Berlin, February 6, 2012
We would like to cordially invite you to our next event:
“From the Uzbek Cotton Fields to the Termez Military Base”
A High Level Hearing on Uzbekistan and Germany
Thursday March 1, 2012 from 13:00 – 18:30
In Berlin, in the “Landesvertretung der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg”, Jägerstraße 1, 10117
In this public high-level hearing, experts from governmental, intergovernmental, business, and NGO backgrounds will discuss the relationship between Germany and Uzbekistan. From state-sponsored child labor during the cotton harvesting involving from 1.5 to 2 million Uzbek children each year, to the subversion of basic civil and political rights including the systematic use of torture, the Uzbekistan human rights record is so appalling that the country is considered one of today’s most repressive regimes left in the world. Experts will engage on how political and economical interests of Western Actors impact, positively or negatively, the advancement of human rights in Uzbekistan, with a particular emphasis on Germany’s role and military interests in the context of the NATO-led efforts in Afghanistan.
The hearing will be held in English and German, with simultaneous interpretation. See the outline and the eminent list of speakers below.
This event is co-sponsored by the German-Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, Anti-Slavery International, Human Rights Watch, Uzbekistan Press Freedom Group, terres des hommes, and Eurasian Transition Group.
Please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you!
With warm regards,
Attorney-at-Law Wolfgang Kaleck
ECCHR General Secretary
1) 13:00 – 13:30: Introductory Remarks And Video Screening
Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR General Secretary
Umida Niyazova, Head of the German-Uzbek Forum for Human Rights
2) 13:30 – 15:15: Part I - Who Benefits >From Forced Child Labor in the Cotton Fields?
Experts will discuss the respective roles played by Germany, European companies, the European Union, or the International Labor Organization with regards to the state-sponsored child labor in the Uzbek cotton harvesting. The Uzbekistan government’s monopoly on the cotton production and exports – ranked number 3 in the world – keeps the repressive regime rich and alive. Who benefits from this? What policies and conducts can change this status quo?
Moderator: Miriam Saage-Maaß, ECCHR Business and Human Rights Program Manager
Angelika Graf, Member of the German Bundestag (SPD):
“The role of Germany in eradicating child labor in the Uzbek cotton fields: challenges posed by realpolitik.”
Renate Hornung-Draus, Member of the Governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Vice President IOE, Managing Director of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA):
“ILO’s efforts to overcome Uzbekistan’s uncooperative stance.”
Representative of the German Ministry for Economics and Technology, Department for foreign trade and investment (Confirmed. Name to be announced).
C&A Representative (to be confirmed):
“Why retailers like C&A boycott Uzbek cotton and with what impact.”
3) 15:15 – 15:45: Coffee Break
4) 15:45 – 17:30: Part II: Germany: Between Strategic Interests and Human Rights Concerns In Uzbekistan
With a southern border with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan is considered an important strategic partner for the countries involved in the NATO-led efforts against the Taliban, in particular in the context of the Northern Distribution Network supply lines. For a decade now, Germany has leased from the Uzbek government the Termez military base hosting thousands of German troops. In the meantime, the human rights situation in Uzbekistan still dramatically fails to improve, including since the EU lifting of the sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the Andijan 2005 massacre. How is the pursuit of strategic interests made compatible with a human rights agenda? Experts will discuss how those and other political factors should be approached towards the long-term goal of achieving democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Uzbekistan.
Moderator: Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR General Secretary
Theo van Boven, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture:
“From the Andijan massacre to findings of “systematic and widespread” torture: how to understand the situation in Uzbekistan.”
Patricia Flor, German Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia for Eastern Europe
Sanjar Umarov, Former Uzbek political prisoner and Chairman of the Sunshine Coalition of Uzbekistan:
“The exercise of civil and political rights in Uzbekistan and the role of the international community.”
Scott Horton, Contributing Editor, Harper’s Magazine:
“Uzbekistan as a Values Dilemma for NATO”
5) 17:30 – 17:50: Concluding Remarks
Jan Egeland, Europe Director at Human Rights Watch, former United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, and former Norwegian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
6) 17:50 – 18:30: Cocktail Reception
The base is considered a crucial transit center for sending troops and supplies in and out of Afghanistan. U.S. access was threatened this spring when street protests brought down the government and forced the president to flee.
Whitman and other U.S. military officials said Tuesday that transit flights continue at the base. But the spokesman also said that in an effort to conserve fuel, tanker planes are no longer stopping at Manas and are going elsewhere to refuel.
