Uzbekistan + 1 more

High Commissioner concerned over presence of Uzbek officials outside Kyrgyz centre holding refugees and asylum seekers

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today she was extremely concerned over the presence of Uzbek officials outside a detention centre in western Kyrgyzstan housing 26 Uzbek refugees and three asylum seekers set to be transferred to the Kyrgyz capital to await possible relocation to other countries.

The 29 Uzbeks at the Osh detention centre, along with 426 refugees from the Sasik camp, are scheduled to be taken to Bishkek in a UNHCR humanitarian airlift. The airlift started this morning but fears have been expressed about the presence of Uzbek Government officials demanding the return of 12 of the detainees.

"I am extremely concerned about this apparent attempt to increase the pressure for the return of the detainees to Uzbekistan", Mrs. Arbour said, adding that international human rights law prohibits sending people back to countries where they may face torture. Kyrgyzstan is a party to the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treaties that feature this prohibition.

Mrs. Arbour recalled that the United Nations Committee against Torture has expressed concern about the numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations of particularly brutal acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment committed by law enforcement personnel in Uzbekistan. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, for its part, has pointed to reports of the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of detainees and the low number of officials who have been charged, prosecuted and convicted for such acts.

"I am heartened to learn that the Kyrgyz authorities have assured UNHCR that the matter will be handled in an appropriate way", she continued. "I hope that means the authorities will abide by their human rights obligations as well".

The High Commissioner added that her Office would monitor the situation closely.

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