The International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch have issued an open letter to the UN Security Council calling for urgent intervention to stop the ethnic slaughter in Kyrgyztan. The letter, signed by ICG's Louise Arbour and HRW's Ken Roth warns that, even though the worst seems to have abated for the moment, this could reignite and spread throughout the region:
...International security assistance is urgently needed. An international stabilization mission of limited size could make a significant difference by securing the area for humanitarian relief, providing security for some of the displaced to return home, and creating space for reconciliation, confidence-building, and mediation programs to succeed. This mission would have a policing mandate and could be bolstered by military forces, particularly constabulary forces or gendarmes, if necessary.
Security Council Members should work without delay with regional organizations to ensure that such a mission is fielded as quickly as possible, with the endorsement of the Security Council and with specific terms of reference, clear rules of engagement, and a limited duration. Countries with capacity to engage quickly, in particular Russia, should be encouraged to contribute to the rapid deployment of such a mission.
...The instability in southern Kyrgyzstan cannot be wished away, and without a decisive international response there is considerable risk that widespread violence will reignite. It is possible that ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks may seek violent revenge for the past week of mayhem. Prolonged insecurity could provide an opening, for example, for political opponents who may seek to further weaken or overthrow the provisional government through violence against its perceived supporters. In the absence of an international mission to restore law and order, further such violence is likely to continue and could spill over to neighboring countries. Should conditions persist, widespread violence could cause a complete collapse of the state, with the attendant hum an rights, political, and security consequences for the region, including the risk of unilateral intervention by outside actors.
The threat to regional peace and security posed by the crisis in Kyrgyzstan is real and, despite the reduction in daily violence, still growing. The Security Council has an obligation to respond to these risks and should act immediately to work with the government, regional organizations and others to prevent further escalation of violence, including by authorizing international law enforcement and security assistance.
With the West mired down in neighbouring Afghanistan, the Kyrgyztan problem is at best a complication. Afghan Uzbeks constitute a large and powerful minority and could easily get drawn into the Kyrgyz conflict.
Louise Arbour is the sort of person who makes me proud to be a Canadian. Too bad there aren't more like her.