Uzbekistan + 1 more

Uzbek refugees risk deportation as Shanghai Group meets in Kazakhstan

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Geneva, 5 July 2005 - The International Secretariat of OMCT wishes to express its grave concern regarding the situation of Uzbek refugees who fled Andijan, Uzbekistan, after the violent government crackdown on peaceful demonstrators which resulted in the killing of hundreds of civilians on 13 May 2005. OMCT is concerned that the Uzbek government will use the occasion of the regional meeting of the so-called Shanghai Group, 5-6 July in Kazakhstan, to secure the illegal deportation of Uzbek refugees from Kyrgystan to Uzbekistan in violation of international refugee and human rights law.

There are currently some 450 Uzbek asylum seekers in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, 29 of whom are in preventive detention in the city of Osh, and under imminent threat of deportation. On 9 June, four refugees were expelled by the Kyrgyz authorities. The General Prosecutor subsequently expressed the Kyrgyz government's willingness to concede to the request of extraditing more refugees who are "suspected" of instigating the unrest in Andijan last May. According to local sources there exists a list of 103 refugees whose extradition has been requested by the Uzbek government.

OMCT recalls that Kyrgyzstan is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, both of which prohibit the refoulement (forcible return) of refugees who may face torture in their home country. OMCT considers that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Uzbek refugees may be subject to torture and ill-treatment if sent back to Andijan and that the four already extradited, Muhamadzhon Kadyrov, Dilshodbek Hadzhiev, Tabakalbek Hadzhiev and Shakirov Hasan, are currently at risk of torture. Mr. Hadzhiev has reportedly been hospitalised in Andijan after being tortured.

OMCT is particularly concerned that the Minsk Convention (Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters) and Uzbek-Kyrgyz bilateral agreements may be misused to justify the forcible return of Uzbek refugees at the July 5-6 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (ShOS) - which includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, the Russian Federation and China - being held in Astana, Kazakhstan. OMCT requests that ShOS countries recognise the unlawfulness of extraditing Uzbek refugees when such extradition violates the non-refoulement principle.

In view of the Uzbek government's failure to ensure an independent investigation into the May 13 events in Andijan, OMCT urges the Kyrgyz authorities and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take all necessary steps to ensure respect for the non-refoulement principle and guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan.

OMCT calls upon third countries to consider the resettlement of Uzbek asylum seekers currently in Kyrgyzstan on an urgent basis.