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Concern For Uzbek Refugees In Kyrgyzstan

UN Human Rights Chief ‘Extremely Concerned’ For Uzbek Refugees In Kyrgyzstan

New York, Jul 28 2005

The chief United Nations human rights official has voiced extreme concern at the presence of Uzbek officials outside a detention centre in Kyrgyzstan in an apparent effort to press for the repatriation of Uzbek refugees, stressing that international law prohibits sending people back to countries where they may face torture.

The centre at Osh in western Kyrgyzstan is holding 29 Uzbeks, who are among more than 450 refugees who who fled unrest in their homeland in May and Uzbek Government officials are demanding the return of 12 of the detainees, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement yesterday.

“I am extremely concerned about this apparent attempt to increase the pressure for the return of the detainees to Uzbekistan,” she added, noting that Kyrgyzstan is a party to the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit returning people to countries where they may face torture.

Ms. Arbour recalled that the UN 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 UN 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.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday began an airlift that is to take 455 Uzbeks, including those at Osh, to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek pending a further transfer to other countries.

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

ENDS

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