WASHINGTON— Democratic progress and interethnic reconciliation are critical to long term stability in Kyrgyzstan, leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) said today at a hearing on the Central Asian country.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, presided over the hearing. “Today, thankfully, the situation in Kyrgyzstan has stabilized, but where we go from here is uncertain,” Hastings said. “Voters in Kyrgyzstan have passed a referendum creating the only parliamentary system in the region, but it is unclear how well the experiment will succeed and if Kyrgyzstan can reconcile simmering ethnic tensions among Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, which is critical to long-term stability.”
Demonstrations in April brought down a president in Kyrgyzstan for the second time in five years. Subsequent ethnic violence in June killed hundreds and displaced some 400,000 people. Against that background, the fact that the June 27 referendum was peaceful and citizens voted to shift power toward parliament from the executive is a hopeful sign, commissioners said.
“From this spring’s violence to this summer’s vote, the situation in Kyrgyzstan demonstrates that democratization and observance of human rights are indispensible to building citizen confidence,” said Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) after the hearing. “In the wake of political upheaval, these factors will ensure the government stays on a steady path moving away from past corrupt and authoritarian practices.”
Commission member Congressman Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) introduced H. Res 1520 with Co-Chairman Hastings and Ranking Republican Member Chris Smith (R-NJ) to express support for the new Kyrgyz government’s reforms and call on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to continue its assistance to achieve stability and promote development in Kyrgyzstan.
“Last month’s election helped legitimize the caretaker government in Kyrgyzstan, but now the government must perform on larger challenges,” Pitts said. “It is essential that the parliamentary elections, planned for October, be conducted in full accordance with international standards and I hope the government will adhere to the rule of law in bringing to justice those responsible for the recent violence in Kyrgyzstan.”
Commissioners heard testimony from: Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia; Arslan Anarbev, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Kyrgyzstan; Dr. Martha Olcott, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Dr. Bakyt Beshimov, an opposition Kyrgyz politician and visiting scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.