UN agency criticizes forced return of refugee by Azerbaijan

14 November 2006

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today levelled strong criticism at Azerbaijan authorities for forcing a Turkish citizen of Kurdish ethnicity, who had previously been granted refugee status in Germany, to return to her native country.

“In the absence of indications justifying this decision, UNHCR considers her forced return to Turkey to be contrary to Azerbaijan's obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva today.

Non-refoulement prohibits States from returning a refugee or asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

The refugee in question, whose name was not reported, had spent the last two years in detention in Azerbaijan, initially on charges of illegal entry into the country, and subsequently on the grounds of an extradition request by a court in Istanbul.

“She was extradited despite UNHCR's and the Government of Germany's repeated interventions on her behalf to the Government of Azerbaijan,” Mr. Redmond said, adding that the agency had only received only a limited explanation from them despite persistent inquiries since the 13 October extradition.

UNHCR, he said, is seeking assurances from the Government of Azerbaijan that refugees and asylum seekers from any country will in the future be treated with full respect of Azerbaijan's international and national legal obligations concerning refugees and asylum seekers.

 

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