But some observers think Gul’s trip -- the first to Bishkek by a Turkish president in nine years -- is more than a bilateral visit and might be an important geopolitical gambit in which Gul is doing the West’s bidding. More ...
“We have not resigned ourselves to this being the last word,” Mr. Gates said at a meeting here of NATO defense ministers to discuss the need for more combat forces and reconstruction teams in Afghanistan.
The base, in Manas, plays a central role for NATO’s Afghan mission. It provides transit facilities for thousands of personnel and 500 tons of cargo each month, and it is used by the tanker aircraft that refuel fighter planes on missions over Afghanistan. The Obama administration has called the war there a high priority, announcing this week that an additional 17,000 American troops would be sent in the coming months. The loss of the base is seen as a serious challenge.
Mr. Gates said the United States remained prepared to discuss with Kyrgyzstan whether larger fees were warranted for use of the base, but he cautioned, “We are not going to be ridiculous about it.”
“Manas is important,” he said, “but it is not irreplaceable.”
He said that American negotiators already were deep into discussions with “a number of different countries,” including Russia, about alternatives to the logistics hub in Kyrgyzstan.
It remained unclear how quickly the United States would have to find an alternative. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan was expected to send Washington an official notice, but American officials said they still did not know when it would be received or when the six-month countdown would start. Mr. Bakiyev signed the legislation on Friday.
The bill in Parliament was approved by 78 of the 81 lawmakers present, with two voting against it and one abstaining.
The Kyrgyz government in Bishkek had longstanding complaints about the base and had asked for more cash compensation. Tensions were exacerbated in 2006 when an American serviceman fatally shot a Kyrgyz truck driver.
Mr. Bakiyev announced the move to close the base at a news conference with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia, who this month promised to shore up Kyrgyzstan’s struggling economy with about $2.15 billion in loans and grants. Moscow has long complained about the continued American military presence in Central Asia, and many in Washington concluded that Russia had encouraged the move in an attempt to assert its dominance in the region.
Although Russian and Kyrgyz officials say there was no connection between the Kremlin’s financial aid and efforts to kick out the Americans, senior American officials have complained that the Russians are trying to have it both ways — with the Kremlin expressing a desire to support the international military mission in Afghanistan while pressing the Kyrgyz government to end American access to its air base.
In public comments as part of the vote, Kyrgyz lawmakers portrayed the action as the culmination of years of complaints and said the American presence in Central Asia had outlasted its usefulness.
“It is impossible to make people of Afghanistan live by standards which are brought in from abroad,” said Kabai Karabhekov, a member of Parliament. “One has to give an opportunity to Afghan people to build their country themselves.”
The shadow of Russian actions in Central Asia and Central Europe fell over the session of NATO ministers here, as Mr. Gates also was pressed on whether the Obama administration intended to move forward with a plan for missile defenses in Europe that had been a priority of the Bush administration’s foreign policy and that had brought threats of military retaliation from Russia.
Mr. Gates, in his first overseas trip since he began serving the new president, said the missile defense bases planned in Poland and the Czech Republic would proceed if the technology proved it could work and was affordable.
Neither of those two caveats were part of the Bush administration’s language when discussing requirements for the bases.
But Mr. Gates also made it clear that the Obama administration had not yet met on the issue of missile defense policy, and that no decisions had been made on how to proceed.
“The administration has not yet reviewed where it is on a whole range of issues,” Mr. Gates said, including the missile defense program and how to manage that within the relationship with Russia.
Mr. Gates said the radar proposed for the Czech Republic and the 10 interceptor missiles for Poland were to counter a potential threat from Iran, and he reiterated that the United States would work with NATO and wanted Russia as a partner in the effort.
To reassure his hosts here, Mr. Gates said that a series of new bilateral military cooperation efforts with Poland were proceeding even as the prospects for the missile defense site on Polish territory remained uncertain.
Also Thursday, NATO officials confirmed that Germany had pledged 600 more soldiers to the mission in Afghanistan.
“We welcome the commitment of additional German forces for the upcoming Afghan national elections,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. “For those contests to be credible, voter turnout must be robust and representative, and improving the security situation is the key to making that happen.”
Italy announced this week that it would add 500 troops to the alliance mission in Afghanistan by April.
Source: New York Times
That's because the air base at Manas, whose lease to the U.S. forces came closer to ending with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev signing off on a parliamentary bill calling for their eviction, has long served as a key staging post for the alliance's military operations in Afghanistan.
Bakiev's signature is the final step before Kyrgyz authorities issue a notice that will give the United States 180 days to vacate the facility, used as a transit point for 15,000 troops and some 500 tons of cargo each month to and from Afghanistan.
