Sweden reconsiders Uzbekistan base

Sweden is searching for an alternative to stationing soldiers in Uzbekistan, a country charged with violating its citizens' rights, following scathing criticism from Amnesty International, media reported on Monday.

The human rights watchdog bashed Sweden over the weekend for its plans to station a 30-soldier air transport team in Termez to support troops in neighbouring Afghanistan starting in August.

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

Reacting to the criticism on Monday, Swedish Defence Minister Leni Björklund wrote in an email to the paper that “the military will be charged with finding alternative solutions to the activities in Termez”.

“Using the Kabul airport could be a possibility, but I don’t know if there will be room for us there. We looked into Kabul first before turning to Termez, but now we’ll have to look into it again,” military spokesman Anders Hedgren told the paper.

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.