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Report: Kyrgyz authorities allowed ethnic violence to continue

By Mila Sanina, CNN
At its peak, the ethnic violence displaced 300,000 people, including this woman, who lost her home in Osh.
At its peak, the ethnic violence displaced 300,000 people, including this woman, who lost her home in Osh.
  • Human Rights Watch finds authorities failed to take measures to stop the bloodshed
  • Ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks broke out in June, killing more than 350 people
  • The report finds law enforcement "acted in an illegal and abusive manner"

(CNN) -- Law enforcement authorities in Kyrgyzstan failed to respond adequately to deadly violence that erupted in the southern part of the country in June, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Monday.

The report found that authorities allowed clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks to continue and failed to take adequate measures to stop the bloodshed and ensure security for the minority Uzbek population.

The release of the report, entitled "Where is the Justice?," comes amid the aftermath of the conflict that claimed the lives of at least 356 people and left hundreds of people homeless. It is based on extensive forensic evidence and more than 200 interviews with victims, their families, lawyers and government officials.

The 91-page report documents sweeping violations committed by officials during the operations following the conflict.

"The law enforcement officers acted in an illegal and abusive manner, beating and insulting residents, looting their homes, and, in at least one case, tearing and burning their identification documents," the report says.

Based on multiple accounts from witnesses, the report describes security forces "conducting arbitrary, unsanctioned searches of people's homes without identifying themselves or explaining the reasons for the raid; threatening and insulting the families; refusing to tell the families where detainees were being taken; and, in some cases, beating detainees and planting evidence, such as spent cartridges, during the operations."

Kyrgyzstan officials announced in June that the government would investigate allegations of Kyrgyz troop involvement in the clashes.

The Human Rights Watch report concluded, however, that the government-led criminal investigation of the June events is being conducted with significant problems.

Although 3,500 criminal cases have been opened as part of the ongoing investigation, the effort does not appear to be comprehensive or objective, the report says, noting that the Kyrgyz government has failed to question the role of security forces in facilitating and contributing to the three-day clashes.

Government officials have said their inadequate response was due to inadequate forces to immediately stop the violence that flared up so suddenly and spread so quickly.

"However, the security forces seemed to respond differently to acts of violence depending on the ethnicity of the perpetrators, raising concerns that capacity was not the only reason for the failure to protect ethnic Uzbeks," the report says. "The security forces seemed to focus resources on addressing the danger presented by Uzbeks, but not by Kyrgyz, even after it became clear that Kyrgyz mobs posed an imminent threat."

Commenting on the importance of the investigation in the aftermath of the violence, central Asian expert and author Erica Marat said that "the new government of Kyrgyzstan, political activists and the people want a meaningful investigation. They see competing interpretations of the violence and are afraid that similar provocations will erupt unless thorough examination of the events takes place."

In the concluding remarks of the report, Human Rights Watch -- an independent human rights organization based in New York -- appealed to authorities to end the continuing human rights violations, including "arbitrary arrest, extortion and use of torture and ill-treatment," and to find the aggressors and hold them accountable.

At its peak, the ethnic violence was estimated to have displaced 300,000 people inside Kyrgyzstan and forced 100,000 more to flee the country.

The clashes were the most serious outbreak of ethnic violence in the former Soviet republic since 1990, when hundreds of people died in Osh.