[JURIST] Russia [JURIST news archive] has temporarily halted the extradition of 13 Uzbeks [JURIST report] accused of terrorist acts in connection with last year's uprising in Andijan [JURIST news archive] that resulted in the massacre of hundreds unarmed Uzbek civilians [BBC backgrounder] by Uzbek government troops, pending an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. The Russian Prosecutor-General [official website] decided to postpone the extradition because Russian law prohibits deportation during an appeal of an extradition request. Lawyers representing the Uzbek refugees appealed the extradition decision, fearing the refugees will face torture upon their return to Uzbekistan, according to Moscow-based human rights group Memorial [advocacy website].
Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], which recently objected [HRW press release] to the decision of neighboring Kyrgyzstan to forcibly return 5 Uzbeks to their home country, applauded Russia's decision to halt the extradition, but expressed concern that it required the "intervention of the European Court" to bring about the change, adding that Russia never should have complied with Uzbekistan's extradition request in the first place. Memorial argues that only one of the 13 refugees in Russia was actually in Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] at the time of the Andijan uprising, and that the refugee was at his home at the time. Memorial has also asserted that the men have been determined to be refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official website], but that the government has refused to recognize their refugee status. IRIN has more. RIA Novosti has local coverage.