As UK ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, Mr. Murray learned that the intelligence authorities of the UK and the US were receiving and using information extracted by the most sadistic methods of torture by Uzbek authorities. He protested strongly to London, to no avail.
Mr. Murray stands out as one who did not forfeit his moral compass to his government or to his career. When his government colleagues referred condescendingly to his “qualms of conscience,” he replied that he would not hide his shame “that I work in an organization where colleagues would resort to casuistry to justify torture.”
Mr. Murray recognized that civilized societies have long recognized torture as an intolerable affront to the inherent human right to physical integrity and personal dignity—and that this is precisely why there are so many laws against torture. He did all he could to persuade his government not to condone it. It is shameful that this strong moral stance should jeopardize his promising career. He was forced out of the British Foreign Office, but has no regrets. There are more important things than career.
Nor will he cease to call attention to torture. We look forward to early publication of his book, Murder in Samarkand, now banned in Britain.
Mr. Murray’s light has pierced a thick cloud of denial and deception. He has set a courageous example for those officials of the “Coalition of the Willing” who have first-hand knowledge of the inhuman practices involved in the so-called “war on terror” but who have not yet been able to find their voice.
Presented this 21st day of January 2006 in New York City by admirers of the example set by our former colleague, Sam Adams.
Posted: September 7, 2016 in The Progressive
by Stephen Zunes
The death of long-time Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov has brought rare U.S. media attention to the Central Asian country of 30 million. Uzbekistan is ranked among the half dozen worst countries in the world for human-rights abuses. What U.S. government officials and our media mostly ignore, however, is that American taxpayers subsidized that regime and its brutal security apparatus for most of Karimov’s thirty-five years in power.
Torture has been endemic in Uzbekistan, where Karimov banned all opposition groups, severely restricted freedom of expression, forced international human-rights workers and NGOs out of the country, suppressed religious freedom, and annually took as many as two million children out of school to engage in forced labor for the cotton harvest. Thousands of dissidents have been jailed and many hundreds have been killed, some of them literally boiled alive.
Karimov became leader of the Uzbek Communist Party in 1989 while the country was still part of the Soviet Union. He backed the unsuccessful coup by Communist Party hardliners against reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 and personally opposed Uzbek independence. But finding himself president of a sovereign state when the Soviet Union suddenly dissolved, he quickly modified his position, changing his first name to “Islam” and morphing into an Uzbek nationalist.
As president of the newly independent Uzbekistan, Karimov banned leading opposition parties and amassed his power through the suppression of opponents and a series of rigged elections and plebiscites, labeling virtually all opponents as Islamist radicals.
Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia, and its capital Tashkent sports a modern subway system and an international airport built during the Soviet era. As an independent state under Karimov’s rule, however, Uzbekistan remains one of the poorest of the former Soviet republics. This is despite generous natural resources, including one of the world’s largest sources of natural gas, and sizable, but largely untapped, oil reserves. Karimov pocketed virtually all of the revenue generated by the country’s natural endowments. Corruption is rampant, and his brutal militias routinely engaged in robbery and extortion. Businessmen who refuse to pay bribes were frequently labeled Islamic extremists and then jailed, tortured, and murdered.
U.S. military cooperation with Karimov’s regime began under President Bill Clinton in 1995, but expanded greatly under President George W. Bush, who provided Uzbekistan with close to $1 billion in aid and an agreement to station up to 1,500 U.S. troops in the country. Karimov was invited to the White House in March 2002, where he and President Bush signed a strategic partnership agreement, which included an additional $120 million in U.S. military aid. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has praised Karimov for his “wonderful cooperation” with the U.S. military. President Bush’s former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill spoke admiringly of the dictator’s “very keen intellect and deep passion” for improving the lives of his people.
Uzbekistan became a destination in the “extraordinary rendition” program, where the United States would send suspected Islamist extremists for torture.
Craig Murray, who served as the British ambassador to Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004, observed how Karimov was “very much George Bush’s man in Central Asia” and that no Bush administration official ever said a negative word about him.
Murray’s exposé of American and British collaboration with Karimov’s despotic regime cost him his career with the foreign service. And it is still a sensitive issue: just this week, the U.S. State Department denied Murray entry into the United States, where he was scheduled to speak before peace, human rights and civil liberties groups.
There is more than a little irony in the way that the U.S. government, which was once willing to back extremist Islamist groups in Central Asia to fight Communist dictators, became so willing to back a Communist dictator to fight Islamists.
