UN refugee agency urges Kazakhstan not to forcibly return Uzbek rights activist
The United Nations refugee agency today urged authorities in Kazakhstan not to forcibly return a well-known Uzbek human rights activist, who was arrested along with his family yesterday in the Kazakh capital, Almaty, after having fled there following the recent military crackdown in his own country.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Lutfullo Shamsuddinov was arrested Monday following a request by the Uzbek authorities to extradite him.
“UNHCR is extremely concerned at the arrest of a refugee under its mandate, and is urging the Kazakh authorities not to forcibly return Mr. Shamsuddinov to Uzbekistan. Under the 1951 Geneva Convention, it is forbidden,” said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond in Geneva toda.
Mr. Shamsuddinov arrived in Kazakhstan on 25 May and was registered at UNHCR two days later. After a thorough refugee status determination process, he and his six dependent family members were recognized as mandate refugees on 24 June. “His case was submitted to a third government for urgent resettlement and we have now received word from that government that in principle, it is willing to accept the request, Mr. Redmond said.
The arrest in Kazakhstan comes as 29 Uzbek refugees in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan are also in detention following a request for extradition by the Uzbek authorities.
“As you know, UNHCR organized a meeting with governments here in Geneva last Friday for urgent resettlement of the 29, as well as for humanitarian evacuation of some 450 other Uzbeks who have sought refuge in Kyrgyzstan and are currently at the Sasik camp near Jalal-Abad,” said Mr. Redmond, adding: “Our bureau for the region indicates there has been a positive response so far from a number of governments, but I cannot at this time give you specifics.”