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Helsinki Commission Hearing Examines Human Rights and Democracy in Kyrgyzstan

WASHINGTON – The United States Helsinki Commission will conduct a hearing on the state of human rights, democracy and security concerns in Kyrgyzstan. The hearing is the latest in a series of hearings the Commission has held with a focus on human rights and democracy in the Central Asian region.

Human Rights and Democracy in Kyrgyzstan

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

334 Cannon House Office Building

Testifying before the Commission will be:

Lynn Pascoe, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, U.S. State Department

His Excellency Baktibek Obdrisaev, Kyrgyzstan Ambassador to the United States

Dr. Martha Olcott, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Other witnesses may also testify.

The U.S. war on terrorism and the military campaign in Afghanistan have changed the dynamics of Washington’s relations with the countries of Central Asia. Before September 11, many observers had come to view the region in the context of Great Games among the Great Powers: a resource-rich but repressive backwater. While pursuing advantageous pipeline routes, State Department representatives spoke openly of their disappointment with the pace of democratization, the crackdown on the political opposition and intimidation of the independent media throughout the region.

The turn toward authoritarianism was especially marked in Kyrgyzstan. Once considered the most democratic state in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has in recent years followed patterns established in neighboring dictatorships, including rigged elections, the arrest of President Akaev’s political rivals and intensifying pressure on opposition newspapers. At the same time, the risk to Kyrgyzstan from terrorism escalated: insurgents from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, believed to be affiliated with Osama bin-Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, invaded the country in 1999 and 2000.

With the United States now more than ever directly engaged in Central Asia and stepping up military cooperation with local regimes, this hearing offers a timely opportunity to examine Kyrgyzstan’s prospects for democratization, its security situation and how Washington can best promote the complementary goals of advancing democracy, human rights and economic liberty while leading the battle against international terrorism.

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