Max de Haldevang ('16) is one of two Columbia graduate students to win the 2015 Human Rights Essay Contest. The contest and the subsequent colloquium on April 13, 2015, aim to encourage and acknowledge students who have written exceptional academic papers that address issues related to human rights. Max's winning essay is titled "Corruption and Impunity Go Hand-in-Hand in Kyrgyzstan: Explaining Injustice in Osh." De Haldevang became interested in the topic while researching an essay on Kyrgyzstan for the L.A. Review of Books (https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/85686) and a short radio piece for the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01zjqw2), and used some of that research for the paper.
Abstract: Ethnic Uzbeks have been disproportionately punished in the aftermath of the violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks that took place in Osh, Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Around 470 people died in the three-day conflict, 75 percent of whom were Uzbeks. However, 90 percent of those charged with murder in connection with the violence were also Uzbeks and in only one case has an Uzbek detainee not alleged torture or ill-treatment, usually used to force a confession. Uzbeks have also been violently repressed by police outside prison and their employment opportunities are dramatically reduced, with many forced to emigrate to Russia. The existing research on the subject has either looked at the initial cause of the violence or uncovered the human rights abuses themselves but this paper asks how and why the crackdown on Uzbeks came to take place. It argues that local authorities acted with impunity due to the weakness of the national Interim Government, in place after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April 2010, and the proliferation of unofficial criminal ruling networks. The paper contends that these ethnic Kyrgyz-run local authorities were motivated to crack down on Uzbeks primarily by criminal and economic concerns rather than by ethnic chauvinism. Osh’s place as the hub of Central Asia’s multi-million dollar drug trafficking network from Afghanistan is believed to have greatly enriched senior local officials and corrupted broad strata of local institutions. Meanwhile, the new interim government had promised to rid the country of corruption and needed the Uzbeks as a support base in the South, so weakening the Uzbek community became a necessity if local elites were to stay in power and in profit.