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Uzbek asylum seekers in Kyrgyzstan 'disappear': HRW

[JURIST] Law enforcement agencies in Kyrgyzstan have been detaining asylum seekers from neighboring Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] in recent weeks as part of Kyrgyz counterterrorism sweeps, and several asylum seekers have disappeared and have possibly been forcibly returned to Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] said Friday. HRW expressed concern [press release] that four disappeared Uzbek asylum seekers are in danger and urged the "United Nations, the European Union and Washington [to] call upon the Kyrgyz government to protect refugees and asylum seekers." If the four men have been transported back to Uzbekistan, HRW said they could be forced to publicly incriminate themselves and others as part of the Uzbek government's campaign to shift blame away from government troops for the deaths of hundreds of people in the Andijan massacre and whitewash the government's appalling human rights record." Kyrgyz officials have denied any involvement in the disappearances.

Earlier this month, Kyrgyz officials authorized the extradition of a group of refugees and asylum seekers back to Uzbekistan, prompting condemnation [JURIST report] from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. Dozens of Uzbeks sought refuge in Kyrgyzstan after last year's unrest in Andijan [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. 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]. Reuters has more.

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