Wednesday, 25 September 2002

PROTEST MARCH ABORTED IN KYRGYZSTAN

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By Gulzina Karim kyzy (9/25/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The protest march to Bishkek, which began on September 4 and which involved some 1000 protestors, stopped on September 13 after a memorandum was signed as a compromise agreement between senior government officials and opposition parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov.  The halting of the march was in general perceived as a good sign, the main result of which is believed to be the avoidance of renewed bloodshed.  However, the way the memorandum was achieved is evoking different reactions among people and the fulfillment of the obligations listed in the agreement from the part of the government is already being put under question.

The protest march to Bishkek, which began on September 4 and which involved some 1000 protestors, stopped on September 13 after a memorandum was signed as a compromise agreement between senior government officials and opposition parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov.  The halting of the march was in general perceived as a good sign, the main result of which is believed to be the avoidance of renewed bloodshed.  However, the way the memorandum was achieved is evoking different reactions among people and the fulfillment of the obligations listed in the agreement from the part of the government is already being put under question.

The memorandum was the outcome of negotiations held between the government, represented by senior government officials such as deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, speaker of the Assembly of People's Representatives Altai Borubaev, Minister of Internal Affairs Bakirdin Subanbekov and Azimbek Beknazarov, who was acting as the representative of the opposition and the protestors.  The memorandum is the first document in a written form which requires the government to fulfill certain obligations.  According to it, the Kyrgyz government is obliged, first of all, to release 12 arrested protestors and close their cases.  Secondly, the government must punish the main culprits of the Aksy tragedy before November 15, including the former head of the presidential administration Amanbek Karypkulov, former Minister of Internal Affairs Temirbek Akmataliev and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Kalmurat Sadiev. They still hold high positions and in the eyes of the opposition, they are the three top officials responsible for Aksy killings.

In a recent interview, deputy Prime Minister Osmonov said that opposition leaders and protestors made a wise decision to stop the march and praised the contribution made by Azimbek Beknazarov.  Beknazarov, for his part, said that he did not have any other choice than to sign the memorandum.  In his words, the country was fifty meters away from a civil war.  The Aksy people were driven to despair by the organized aggressive counteraction of the government. The protesters were blocked in Kara-Kul by police.  As RFE/RL reports, the city was flooded with some 1,000 law enforcement officers including 200 soldiers from special police units dressed in full gear with helmets and batons.

Meanwhile some are critical of the memorandum and the way it was reached.  Chairman of the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Tursunbek Akunov stated that the agreement on the stoppage of the protest march to Bishkek is unlawful.   He says that firstly, by stopping the protestors in Kara-Kul, the Kyrgyz government infringed upon basic human rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 16 of the Kyrgyz Constitution. Secondly, he says that Beknazarov signed the memorandum without consulting with the protesters. Akunov says that not only he, but some other protesters, were disappointed by this unilateral action by Beknazarov.  According to the human rights activist, the memorandum does not have any legal force and people who signed it were not authorized to do so.  Moreover, it is doubtful that the officials responsible for the Aksy events will be punished by November 15, says the human rights activist.  Some deputies of the Kyrgyz Parliament such as Beishebek Akunov, Kubatbek Baibolov and Ismail Isakov are not very optimistic about the memorandum either and do not believe that the government will keep its promises.

So far the government has partially fulfilled the first demand the protesters.  The arrested protesters have been released, but their cases have not been closed yet.  Regarding the other demand, punishment of top three and other officials responsible for the Aksy tragedy, the government has to ask President Askar Akaev to fulfill it as only the President can decide such issues.  Fulfillment of this long-standing demand of the Aksy people promises a chance for the stabilization of the situation in the country and the avoidance of new protests.  But there is no guarantee that this chance will be taken and whether it will be taken or not should become clear some time soon.

Gulzina Karim kyzy

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