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UN rights chief condemns Kyrgyzstan extradition of Uzbek refugees

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] on Thursday said that the Kyrgyzstan decision to extradite four Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] refugees and one asylum seeker back to Uzbekistan earlier this week was a breach of Kyrgyzstan's obligations under the Convention Against Torture [text] and warned that the five face a grave risk of torture [press release]. Arbour said that the extradition violates the convention's non-refoulement principle because the five Uzbeks face possible torture and inhumane treatment when they arrive back in Uzbekistan. Arbour urged Kyrgyz authorities to refrain from extraditing any other Uzbeks that the Uzbekistan government suspects of involvement in last year's uprising in Andijan that resulted in the massacre of unarmed Uzbek citizens [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Arbour also called on Uzbekistan to treat the prisoners humanely, to grant international observers immediate access to the detainees and to swiftly try the five Uzbeks. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres [official profile] has also said that the extradition was an "extremely serious" violation [press release] of the 1951 Refugee Convention [PDF text].

In May 2005, thousands of demonstrators protesting the trial of 23 businessmen on religious extremism charges stormed a prison [JURIST report], allowing about 2,000 inmates including the businessmen to escape. In response, the government troops killed as many as 500 demonstrators [JURIST report]. Last year, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan underwent several negotiations to have Kyrgyz authorities deport up to 29 Uzbek refugees, but Kyrgyzstan remained indecisive [JURIST reports] because of the potential for torture in Uzbekistan. The UN News Centre has more.

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