Now, defense ministers from NATO countries meeting for a second day in Krakow, Poland, will have to address another setback: The government in Pakistan's Punjab Province has cancelled a private deal on a new supply terminal for overland NATO deliveries into Afghanistan from the port city of Karachi. They say the deal was cancelled because of security concerns.
The main land route into landlocked Afghanistan passes through Pakistan's lawless Khyber tribal region and another land crossing through the southwest province of Baluchistan. Regional insurgency is rife in those areas and pro-Taliban militants have been focusing attacks on bridges, terminals, and even convoys of NATO supply trucks.
With the pressure growing on NATO's logistical support, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed at the NATO gathering in Krakow that Washington is now in talks with several other countries about alternative supply routes that would replace Manas.
Still, Gates suggested that talks on the future of the base are still open and that there could be negotiations with Bishkek about the amount of money paid for maintaining a U.S. presence at Manas.
He told reporters in Krakow on February 19 that the Pentagon is looking to see if there is justification for Bishkek to receive a larger payment. But he said Washington was "not going to be ridiculous about it."
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are possible alternatives. U.S. Rear Admiral Mark Harnitchek has been in Dushanbe for talks with Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi on the issue.
Harnitchek said in Dushanbe on February 19 that Tajikistan has agreed in principle to the use of its railways and roads for the transit of "nonlethal" military supplies into Afghanistan:
"Clearly any nation that shares a border with Afghanistan is important, and because the distance to our bases in Afghanistan is likely the shortest from Tajikistan, so by extension, Tajikistan is very important," Harnitchek said.
Harnitchek also said Uzbekistan has agreed to the transit of cargo and that the Pentagon plans to send 50 to 200 cargo containers each week from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan and then by land into Afghanistan.
But U.S. officials are emphasizing that no formal agreement has been signed yet.
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on whether it had approved the transit of NATO supplies across its territory. General David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. military's Central Command, visited Uzbekistan on February 17 in what appears to have been an attempt to seek the use of the country as a transit route for supplies in Afghanistan.
Moscow Give And Take
Kyrgyz President Bakiev announced the pending closure of Manas earlier this month, complaining the United States was not paying enough rent for the base. His announcement came shortly after he secured $2.15 billion in aid and loans from Russia during a visit to Moscow.
That has led some observers to conclude that the Kremlin has had a hand in instigating the closure of Manas. But Russia also has offered the use of its railroad network for the overland transport of nonlethal military supplies into Afghanistan.
Patrick Moon, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said in Helsinki this week that the route would carry cargo from Latvia through Russia and Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan -- and eventually on to Afghanistan. He said the first trains could carry that cargo before the end of February.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of NATO defense ministers' meeting in Krakow, Gates warned that Moscow is trying to "have it both ways" by offering help in Afghanistan and undermining U.S. efforts there at the same time.
Gates also has sought to downplay the significance of Manas, saying that it is import but not irreplaceable.
Analysts see those remarks, and moves by the Pentagon to seek alternative supply routes, as a sign that price negotiations are still under way between Washington and Bishkek on the use of Manas.
It is worth saying that on February 9 the parliament committee for defense, security, law and judicial order reform already approved the withdrawal of airbase from the territory of the republic. Now, the session of the committee for constitutional law, state structure, legislation and human rights will consider this topic on February 17, 2009 at 2pm.
The Kyrgyz Republic draft Law “On denunciation of response note of Kyrgyz Republic foreign affairs ministry to the note # 542, issued by the Embassy of the United States of America, dated December 4, 2001, and together forming the Agreement between the government of Kyrgyz Republic and the government of the United States of America” was addressed to the parliament by the government of Kyrgyzstan on February 4th.
“Ferghana.ru” was reporting earlier that the decision of Kyrgyzstan’s officials to end the activity of anti-terrorist coalition military base was announced by the President of the country, Kurmanbek Bakiev, at the press-conference in Moscow on February 3, 2009.
It is worth to remind that US airbase was launched in Kyrgyzstan on December 2001, based on UN mandate, supporting “Enduring freedom” anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, conducted by of coalition forces. Today, there are more than one thousand US soldiers as well as military transport aircrafts and fuel servicing planes, located at the airbase.
On January 14 Commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) General David Petraeus, visited Kazakhstan. Among the key senior Kazakh military officers he met with was Lieutenant-General Bolat Sembinov, the deputy defense minister responsible for cooperation with the West. Ostensibly they discussed progress in implementing the new five-year bilateral military cooperation program agreed on in February 2008. General Petraeus was especially interested in bolstering stability in Afghanistan.More ...