Open letter to the President of Kyrgyzstan

01/10/2012
Urgent Appeal
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Re: Uzbek human rights defender who seeks protection in Kyrgyzstan under threat of deportation to torture

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the recent acts of harassment against Mr. Farkhodhon Mukhtarov, a member of the Uzbekistan Human Rights Alliance (Pravozashchitni Alians Uzbekistana – PAU), who has applied for asylum in Kyrgyzstan. We are concerned that he could be tortured if he were to be returned to Uzbekistan, and call on the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure his safety and that of his family.

On September 14, 2012, members of the Main Investigative Branch (MIB) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) conducted a raid into Mr. Mukhtarov’s apartment in Bishkek, broke down his door and arrested him without warrant. During his arrest, Mr. Mukhtarov was reportedly beaten by the police and members of his family were verbally abused. During his custody at the local police station, the police accused Mr. Mukhtarov of being a fugitive and stated that he would be immediately deported to Uzbekistan. They reportedly told him that they would transfer him to the pre-trial detention facility of the MIA Counter Terrorism Section pending his deportation. The same day, investigators of the MIB of the MIA searched his apartment and seized documents and electronic devices, including a laptop computer, USB keys and a video recorder, with no legal authorisation. He was finally released on the same day, after Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, Director of “Citizens Against Corruption”, an FIDH member organisation in Kyrgyzstan, intervened in his favour. The police reportedly tried to extort money from him for his release. However, Mr. Mukhtarov was not able to return to his home as police officials had in the meantime changed the locks of his apartment.

On September 21, 2012, when Mr. Mukhtarov tried to retrieve his belongings at the Regional Department of Internal Affairs, he was told that they had been sent to the State Committee of National Security and that according to the Department’s information, he was a “terrorist” and an “extremist”.

In October 2009, Mr. Farkhodhon Mukhtarov was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on trumped-up charges of “fraud” and “bribery”. After 16 months, on the eve of a visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Uzbekistan, the imprisonment sentence was commuted to forced labour and he was released on December 1, 2010. Mr. Farkhodhon Mukhtarov then flew Uzbekistan with his family to seek asylum in Kyrgyzstan.

We recall that Mr. Mukhtarov’s arrest and detention are illegal since both he and his family are asylum seekers and have legitimate grounds to fear persecution in Uzbekistan.

We express our deepest concern at these acts of harassment of Mr. Mukhtarov and call upon the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity, as well as that of his family, to allow them immediate access to their home and return all objects seized during the search of their apartment. We further call on the authorities not to deport him to Uzbekistan, as his safety would be put at high risk, and to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into his illegal arrest and alleged ill-treatment during arrest, and to bring to justice those responsible, in accordance with international standards. More generally, we urge the Kyrgyz authorities to conform with all international human rights instruments ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

Our organisations also urge the UNHCR Office in Kyrgyzstan to intervene with the Kyrgyz authorities regarding these latest incidents and take action in order to facilitate Mukhtarov family’s resettlement to a third country.

In the hope that you will take these elements into account,

We remain,

Mrs. Mutabar Tadjibayeva, President of the International Human Rights Organization “Fiery Hearts Club”
Mr. Talib Yakubov, former President of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU)
Mr. Bakhadyr Namazov, Director of the Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners of Conscience of Uzbekistan
Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), on behalf of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Mr. Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), on behalf of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Contacts:
FIDH: Arthur Manet: +33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: +41 22 809 49 39
Fiery Hearts Club: Mutabar Tadjibaeva (Russian/Uzbek): +33 6 79 23 39 27

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