Report on anti-mine activity in Uzbekistan for 200

Uzbekistan didnt joint the Agreement on mine prohibition and in the nearest time is not going to do that; this finding was received by Landmine Monitors analysts, who met with officials of ministries and departments in informal situation. Earlier Uzbek authorities displayed interest to this issue. In particular, governmental delegation took part in the Regional Conference, which was held in 1997 in Ashgabat. In that year Uzbekistan voted in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution on mine prohibition. In November 22, 2000, the official Tashkent has abstained from voting for Resolution 57/74 passed by the UN General Assembly. It should be noted that the country is a member of the Convention on Conventional Weapons and its Protocol II on mines, but the country didnt joint Protocol II with amendments.
In November 2002 representatives of the Uzbek Embassy in Moscow were present at the regional conference, but they didnt make any comments. In November 2003 Uzbekistan resigned from participation in the First Central Asia meeting on antipersonnel mines, which took place in Bishkek.  Uzbek official delegation did not participate in the Second Regional meeting, which took place on 14-16 April 2004 in Dushanbe.
On June 11, 2004 in the OSCE meeting in Vienna the Uzbek Minister of Defense, Mr. Kadyr Gulyamov made a statement on the readiness of the Republic to the process of mine clearing and the same statement was repeated on June 18, 2004 by the official delegation of Uzbekistan.

MINE STOCKS AND PRODUCTION

Information concerning mines and ammunition (supplies) of the armed forces of Uzbekistan is attributed to category Confidential and is not to be made public. An official from the Department of Defense of Uzbekistan has informed the Landmine Monitors analysts about this fact . He refused to tell the exact number of antipersonnel mines being under the jurisdiction of the ministry, but he mentioned that all of them are stocks of the former Soviet Army and include fragmentation mines OZM-72, and explosive mines PMN.
Starting from 1991 and up to the present Uzbekistan didnt produce antipersonnel mines since Uzbekistan does not have production facilities for that (only the possibility of licensed production of Kalashnikov gun is being considered at present). An official from the Ministry of Economics being in charge of defense industry in private talk has confirmed the fact of absence of such possibility saying that now Uzbekistan has neither technology nor raw materials for mine production . He informed that: - Uzbekistan has possibility to produce light armored machinery at the basis of tractor, excavator and agricultural machinery plants, military and transport aircrafts, and also some spares and component parts to the operating artillery systems. Finally he added that there were no job orders for mine production neither on the part of Department of Defense nor on the part of any other force (military) departments.
A representative of Department of Defense refused to inform us whether the country has exported mines to other countries, but he has told that more than the half of the available stock of mines was disposed to the Committee of Frontier Guard under the National Security Service. The First Deputy Minister for the States of Emergency (extraordinary situations) in Uzbekistan Mr. Akhmad Saidov has declared that his department has no mines and such types of military supplies are not used in their activity . Ambassador of Uzbekistan in the USA Mr. Sadik Safaev earlier (July 31, 2001) has also mentioned that there is no antipersonnel mine production in Uzbekistan.
A representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan in his turn has confirmed that there is Agreement between Uzbekistan and Russia on military and technical cooperation signed in June 1995. Bilateral decisions on purchase-selling of defense technology (military equipment), componentry, ammunition, munitions and arming of Russian production are taken within the framework of the above mentioned Agreement. Protocols to the Agreement are signed at the departmental level (Ministries of Defense), but the consent should be given from the government. Mines were not mentioned in the list he summarized briefly .
A colonel in reserve former member of Turkestan military division (this is a territorial subdivision of former Department of Defense of the Soviet Union) has noted (proceeding from his private source of information) that up to 1991, in the ammunition depots of three countries Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tadjikistan - being a part of this territorial subdivision there were about 4 millions of antipersonnel and antitank mines meant for protection of national frontier lengthwise of southern border. Overwhelming majority of production falls at 1970-1980. After dissolution of the USSR all these stocks remained in three republics. Uzbekistan has only 90 km of frontier with the adjoining Afghanistan, therefore it got, obviously, only small part of the mine stocks the expert has said .
However, he doesnt ignore the fact that after withdrawal of soviet troops from Afghanistan a certain part of mines together with other armament and defense technologies was brought back on the territory of Uzbekistan for further warehousing or transportation far inland of the soviet state. Already that time approaches to Uzbekistan were mined in order to prevent eventual penetration of Afghan rebellious forces into the republic; in particular, the bridge connecting Termez city with Afghanistan. Rough estimate showed that several dozens of thousands of mines of different types were used for this purpose.
It is quite possible, notes the expert, that during the attack of Taliban movement forces in 1999 these measures were strengthened and the frontier was fortified by new lines of antipersonnel mines. This fact was confirmed by the citizens of Termez city and other neighboring villages who agreed to give interview and answer the questions. From their words mines are still there on military duty and civil persons are prohibited to enter this territory. This territory is under control of not only coastguard (river and land frontier guards) but of police as well. Lengthwise of mined territory there is a barbed wire. They do not confirm any facts of blowing up of Uzbek citizens during the last years. But they do not exclude possibility of several accidents, when illegal Afghan refugees tried to cross the border. One of the citizens has told us that sometimes he heard sound of explosions from the direction of the border. However, official persons from Surkhandarya province didnt confirm this information during their meeting and private talk with Landmine Monitors analysts.

