Sweden must remove Uzbekistan military base – Amnesty

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on Sweden to remove its military base from Uzbekistan, a country charged with violating its citizens' right to protest, the Swedish press reported on Sunday.

“Sweden should look into the possibility of finding another (military) base in another country,” said Carl Soderbergh, Amnesty’s secretary general in Sweden in an interview with the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

“If that is impossible, Sweden should use its presence in Uzbekistan to engage in a dialogue with the regime and criticize how human rights are violated in the country,” Soderbergh said.

The country currently has two officers stationed at an airbase in Termez, where they watch over Swedish military equipment, but starting in August the Swedish force will be increased to 30 soldiers, the newspaper said.

The air transport team is charged with supporting Swedish soldiers based in neighboring Afghanistan, said DN.

Soderbergh denounced the crackdown on protesters by the Uzbek military last month that led to the deaths of at least 173 people in the region of Andijan. Human rights groups and other witnesses have disputed the government’s figures claiming the toll was between 500 to 1,000 dead.

The international community including the United Nations and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into the clashes between protesters and Uzbek forces.