Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cowardly in the extreme

In May this year, the Uzbek government massacred 700 demonstrators in the town of Andijan. Following the massacre, the EU imposed "smart sanctions" on the Uzbek regime, barring arms sales and denying visas to key members of the Uzbek regime. You can imagine the fury then when it was learned that Uzbek Interior Minister Zokirjon Almatov, the man responsible for Uzbekistan's policy of systematic torture, as well as for the murderers at Andijan, was in a German hospital being treated for cancer.

Human Rights Watch immediately laid a complaint with Germany's federal prosecutor on behalf of a group of Uzbek torture victims, calling for Almatov to be prosecuted under Germany's universal jurisdiction law for torture and crimes against humanity. And the prosecutor did... nothing. According to The Independent,

as of last [Sunday] night not a finger had been lifted. It was reported moreover, that the man known as the "Butcher of Tashkent" was safely back in Uzbekistan.

This is cowardly in the extreme. Up until this week, Germany had taken a leading role in establishing international accountability for crimes against humanity. Now, they've deliberately looked the other way and let one of the great criminals of our age escape justice, because they didn't want to cause an international incident.

Coincidentally, Germany has a military base in Uzbekistan, which it uses to support operations in Afghanistan. And the Uzbeks have withdrawn their threat to close it down. But I'm sure that that has nothing to do with it, and there was no sordid quid pro quo...