Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg has started leaking portions of the long-awaited independent international inquiry on the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan last summer. Going by the fragments released thus far, the interim government in charge at the time has not received a very glowing appraisal.
The Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), headed by Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen, reportedly based its findings on interviews with more than 750 witnesses and analysis of around 700 documents and thousands of photos and pieces of video footage. Over 400 people died in the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. The majority of the causalities were Uzbeks, who also suffered heavily at the hands of arsonists and looters. The KIC notes that ethnic Kyrgyz also suffered significant losses of life, health and property.
The report charges the interim government, which had been in place for two months prior to the violence, with underestimating the deterioration in interethnic ties. A failure to prepare a contingency plan and properly organize security forces for a surge of unrest comes under particular criticism: "The arguments made by President [Roza] Otunbayeva, that the surge in violence was so extensive that the interim government was unable to contain it, did not exempt the authorities from their primary duty to protect the population."
General Ismail Isakov, who was then the interim government's special representative in southern Kyrgyzstan and took over security operations during the unrest, comes under fire for failing to dispatch forces "with clear orders and rules of engagement."
The Uzbek community has routinely charged Kyrgyz government forces with complicity in the violence, and this rebuke of Isakov, now a parliamentary deputy with the ruling Social Democratic Party, may reawaken calls for those claims to be properly investigated. Isakov threatened to sue an earlier domestic study that cited his role in the violence.
Mobs seized weapons belonging to the police and military largely unobstructed, the report says. Even armored personnel carriers appear to have been surrendered to the crowd, a detail that would add ballast to claims by ethnic Uzbeks that the military vehicles often accompanied mobs.
Other individuals singled out include Kubatbek Baibolov and Osh mayor Melis Myrzakmatov.
Baibolov was the emergency governor of Jalal-Abad province in June and was subsequently appointed Prosecutor General, a position he recently relinquished amid a bitter exchange of accusations of financial malfeasance with members of the current ruling coalition. The report says Baibolov failed to adequately investigatecrimes committed during the violence.
Meanwhile, in the understatement of the century, the report notes that Myrzakmatov, a virulent Kyrgyz nationalist, "did not help to reduce interethnic tension."
In another strand leaked by 24.kg, the report admonishes the authorities for failing to shed light on the accompanying sexual and gender-based violence: "While the KIC has confirmed nearly twenty cases of rape and other instances of sexual violence, the most likely figure is definitely much higher. Women continued to be subjected to sexual and gender-based violence in the period after the main events."
Addressing another sensitive issue that unfolded after the riots, the leaked report maintains that "torture was committed in custody by Kyrgyz authorities in the aftermath of the June events. What is of particular concern to the KIC is the fact that torture is still ongoing and the authorities' response to these allegations has been extremely unsatisfactory."
The KIC also expresses concern about the security forces disproportionate targeting of Uzbek neighborhoods in their post-violence investigations: "Large-scale sweeps carried out in Uzbek mahallas on June 21-23 and smaller-scale search operations that followed were accompanied by ill-treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions."
Perhaps none of the details leaked thus far are earth-shattering, though the language is stronger than many expected. Sources who have read the embargoed KIC assessment confirm the details leaked by 24.kg are from the genuine report. The report is scheduled to be officially released in early May, accompanied by the government's response, which is rumored to be delaying the process.
What is more intriguing is who leaked this report and, more importantly, why.
Few of the politicians currently dominating Kyrgyzstan's political scene emerge from the report unscathed. Some notable figures will, however, be able to make substantial political capital by fairly arguing that they had no role in the government and were not involved in the rising tide of nationalist politics during the unrest.
Word on the street has it that Ar-Namys Party leader Felix Kulov, formerly a prime minister under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has cozy ties with 24.kg news agency and may stand to benefit from this embarrassing trickle of bad news.
So far, none of the leaked portions address the vexed issue of direct culpability, and it is quite possible that the final document may seek to duck tackling the minutiae of specific violent incidents and of who attacked first. For the nationalists who have been dreading the commission's findings, that may be the report's only redeeming feature.