan not to extradite Uzbek exiles.

HRW and other groups have denounced Uzbek authorities for torturing eyewitnesses, threatening to have them disappear, humiliating those who saw what happened, not to mention keeping them under close surveillance.

Witnesses have been forced to sign false confessions or statements supporting the government’s version of the May 2005 events. Some were also forced to publicly confess, “admit” their mistakes, and beg for forgiveness. Some children of Andijan refugees have faced humiliation and the threat of disciplinary measures by the school administration, and in some cases have been prevented from continuing their education outright.

Many areas of Andijan remain off-limits to outsiders who cannot visit residents or the local cemetery.

The government has always claimed that “only”187 people died, mostly rioting Islamic fundamentalists, and has rejected demands for an international enquiry into the events which Western governments still consider an open question.

Many witnesses have fled abroad to avoid close surveillance.

HRW has criticised Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia and Kyrgyzstan for sending several exiles back. Kyrgyzstan has repatriated more than ten people, and at least another five have disappeared from its territory during that period.

Now HRW has urged Bishkek not to repatriate Erkin Holikov because “if he’s sent back, he’ll face a serious risk of torture or other ill treatment.”  

In 2003 the United Nations reported that torture in Uzbekistan was “systematic,” and concluded that in 2007 that it remained “widespread,” occurring with “impunity.”

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See also
Kyrgyzstan under pressure to repatriate refugees to Uzbekistan
Eyewitnesses ready to tell their story about the Andijan massacre
EU delegation in Central Asia talking human rights and oil
Kyrgyzstan forcibly repatriates Uzbek refugees
Poet Yusuf Juma, one of Uzbekistan’s few free voices, sentenced to forced labour


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