Extremely concerned over the fate of 11 Uzbek asylum-seekers deported to their homeland last week from Ukraine, the United Nations refugee agency today again appealed for humane treatment in full accordance with international standards.
“Since last Friday, UNHCR has appealed to the Uzbek authorities to be given access to the returned Uzbeks, but this has so far not been given,” Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a press conference in Geneva.
Mr. Redmond said the 11 had registered their asylum claims or were in the process of doing so when they were arrested in Ukraine following requests for their extradition from the Prosecutor's Office of Uzbekistan, alleging involvement in the civilian protests in Andijan of May 2005, which ended in violence.
“Being the subject of an extradition request does not remove an asylum seeker or refugee from international refugee protection,” Mr. Redmond said. “It is also a breach of the UN Convention against Torture to send persons back to countries where they may face torture.”
He explained that UNHCR promotes the voluntary return of refugees to the country of origin if the circumstances permit repatriation in safety and dignity. Its role in this regard also includes monitoring the situation of returnees in the country of origin.
UNHCR also remains concerned about the fate of four detained Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan, but it said it has received assurances from Kyrgyz authorities that no deportations will occur for the time being.
The agency said that two of the four were denied asylum following a Supreme Court decision last week and the other two will appear in court on 3 March to appeal against a first rejection decision.
Like the 11 deported from Ukraine, the four were arrested following an extradition request from the Uzbek government, Mr. Redmond said.
UNHCR has called on the Kyrgyz government to refrain from any action aimed at forcibly returning these four refugees to Uzbekistan.