The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
The Secretary-General calls on the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to facilitate the evacuation of Uzbek refugees and asylum-seekers in the country. His call comes amid reports that a number of these Uzbek nationals are being prevented from leaving a detention centre in the western Kyrgyz city of Osh.
The Secretary-General recalls, as have the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the High Commissioner for Refugees, that returning refugees or asylum-seekers to a country where they may face torture is a violation of international refugee and human rights law. The Secretary-General also reminds the Kyrgyz authorities that this prohibition -- the principle of nonrefoulement -- is absolute and may not be derogated from or circumvented through any other undertaking, be that a bilateral treaty or any other arrangement.