UN refugee agency ‘extremely concerned’ over Uzbek refugees after Kyrgyz court ruling

14 June 2006

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said today it was “extremely concerned” about the fate of four Uzbek refugees in detention in Kyrgyzstan, who fled their country after last year’s killings in the city of Andijan, following a decision on Tuesday by the country’s Supreme Court which means that all four have now been denied refugee status.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said today it was “extremely concerned” about the fate of four Uzbek refugees in detention in Kyrgyzstan, who fled their country after last year’s killings in the city of Andijan, following a decision on Tuesday by the country’s Supreme Court which means that all four have now been denied refugee status.

UNHCR reiterates its urgent appeal to the Kyrgyz authorities to refrain from any action aimed at forcibly returning these four refugees to Uzbekistan,” the Agency said in a press release. The four were arrested following an extradition request from the Uzbek Government.

“UNHCR has secured resettlement places in different countries for the four and encourages the Kyrgyz government to allow them to either remain in the country or transfer them to UNHCR for immediate resettlement.”

UNHCR recognised the four Uzbeks as refugees under the 1951 Convention in mid-2005 and today repeated past assertions that their extradition would violate this Convention to which Kyrgyzstan is a signatory, and also go against international law, including the Convention Against Torture.

“The refugee agency strongly emphasizes the importance of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugees should be forcibly returned to their country of origin,” it said.

The four men arrived in Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of the violent events in Andijan in eastern Uzbekistan in May 2005. They were part of a group of some 500 asylum seekers, all of whom were subsequently recognised as refugees. All the other refugees in that group were evacuated out of Kyrgyzstan by UNHCR in July and September after being accepted for urgent resettlement elsewhere.

Shortly after last year’s violence in Andijan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed fears that asylum-seekers and refugees forced to return to Uzbekistan “may face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture and extra-judicial and summary executions.”

The Uzbek Government claimed fewer than 200 people were killed in the unrest. However, more than 450 of the Uzbek refugees subsequently provided testimony to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regarding the events of 13 May 2005 and an OHCHR report in July concluded that based on consistent, credible testimony, military and security forces committed grave human rights violations that day.

 

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