The deadly inter-ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan this month was systematic and well-organised, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday, urging an international inquiry into the unrest.
The New York-based watchdog also warned that the government's decision to proceed with a referendum on a new constitution tomorrow risks sparking a resurgence of the violence between majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks.
"Human Rights Watch research suggests that the violence, particularly the attacks on Uzbek neighborhoods, was systematic and, at least in some cases, well-organised," the group said. It said that Uzbeks were accusing government forces of participating in the attacks on their neighbourhoods, recounting how armoured personnel carriers had been used to remove barricades in front of their neighbourhoods.
Local law enforcement officials had admitted that Armed Personnel Carriers had been used in the attacks but claimed however that the mobs had stolen weapons and military vehicles from nearby military bases, Human Rights Watch said.
HRW said it could not conclude whether Kyrgyz security forces were directly involved in the attacks based on the information collected so far but said the issue should be a key part of the investigation.
"There needs to be an international investigation to establish what happened, determine who was responsible, and ensure this kind of violence never happens again," said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at HRW.
The statement detailed how five days of violence erupted on June 10 when hundreds of Uzbeks gathered near a dormitory in the centre of the southern city of Osh. "The Uzbek crowd torched several buildings, including a casino, and set fire to several cars."
"Violence escalated when rumours spread that people in the Uzbek crowd had raped a Kyrgyz girl in the dormitory, a rumour that turned out to be false," HRW said.