Refugees sent back to Uzbekistan at ‘serious risk’ of torture, warns UN rights chief

10 August 2006 –

The top United Nations human rights official warned today that the four Uzbek refugees and one asylum seeker sent home by Kyrgyzstan earlier this week face a “serious risk” of torture, as she called for immediate international access to the five detainees and urged Kyrgyz authorities.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour also said that Kyrgyzstan’s deportation of the five on Wednesday contradicted the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment to which the Government is a party.

“The extradition exposes them to a serious risk of being subjected to torture and is in violation of the non-refoulement principle contained in article 3,” said a statement from her office in Geneva, referring to the Torture Convention’s provisions against forced returns.

She also urged the Kyrgyz authorities to “refrain from further deportation of refugees and asylum seekers to countries where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture.”

The High Commissioner further called on Uzbekistan to treat those extradited in accordance with its human rights obligations, to grant immediate access by international observers to the five detainees and to release them from detention or promptly charge and try them in accordance with international fair trial principles.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also criticized the deportations, with Commissioner António Guterres expressing fears for the safety of the detainees, as well as highlighting that Kyrgyzstan’s actions violated the 1951 Refugee Convention, which the country has also ratified.

The four had arrived in Kyrgyzstan after violent events in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May 2005 and were detained, along with the asylum seeker, in a detention facility in Osh.

Shortly after last year’s Andijan violence, Ms. 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 Ms. Arbour’s office regarding the events of 13 May 2005 and a 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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