18.02.2006 | Halya Coynash

A Cover-up now will be a second betrayal: an open letter regarding the deportation of Uzbek asylum seekers


To the President of Ukraine, V.A. Yushchenko; the Minister of Justice, S.P. Holovaty; the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine. I.V. Drizhchany; and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Y.V. Lutsenko

18 February 2006

On 14 February 2006, 10 Uzbek nationals, 9 of whom had sought political asylum in Ukraine, were deported and handed over to the Uzbek authorities.  There are serious grounds for fearing for their safety in Uzbekistan.

This operation, carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine in the Crimea, was in contravention of both Ukrainian and international legislation, and is a grave violation of the rights of political refugees.

Those detained had applied for political asylum only 7 days before their application was turned down.  This period of time is manifestly insufficient to ensure a fair review of an asylum appeal.  They were then deported on the very same day that their applications were turned down, in breach of Ukrainian law, requiring that they be given seven days to appeal the decision.

They had also sought international protection from the UNHCR and believed strongly that they would be in danger if forced to return to their country.  This is a flagrant violation of all norms regarding the treatment of asylum seekers, in particular the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The operation has been condemned by the UNHCR, OSCE, as well as by Ukrainian and international human rights organizations.

These were people in fear of their life who turned to the Ukrainian authorities for help. Their trust in Ukrainian justice has been betrayed.

I call upon you to:

-  immediately take steps to investigate the situation and to bring those responsible for such a criminal betrayal of trust and violation of both domestic and international law to answer.

-  provide full guarantees that refugees’ rights will be respected and that no person seeking refuge in Ukraine will ever again be returned to a country where they have well-founded reasons to fear for their safety.

Halya Coynash

Daughter of refugees who were not turned away

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