EXPORT OF ANTIPERSONNEL MINES

One of the members of the Surkhandarya province khokimiyat (local authorities) has reported to Landmine Monitors analysts that he has information that in the midst of 90th of the last century Uzbek troops with help of aircrafts and ground vehicles transported ammunition for artillery and mines for Afghan army of General Rashid Dostum. This ammunition was transported according to the private secret agreement between the government of Uzbekistan and General R.Dostum, controlling the northern frontiers of Afghanistan with the purpose to prevent movement of Taliban forces to the southern frontiers of Uzbekistan. The number of mines transported is not known.
This is the single case that Uzbekistan has exported mines to another country discovered by the Landmine Monitors analysts. However, this fact was not confirmed officially.

UTILIZATION OF MINES

At present the Uzbek frontier guards use mine reserves apportioned to them by the Department of Defense. A representative of Committee of Uzbek National Frontier Guard , has informed that 2/5 of total mine reserves available at their disposal were activated.
He noted: - Mines are meant to prevent penetration of gangster units and drug sellers into Uzbekistan and to prevent illegal selling of ammunition and weapons. If during the time when the above mentioned territory was mined no criminals were blown up, it doesnt mean that mines didnt play the role of constraining factor. He also added: Partisans better than anybody else understand that this ammunition is of great danger to them and therefore they didnt make any attempts to cross the border illegally. He refused to comment loss of life of civil people. He also refused to deny or to confirm the fact that in summer of 2002 the Uzbek armored troop-carrier with five soldiers of frontier troops has been blown up by their own mine when checking the frontier line.  In the meantime, on July 23, 2004 during the maneuvers the group of personnel from airborne forces of Uzbekistan has occasionally found themselves in the mined territory of Uzbek-Tajik border and one of paratroopers has been blown up by antipersonnel mine and has received missile wounds.  Local people brought the victim to the central district clinic of Isfhara city (Tajikistan).   
Mr. Rashid M. Habiev, Second-in-Command of Frontier Troops, has confirmed this fact .  He stated that the length of Uzbekistan borders is more than 7,000 km and it is guarded by the personnel with the use of technical means including mines.  He highly valued the effectiveness of mines utilization but with that he noted that mines are located in mountainous hard-of-reach areas between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  Mines are located exclusively in the territory of our country and if people are blown up by them that is their own fault, - he mentioned.  He also said that legal entry into the country has to take place through available check-points.
According to R.Habiev, mines are also located in the territory of Ferghana Valley, but there are few of them and they have a purpose to guard disputable areas.  We possess the information that criminals herd cattle to the mined areas with intention to clear the passageway he said.
In the meantime Mr. Antonio Mario Kosta, UN Deputy Secretary General, Executive Director of the UNODC, who officially visited Tashkent, could not provide the information about mines effectiveness.  Unfortunately I am not aware of the complete situation on mines utilization, - he noted, - but I will study the issue" .
Mr. James Kallahan, Regional Representative of the UNODC in the Central Asia, said that he knows about the problem of antipersonnel mines utilization, but it is hard to judge its effectiveness.  But some of experts consider that mines do not work as a barrier for organized crime.
There is no official information about the number of Uzbek citizens blown up by mines installed by frontier troops of Uzbekistan.  A representative of the Ministry of Health has noted that death or wounds caused by ammunition are attributed to the category of accidents, but his department didnt receive such kind of information.
