UN agency concerned about four Uzbek refugees detained in Kyrgyzstan

Officials with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) are calling on the Kyrgyz Government to refrain from any action aimed at forcibly returning four Uzbek refugees now in detention to their home country.The today voiced concern about the fate of the four, who remain in custody in Kyrgyzstan months after they were arrested following an extradition request from the Uzbek Government.Officials with the Geneva-based agency have assured the Kyrgyz authorities that they would help find solutions to the situation, including resettlement in other countries. The four arrived in Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of the violent events in Andijan last May. They had been part of a group of some 500 asylum-seekers recognized as legitimate refugees, but were the only ones left behind after the others were evacuated out of Kyrgyzstan in July for urgent resettlement elsewhere. “I have expressed my gratitude to the Kyrgyz Government for having worked closely with UNHCR to ensure the protection of the group,” said Ekber Menemencioglu, the Director of UNHCR’s Bureau for Central Asia. “I also wish to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to continue to provide adequate protection to the four refugees remaining on their territory.”The four were detained in June following an extradition request from the Uzbek Government. Since then, they have been kept in detention in Osh, in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where they are still awaiting a decision on their fate despite the fact that UNHCR thoroughly reviewed their cases and determined that they are refugees who deserve protection. Kyrgyzstan is a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and an extradition of the four would violate the treaty’s provisions, UNHCR said.There has been no independent investigation of the events that led to the deaths of a still-unknown number of people in the town of Andijan in May, 2005. Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urged the Uzbek Government to abide by international legal standards amid reports that dozens of defendants were convicted during closed-door trials.The High Commissioner’s Office has also found strong, consistent and credible testimony indicting the Uzbek military and security forces had committed grave human rights violations in Andijan.