Officials in Kyrgyzstan's interim government said Tuesday that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has been charged with mass murder, for which he will be tried in absentia. The charges stem from an April 7 incident [JURIST report] in which police fired on a crowd of anti-government demonstrators, killing more than 85 people. The crowd eventually overwhelmed security forces, ultimately overtaking the Kyrgyz government and forcing Bakiyev into exile. Bakiyev maintains that police only shot at the protesters after the crowd began firing on Kyrgyz government headquarters. Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] has pledged [JURIST report] to bring Bakiyev and other members of the former government to justice, but the government has so far succeeded in securing only the arrest of former defense minister Baktybek Kaliyev [AFP report] and the extradition Bakiyev's interior minister from Russia. Officials in Belarus, where Bakiyev currently resides, have not said whether they plan to return him to Kyrgyz custody. Interim government officials maintain that Belarus is obligated by treaties between former Soviet states to extradite Bakiyev.
Otunbayeva launched the new government [JURIST report] after Bakiyev fled the capital earlier this month. Interim officials have had difficulty securing the nation in the wake of Bakiyev's ouster, facing pro-Bakiyev protests and questions about the new administration's legitimacy. Last week, Kyrgyzstan interim deputy leader Omurbek Tekebayev announced [JURIST report] that the country will hold a referendum on a new constitution this summer. That same week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the interim government to conduct an investigation into the violence that resulted in Bakiyev's overthrow. UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) [advocacy website] Executive Director Jan Kubis [official profile] said [press release] earlier this month that Kyrgyzstan needs international support in order to continue democratic reforms. The new government has received support from both the US and Russia.