The First Deputy Minister for the States of Emergency in Uzbekistan Mr. Akhmad Saidov has told the Landmine Monitors analyst the following: The Ministry for the States of Emergency does not deal specifically with mine problems, but any situation concerned with threat to life and health of population is registered by our ministry in obligatory way. Our department didnt receive any information concerning blowing up of civil persons by the Uzbek mines.
In the opinion of independent experts such information is attributed to the category Confidential and therefore it cannot be made public officially. Besides, on the instruction of local authorities cases on blowing up by the mines can be registered in local district health departments as injuries caused by other reasons. Therefore, it is difficult to obtain information concerning blowing up of Uzbek citizens. In the meantime biologist conducting research in Gissar nature reserve, has provided information that in 2003 in the territory of Kitab rayon seven Uzbek citizens were killed including three children.  They were blown up by mines when tending cattle, noted the biologist.  According to her data the same happened with two Uzbek border guards, performing their duty.  She also informed that significant reduction in valuable species of flora and fauna, in particular apers and bears, takes place because of mines actions.  Local people assert that during a week they hear three-four explosions from the direction of nature reserve she stated. .
Relevant data confirms the death of two citizens of other states: thus, the Tajik shepherd Elmir Pardaev was blown up by antipersonnel mine on January 22, 2004.  This mine was installed by the Uzbek force (military) structures several years ago in the territories along the frontier line with Tajikistan. . The shepherd was tending a herd in Ashat district and accidentally stepped on mine. He had no idea that there could be mines in that territory. No longer than one month later, in February another inhabitant of the same district Makhzun Kuziev has also died having accidentally stepped on the Uzbek mine.  On  March 25, teenager, resident of the settlement in Kanibadam district was tending cows near Tajik-Uzbek border and from the blow up of antipersonnel mine set by the Uzbek party, has died at the same very place.
The next day on March 26 three teenagers of 13-14 years old were tending cows not far from Hanabad settlement of Isfara rayon of Soghd province.  Being back home they found themselves in the minefield and antipersonnel mine has exploded.  Two young people died on the site from missile wounds and the third has died later in the hospital .
On February 9 in the territory of Uzbekistan near Kizitillo settlement of Isfara district hominal remains were found.  In the course of investigation the law-enforcement officers managed to identify the person died using the fragments of clothes.  That was Toshpulat Akhmedov, who moved to Uzbekistan at the end of 2001 and has been considered being missing.  The investigative expertise has determined that the reason of death was one of antipersonnel mines installed by Uzbek army authorities.
The fact is that Uzbek combat engineers (sappers) didnt put a signage for the minefield, didnt install corresponding barrier and didnt put special signs warning about the danger.  In the meantime Second-in-Command of Frontier Troops Mr. R.Habiev was affirming that they have informed the population about the danger using mass media and hanging on placards.  Mining of Tajik-Uzbek border was started by the Uzbek part in August 2000 in order to prevent the breach of Islamic movement soldiers of Uzbekistan across the border. According to information obtained from the Committee for Frontier Guarding under the government of Tajikistan during that period of time lots of civil persons were blown up by antipersonnel mines in the area of Tajik-Uzbek border: 60 of them were lost (died) and 70 persons were seriously injured. No death of Islamic movement soldiers was announced.
In spite of the fact that State Department of the USA has informed that not less than 12 civil persons were lost (died) on the Uzbek border in 2001 and in 2002 in that area there were not less than five explosions that resulted in several victims (usually it is more than one victim) , the UN report states that strong measures on security protection have put under the threat personal security of people residing in the enclaves of Fergana valley.

