the Disillusioned kid: Return Of The Ambassador: Episode III
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Friday, October 22, 2004

Return Of The Ambassador: Episode III

I wrote on Monday about the dismissal by the Foreign Office of the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray for his criticisms of major human rights abuses on the part of the Islam Karimov regime, an ally in the "War on Terror". As if this wasn't bad enough an article in today's Guardian reports that he "is to face a disciplinary hearing into charges of gross misconduct, according to the Foreign Office." The article suggests that charges stem from interviews he gave to the media last week, which were critical of the Foreign Office, but it quotes a "Foreign Office spokesman" who comments, "He is suspended on full pay pending an investigation into his conduct. I think it is more what he said than giving interviews. There was some question about how we handled matters with Uzbekistan." In short, criticising the human rights abuses of an allied country is now a disciplinary offence.

In related news, a report in yesterday's Independent reveals, "Uzbekistan's fractious opposition parties have united to send an open letter to Tony Blair, accusing the hardline government in Tashkent of putting pressure on Britain to dismiss its outspoken ambassador to the central Asian republic." The letter comes from nine groups including the ERK Democratic and Birlik Parties who are prevented from contesting the forthcoming parliamentary elections (the government have not registered a single opposition party and Human Rights Watch describe its refusal to register Birlik over the summer as "blatantly arbitrary").

The letter, addressed to Mr Blair, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and the British parliament, "deeply regrets" the decision to dismiss Mr Murray. The Indy reports,
The letter expressed support for Mr Murray, saying that he had "played a significant role" in the development of democracy in Uzbekistan. "It is no secret that in Uzbekistan, the present authoritarian government is seriously violating human rights and democratic principles," it said. "The decision of the British government to recall Mr Craig Murray, in our view, took place under the pressure of the Uzbekistan authorities."
There may well be some truth to this, but there may also be motivations behind the dismissal which cannot be attributed to pressure from the Karimov regime. Domestic concerns about the embarrassment he was causing to the Foreign Office and government by revealing the reality of one of our allies are likely to have been a major factor as well.

Whatever the true motives behind his dismissal it seems clear that it is a contemptible move, driven by the worst kind of realpolitik. I encourage anyone who hasn't done so already to write to their MP about this, assuming your from the UK of course. It may not get him reinstated, but it may encourage the government to think twice before they try something similar in the future. Readers might also be interested in signing a new Amnesty International petition calling "on the governments of Belarus and Uzbekistan to abolish the death penalty in law and practice, and by doing so make Europe and Central Asia a death penalty - free zone."

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