OSCE to send police monitors to Kyrgyzstan

VIENNA/ALMATY (Reuters) - Europe's main security body on Thursday backed plans to send 52 unarmed police officers to help restore peace in southern Kyrgyzstan, a month after the worst bloodshed in the Central Asian state's modern history.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said its 56-nation permanent council had voted to deploy the mission in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic that hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases.

The officers should start arriving around mid-August and will advise and monitor local Kyrgyz police, the OSCE said.

"We know from many sources that the trust has been destroyed and lost -- the trust between the law enforcement forces and major parts of the population," Herbert Salber, head of the OSCE's Conflict Prevention Center, told reporters.

"So there is something to be restored and repaired. That is one major task of this police advisory group," he said in Vienna where the OSCE is based.

At least 300 people, and possibly hundreds more, were killed in several days of clashes in June between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Thousands of homes were torched in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad and 400,000 people fled at the height of the violence.

Many homes are in ruins and human rights groups say that residents, particularly ethnic Uzbeks, continue to face violence and interrogation as the customary 40-day mourning period ends.

Voters approved constitutional changes in a June 27 referendum that will make Kyrgyzstan the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a region otherwise run by presidential strongmen. Elections are scheduled for October.

The interim government, which assumed power after a revolt in April, said it had detained a brother of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on suspicion of involvement in the violence.

It said in a statement that Akhmat Bakiyev was detained in Jalalabad late on Wednesday after a special operation by its forces and that he would be flown to the capital Bishkek.

"During the first interrogation, A. Bakiyev began to confess his involvement in the recent mass disorder in the south of the republic," the interim government said in the statement. This statement could not immediately be verified independently.

The interim government has repeatedly accused supporters of Kurmanbek Bakiyev of stoking violence in the south. Bakiyev, now exiled in Belarus, has denied involvement.


Both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, who have a roughly equal share of the population in the south, have said they suffered sustained attacks. Many ethnic Uzbeks said Kyrgyz security forces did nothing to help them, or even participated in the attacks.

Washington-based Refugees International, which sent a mission to the region, said ethnic Uzbek residents were facing interrogation and arbitrary detention by security forces, in a region where ethnic tensions remain "close to boiling point."

"An immediate presence of trained international police officers and human rights monitors is critical to protecting lives and human rights in this tinderbox of violence and abuse," said Dawn Calabia, senior advisor for Refugees International.

The OSCE, chaired this year by Kyrgyzstan's northern neighbor Kazakhstan, said its officers would stay for an initial period of four months and the group could be expanded to 102 members. They will report to the OSCE's headquarters.

There are some signs of recovery in Kyrgyzstan. Over 1,100 people have started repairing roads, cleaning up irrigation systems and litter as part of a project led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and local municipalities.

The UNDP said in a statement it had set aside $1.4 million for the program, which will run until the end of this year.

It said workers could earn about $6.50 per day for two-week stints before rotating with others qualified for the program.


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