(Osh) – The government of Kyrgyzstan should take immediate measures to ensure safety for people attempting to flee unchecked violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for a UN-mandated force to assist the Kyrgyz government in providing protection and stopping ethnic violence engulfing Osh and spreading to other cities in southern Kyrgyzstan.
"People are desperate to escape the violence but without international assistance there’s no way out, and every minute of delay is costing lives," said Andrea Berg, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, who left Osh on June 13, 2010. "The Kyrgyz authorities need to set up effective measures to protect people and negotiate safe access for those who want to flee."
Arson and other attacks continued on June 13, with residents reporting that a school and homes were on fire. A man in one ethnic Uzbek neighborhood in the center of Osh described to Human Rights Watch how gangs would drive through the neighborhood, set houses on fire, and shoot at people trying to flee. The gangs would leave when the military arrived, but then return as soon as the military left the neighborhood.
Eyewitnesses in CherÐµmyshki, a neighborhood just west of the city center, told Human Rights Watch that gangs torched Uzbek houses and shot at people who attempted to flee. Gangs surrounded the neighborhood, preventing many from escaping.