BLOWING UP BY THE AMMUNITION OF OTHER TYPES

The First Deputy Minister for the States of Emergency in Uzbekistan Mr. Akhmad Saidov has informed that he remembers two accidents when people were blown up because of careless handling of explosive ammunition. Thus, in the beginning of 2000 two schoolchildren have seriously suffered playing with the igniting fuse of hand grenade (bombshell). In 1990 two teenagers were lost (died) trying to smelt explosive from a bombshell.
In 1998 during hard armed conflicts between the troops of general A.Dostum and talibs nearby the border of Uzbekistan several shells or missiles flew across the border and reached Termez having destroyed several buildings. A number of people were injured, but officially this fact wasnt announced.
In April 2004 100-125 mm tank and training shells as well as aviation rackets have been delivered to Pavlodar plant Kasting together with metal scrap.  Total weight of dangerous metal waste amounted to 29,9 tons.  The sender of the freight was Shymkents company Maljan LTD which is specialized in ferrous and non-ferrous metal scrap sale.  Inspection of ammunition conducted by the sappers of field-engineers battalion has shown that part of the freight was supplied with fuses what means that it is dangerous for people.  Moreover, part of ammunition contains hexogen and trotyl what allows their use in firing.
According to experts assumptions the shells were collected from the old firing ground in both sides of Kazakhstan-Uzbek border.  In Soviet times it was under the management of Chirchik Tank College (Uzbekistan).  It is already more than ten years since firing ground has not been used but Uzbekistani people have never cleaned highly explosive scrap being there in abundance.  This is a very thing which is being periodically collected by Kazakhstani citizens.  Sometimes such a business costs them a life.  It is supposed that the shells from very Uzbekistan side collected by local citizens were brought to Kazakhstan .
There was no reply from the Ministry for the States of Emergency in Uzbekistan about this case to the request of the Landmine Monitor analysts. 
Landmine Monitor analysts got to know that Bekabad metallurgical complex situated in Tashkent province has the intention to recycle military equipment and ammunition, delivered from Afghanistan on toll basis.  Experts from the experience of past years suppose that there could be quite suitable for the use ammunition among the waste.  At present time the only barrier which does not allow to implement this plan is the fact that the plant works using the ISO 9000 standard and has no right to smelt the waste, which is not certified.   