In May 2005, following an eruption of pro-democracy demonstrations in Andijan and other cities, Uzbek government forces massacred close to 1,000 protesters over a two-day period. The Bush administration successfully blocked a call by NATO for an international investigation, though a report from Human Rights Watch, based on interviews with scores of eyewitnesses, determined that government troops had used ”indiscriminate use of lethal force against unarmed people.” The British newspaper The Independent reported that Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov “almost certainly personally authorized the use of . . . deadly force.”
The international outcry was so intense, however, that the United States was forced to suspend military aid based on human-rights provisions in foreign aid. To the dismay of human rights advocates, however, the Obama administration in 2011 convinced Congress to waive the restrictions and resume military aid.
In reaction to the Obama administration’s efforts, twenty human rights, labor, consumer, and other groups signed a letter to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying “We strongly urge you to oppose passage of the law and not to invoke this waiver.” The signers encouraged the administration “to stand behind your strong past statements regarding human rights abuses in Uzbekistan” and not move toward “business as usual” with that regime.
Signatories included the AFL-CIO, Amnesty International USA, and Human Rights Watch, as well as organizations with close ties to the foreign policy establishment like Freedom House and the International Crisis Group. Despite this effort, Congress overwhelmingly approved the waiver and President Obama signed it into law
Despite evidence to the contrary, Clinton, who visited Uzbekistan that October, claimed that the regime was “showing signs of improving its human rights record and expanding political freedoms.” When asked about the 2005 massacres during Clinton’s visit, a senior State Department official responded, “We’ve definitely moved on from that.”
The repression, and U.S. assistance—climbing to as much as $30 million annually—has continued every year since.
Karimov’s death will not likely end systemic, government-sponsored human-rights abuses any time soon. And, despite a new U.S. President and Congress coming into office early next year, it’s unlikely there will be a lessening of U.S. support for the regime.
Indeed, it has been extremely rare for the United States to suspend its support for autocracies like Uzbekistan unless there is pressure from the American public to do so. Living under a repressive dictatorship, the Uzbeks are extremely limited in what they can do to change their government’s policies. We here in the United States, however, don’t have that excuse.
Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco and a regular contributor to The Progressive.
In this video acTVism Munich brings into light what privacy means for the indivdual and society, i.e, why it is an essential ingredient for democracy & economy. Following high-profile whistleblowers provide their views on the issue of privacy in this video:
William Binney: Former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) turned whistleblower who resigned on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency.
Thomas Andrews Drake: Former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), a decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy veteran, and a whistleblower.
Annie Machon: Former MI5 intelligence officer who left the Service at the same time as David Shayler, her partner at the time, to help him blow the whistle about alleged criminality within the intelligence agencies.
Simon Davies: A privacy advocate and academic based in London UK. He was one of the first campaigners in the field of international privacy advocacy, founding the watchdog organization Privacy International in 1990 and subsequently working in emerging areas of privacy such as electronic visual surveillance, identity systems, border security, encryption policy and biometrics.
Elizabeth Murray: Served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Caroline Hunt: A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) whistleblower.
In late 2014, a group of the world’s most renowned privacy activists, whistleblowers, technologists and legal experts joined forces to work on the development of a global initiative to fight surveillance.
Led by privacy veteran Simon Davies and former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon, the project has developed into the Code Red initiative. Its aim is to create the next evolutionary step in the growing movement to curb excessive government power.
The project will build bridges between the technology, media, legal and policy worlds and will become a strategic hub for the many activists working in this arena. Code Red will also create a clearing house for information in the anti-surveillance movement and will support whistleblowers and sources.
For more visit: www.codered.is and http://www.actvism.org/en/interviews/nsa-skandal-code-red-warum-privatsphaere/
Craig Murray, British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002-2004, was fired when he revealed CIA rendition practices in Poland and Uzbekistan to UK leaders – and was branded a liar. The US torture report will hardly change the picture, he told RT. (more)
If anybody is surprised that key letters between Tony Blair and George Bush on launching the invasion of Iraq have gone missing, they have not been paying attention. On both sides of the Atlantic, the Obama and Cameron regimes have consistently and continually covered up the crimes of their predecessors, from launch illegal wars of aggression to instituting programmes of torture and extraordinary rendition and murder.
The motive in both cases is the same. Not only are the senior politicians in all mainstream parties members of the same “club”, committed to the same neo-conservative principles and indebted to the same corporate paymasters. But also these crimes involved the active complicity of thousands of senior members of the establishment, in the armed services, the secret services, the diplomatic services and other public servants. To come clean would take down thousands of people still in public service. or in other high places. (Read more)