‘NATO Drives Uzbek Deportations’, ex-UK Ambassador
[Phil Miller, Stop Deportations Blog, 25th September 2012]
UKBA’s treatment of Uzbek asylum-seekers mirrors their callous disregard for Tamils. And while the UK is allied with their oppressive rulers, we must consider how much influence British foreign policy exerts over deportations.
Craig Murray was the UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan. This central Asian republic is a key ally in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Murray lost his job when he broke the establishment line and spoke out against the Karimov regime’s violations of human rights.
Murray continues to denounce British complicity in Karimov’s abuses. He is often an expert witness for Uzbek asylum-seekers in the UK, warning judges about the risk of torture on return. However, just like the UKBA’s denial of abuse in Sri Lanka, Murray’s evidence is repeatedly disbelieved. When I saw Murray’s blog posts about the Malyshevs, I was struck by the similarities with last week’s mass deportation to Sri Lanka (and the 5 flights before that).
“Further involvement of the British state in the callous ruining of lives today. Mikel and Nina Malyshev have been taken to Yarlswood Detention Centre and will be deported to probable imprisonment and torture in Uzbekistan on Friday 21 October .
The Home Office continues to insist in asylum cases that there is no human rights problem in Uzbekistan. But no serious authority outside government doubts that Uzbekistan is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world. Unfortunately the lives of Mikel and Nina Malyshev are to be sacrificed to the British government’s agreement with the Karimov regime to provide transit for supplies to the British military in Afghanistan…
…Hillary Clinton starts an official visit to Karimov on Sunday to mark the resumption of US arms supplies to Uzbekistan, which were suspended after the massacre of 800 pro-democracy demonstrators in Andijan in 2005.”
“Mikel and Nina Malyshev were deported back to Uzbekistan on Friday evening. At 6am Saturday morning they telephoned relatives and said that they were met in Tashkent at the plane steps by a representative of the British Embassy, who escorted them from the airport, bypassing passport control and security checks. They were about to be put on a bus to their former home in Zarafshan.
But they never arrived in Zarafshan and there has been no word of them since. The British Embassy say categorically they did not send any representative to meet the plane. That fake British Embassy representative was almost certainly from the Uzbek security services.
I gave written evidence to their asylum appeal stating that any returned asylum seeker would be picked up by the security services at the airport and be in extreme danger. The Home Office told the court this was not true and there were no human rights problems in Uzbekistan. The court accepted the Home Office view.
Having callously deported the Malyshevs to join the lists of the “disappeared” in Uzbekistan, the British government now repudiates any further interest in their fate. The British Embassy in Tashkent has told their relatives in Wales that they are Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and not their responsibility.
The truth is the British government knew perfectly well what would happen to the Malyshevs, and was lying to the court in saying that this would not happen. The coldblooded brutality of the government’s behaviour is stunning. President Karimov’s support for NATO operations in Afghanistan is placed at a far higher value than human life.”
“The government refuses to check up on the Malyshevs’ fate partly because it does not care what happens to them, and partly because it wants to continue to claim there is no problem and continue to deport others to Karimov”.
Murray, an ex-UK Ambassador, is not surprised the UKBA are deporting people at risk of torture in Uzbekistan. Although it disgusts him, he analyses it as part of a wider neo-conservative agenda rather than an aberration in Britain’s regard for international law.
UK Foreign Policy has long been tied to the US through the so called Special Relationship, a relationship which has strengthened under the influence of neo-conservatives in Washington and London. Therefore, British and American military interests in Sri Lanka are much the same as in Uzbekistan. Both countries offer excellent “basing opportunities” for the US Air Force (USAF). Sri Lanka has the added advantage of deep-water ports for the US Pacific Fleet. This network of foreign military bases is vital to the American grand area strategy which aims to “preclude the rise of a regional or continental hegemon” that could rival US economic control. In Asia, 3 potential great powers were identified: China, India and Iran. Dharmaretnam Sivaram, senior editor at TamilNet, was working to expose these agendas when he was assassinated in April 2005.
To conclude, I quote an unfinished version of his article at length. Although it focuses on the US, it does refer to Britiain’s colonial legacy in the island and clarifies the UK’s position towards Sri Lanka and Tamil self-determination. Sivaram cites a declassified section of a US Department of Defence study which discussed how to prevent a country from becoming a regional or continental hegemon in Asia.
The US would:
Build military alliances with other countries of the region with a view to eventually acquiring the power to shape developments in the region by expanding USAF basing opportunities for projecting US power in the region to deal with a wide range of “scenarios and operations.”
In this context, a chief concern of the US in South Asia is to:
- Eventually convince New Delhi that its interests are best served by letting the US look after the overall strategic stability of the subcontinent. To do so the US has to enhance and consolidate its strategic presence in the South Asian region while ensuring that the Indian military remains stretched to the maximum so much so that Delhi cannot set aside any military surplus to project power or preserve its vital interests in the neighbourhood. Boosting Pakistan’s military status is key to this approach.
Sri Lanka was a prime candidate for two reasons:
- “The central position of the island between the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz”. The US DoD study observes that Sri Lanka’s “infrastructure for basing opportunities are excellent”. The USAF, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) team that visited Palaly, China Bay, Sigiriya, Koggala and Kuda Oya in 2001 did a brief update regarding Sri Lanka of the RAND study … It was basically about improving Palaly, China Bay and advantage of building new international dual-purpose airfield in Kuda Oya. If the update is read together with the RAND report it gives a clear picture of US strategic aims in developing Palaly, Trincomalee, Kuda Oya.
- Sri Lanka’s military and intelligence services had long-standing and close institutional relationship with the British MI6, MI5, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The MI6 provided the main component of the training program for the Special Branch, which became the NIB in 1984 (and currently known as the Directorate of Internal Intelligence).
So, is there room for Tamil Eelam in the US Grand Strategy?
“The ‘management’ of the ethnic conflict, among other things, is also important for the US to “sufficiently” expand and consolidate its military and intelligence relations with Sri Lanka as an important security partner in the region. The escalation of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers has offered the US Pacific Command a wide range of opportunities to do so.”
“Stabilizing the Sri Lanka state was considered critical for the US at this juncture to consolidate and cement its strategic interests here. The LTTE was a stubborn impediment to achieving this end – particularly the constant threat to Trincomalee and Palaly.”
Containing the Liberation Tigers and making them more malleable were also identified as priorities.
Trincomalee is the deep water port in the North-East of Sri Lanka that Tamil separatists desired as their capital. Sivaram’s article was written in 2005 and since his death much of what he predicted has come true. In March 2007 Sri Lanka signed the Access and Cross Servicing Agreement, allowing US warships and aircraft to use facilities in Sri Lanka.