Uzbek asylum seekers must not be forcibly returned

27/10/2010
Press release

On the occasion of your official visit to Paris, FIDH is writing to you to express its deep concern regarding the risk of forced return of 29 Uzbek asylum-seekers from Kazakhstan. These persons risk being subjected to torture and ill treatment in Uzbekistan and their return would be in grave violation of international law.

Dear President Nazarbayev,

On the occasion of your official visit to Paris, FIDH is writing to you to express its deep concern regarding the risk of forced return of 29 Uzbek asylum-seekers from Kazakhstan. These persons risk being subjected to torture and ill treatment in Uzbekistan and their return would be in grave violation of international law.

These Uzbek refugees and asylum seekers were apprehended in June 2010 by the immigration police, assisted by the criminal police and the National Security Committee (KNB), and held in detention centers. Originally presented as a police control aimed at monitoring illegal immigration, it later materialised that these measures were taken in response to a request for extradition made by Uzbekistan.

One of those arrested has already been extradited to Uzbekistan. 29 Uzbek citizens remain in detention and it was announced on 8 September by the Almaty deputy prosecutor that they too are to be extradited. FIDH is deeply concerned for their safety and that of their families.

17 of the men had already been granted refugee status by the UNHCR and some of them were awaiting resettlement to a safe third country. In accordance with the new Law on refugees adopted in January 2010, their cases were sent before the State Commission which is required to rexamine all applications, including those that have already been granted refugee status by the UNHCR. Their applications were denied by the Commission. They have appealed these decisions and await the outcome of this process. Our organisations underline that in no circumstances can they be forcibly returned to Uzbekistan. Our organisations further call for the asylum applications of their wives and other members of their families to be examined independently, in accordance with international law.

Kazakhstan, which currently holds the OSCE presidency, has signed many international conventions, including the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the UN Convention against Torture, which prohibit the return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations.

Extradition of these refugees and asylum seekers to Uzbekistan would be in grave violation of international law. This was recently confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights, on the basis that “there are many credible reports that torture, beatings and force are used against suspects in criminal cases or prisoners by Uzbek security forces in order to extract confessions” (Garayev Vs Azerbaijan Application no. 53,688 / 08, June 10, 2010).

FIDH urgently call upon you to ensure that Kazakhstan respects its international obligations and does not forcibly return refugees or asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan.

Yours sincerely,
Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President

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