MINES A FACTOR OF UNSETTLED RELATIONS

The policy in respect of mines is personified: the decision on their installation was taken by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and the Head of the Republic Mr. Islam Karimov.  As declared a former member of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan , former Prime-Minister Utkur Sultanov and a number of other high officials have repeatedly appealed to the president with the proposal to liquidate mines on the borders. They were referring to the fact that mines provoke to destabilization of relations with the neighboring countries and cause irremediable damage to the life and health of population residing in the boundary areas, destroy domestic property (livestock and domestic animals), withdraw from the economic use and rotation vast territories of lands and cause ecological damage. Besides, starting from 2002 the direct threat to the national security of Uzbekistan on the part of large military units, in particular, on the part of talibs or Islamic movement of Afghanistan (this organization was put on the list of terrorist organizations by the State Department of the USA) was eliminated. However Islam Karimov has refused to take a positive decision. Motivations of such approach are unknown.
By the statement of independent experts, Uzbekistan does not liquidate mines on the borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan due to the unsettled territorial issues, but not due to the existed military threat. They have noted that After successful operation against Taliban movement during antiterrorist campaign of coalition forces in Afghanistan, extremist organizations operating on its territory against Uzbekistan have lost their fighting efficiency and ability to act against Karimovs government. Starting from 1999 when borderlands were mined not a single partisan or terrorist was lost or injured during attempt to cross the border and reach the territory of Uzbekistan. It means that mines didnt play their protective role. However, it is quite obvious that installation of mines was meant not so much for preventive measures against terrorists as to demonstrate strength and power to the neighboring republics especially during settling of problems in respect of disputable area of lands.
An example of it is the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, which disproved the statement of Uzbek authorities that the Kyrgyz part supposedly put off documentary legalization of already approved sections of the border" .
"During negotiations the Uzbek part at different levels has repeatedly put forward proposals to withdraw from the specification already approved sections of the border that adversely affected the process of negotiations. It should be noted that two meetings of the governmental delegations of the parties concerned, which were held in Tashkent in 2001 and 2003 were rounded off without signing of protocols, since the Uzbek party insisted on introduction into the protocols the clauses unacceptable for the Kyrgyz party has notified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan. In this connection  the official Bishkek in July 2003 put forward a proposal to study in details The Agreement between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan about the Kyrgyz-Uzbek national border in respect of the approved sections of the border.
The above mentioned protocols were signed in August 15, 2003 as a result of the meeting of prime-ministers of both countries, but in the process of execution of these protocols the Uzbek party started to delay confirmation of already approved 1040 km of the border and to avoid inspection of 255 km of the border, which need to be more accurately defined. But Second-in-Command of Frontier Troops Mr. R.Habiev claims that the process of delimitation and demarcation is hold up because of Kyrgyz party .
According to information from the foreign mass media the whole length of the Uzbek-Afghan border is mined, and 70-100% of the length of the Uzbek-Tajik border is also mined. The armed forces of Uzbekistan have minefields around the disputed sections, in particular, in the enclaves of Sokh in Batken province (southern part of Kyrgyzstan), around Shakhi-Mardan enclave and along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in Fergana valley.
The UN experts have written in the project Common Country Assessment. Uzbekistan referring to the expert D.Abramson that although there is a certain progress in presenting minefields maps to the governments of the neighboring countries , it is considered that the number of people suffered from mine explosions (died or seriously injured) is continuously increasing . In the Central Asian conference that was held in November 2003 the officials from the Department of Defense of Kyrgyzstan and local authorities of Batken province have stated that the Uzbek party didnt provide any maps and, therefore, the UN note (reference) could be considered as incorrect.
Moreover, Colonel R.Habiev announced that it is impossible to pass the maps, as this is a state secret.  Besides that mud- and landslides, which take place in mountainous areas, have deposed the mines and the maps available by now do not reflect the situation with the location of these ammunition.

ENLIGHTENING ACTIVITIES

The theme concerned with mines is closed for public discussions. Mass media of Uzbekistan have never published or said even a word about this problem; they didnt enlighten not only the cases of undermining of citizens of other countries, but the fact itself that mines were installed. The same applies to the fact that Uzbek citizens have also suffered (died or were seriously injured) from mine explosions.  The statement of Colonel R.Habiev about the use of mass media on mines hazard is quite doubtful.  There was a rageful censorship at that time which would never allow appearing any of such information in the press.  More than that this topic is avoided in media up to the present.
In conversation with residents of the villages nearby Termez city the Landmine Monitors analysts have found out that no measures were undertaken to inform local population about installation of mines and how dangerous they are. Neither schools nor local communities have ever organized any explanatory talks on how to keep off mined territories, how to recognize mines and how to help the injured people. It is very likely that injured people didnt get any specialized help. One of the medical staff of a local primary care post (SVP) of Surkhandarya province has confessed that they do not have necessary materials and medicines required to render corresponding medical care to people seriously suffered from mine explosions, and the staff does not have corresponding experience in caring and treating such kind of patients.
In 2002 the UN representation office in Uzbekistan, UNESCO and international organization Reporters Without Borders have published Brief Manual for Reporters in Uzbek language where they described anti-mine activities, in particular, instruction on how a person should behave if s/he came across (run into) a mine. The Manual provides technical features of mines PMR -2, PMA-2, PMA-3, PROM-1, MRUD. The Landmine Monitors analysts have revealed that this explanatory work was the only one undertaken on mines hazard and even it was conducted by international organizations in Uzbekistan.
To present day citizens of Uzbekistan are not informed about the decision of the government on mine clearing of the border, information about this issue has leaked out to public only through Internet.