Open Appeal from Russian NGOs to the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko
Your Honour, Viktor Andriyovych!
As representatives of Russian NGOs, we turn to you, the President of independent Ukraine, a country which asserts its commitment to the principles of democracy and aspires to become a full member of the European community.
In view of this, we assume that the principles of international law and the observance of international agreements is an unconditional priority in the policy of todays Ukraine.
The events of 14 February this year filled us with both stunned bemusement and serious concern.
We have in the mind the decision taken and immediately implemented to deport 10 citizens of Uzbekistan, detained in the Crimea on 7 February (as reported by the Ukrainian mass media, quoting the State Committee for National Minorities and Immigration of Ukraine - “as part of the struggle against illegal immigration”).
According to our information, confirmed by the representative office of the UNHCR in Kyiv, 9 of the 11 people detained were seeking asylum in Ukraine. At the beginning of February they had submitted applications to the Ukrainian Migration Service asking for political refugee status. They also approached the UNHCR asking to be recognized as in need of international protection given the impossibility of their returning to Uzbekistan where they faced persecution from the authorities. The other two at the moment of their apprehension were heading to Kyiv in order to submit the same applications.
Nonetheless, the Kyivsky District Court in Simferopol took the decision to remove them from the territory of Ukraine which is a flagrant violation of the UN “Convention relating to the Status of Refugees” of 1951 which Ukraine became a signatory to in 2002, and of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” which prohibits the forced return to a country where torture is used and where the death penalty has not been abolished. Even the opportunity to appeal the said court ruling was not provided these people who fate since, and possibly, life have been placed at serious risk.
The dictatorial regime established in Uzbekistan, especially since the events of 12 – 13 May 2005 in Andijon has gained notoriety throughout the entire world. The lack of an independent justice system in that country, the mass-scale use of torture and extrajudicial executions have been acknowledged by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Antonio Guterres. Convincing evidence has been provided in the documents of such authoritative and respected human rights organizations as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Over the months since the Andijon tragedy, a huge number of statements have been issued about the inadmissibility of returning citizens of Uzbekistan to their country given the risk of political and religious persecution. In her last open appeal to the authorities of Kyrgystan the Director of the Human Rights Watch Section for Europe and Central Asia, Holly Cartner comments that “the promises of the Uzbek authorities to not subject people to torture are not worth the paper theyre written on. In the case of Uzbekistan such diplomatic assurances do not provide reliable guarantees against torture and unacceptable treatment”.
The assertion of the State Committee for National Minorities and Immigration of Ukraine that those citizens of Uzbekistan deported on 14 February were detained only because of an infringement of the rules of stay for foreigners in Ukraine arouse serious doubts. It is contradicted by the communication of the UNHCR, placed on the website “UN News Centre” which states that this occurred “after Ukrainian law enforcement bodies received a request for extradition from their counterparts in Uzbekistan who claim that the people took part in organizing disturbances during the Andijon events of 13 May”.
Reports have already been received suggesting that all 10 people were taken into custody as soon as they reached Tashkent and placed in a pre-trial detention centre.
The Ukrainian authorities bear responsibility for the fate in Uzbekistan of those people deported from the countries as “infringing the rules of stay of foreigners in Ukraine”.
Until now we considered that citizens of Uzbekistan for whom being in our country was fraught with the danger of extradition or illegal deportation due to the close cooperation of the Russian and Uzbek security services could find temporary refuge in Ukraine. Unfortunately our hopes have been proven mistaken.
Today in Ukraine a large number of political refugees from Uzbekistan are waiting for the UNHCR tp resettle them in another country able and willing to offer them protection. For many of them their forced emigration began with their arrival in Moscow and their appeal for help from human rights organizations who know them personally and who are convinced in the well-founded nature of their fears regarding persecution in their own country.
We appeal to you, Mr President, to make the appropriate assessment of the activities of the law enforcement bodies of Ukraine who carried out the illegal deportation of 10 citizens of Uzbekistan on 14 February. We would express our hope that not one of those refugees and asylum seekers in your country will in future be forcibly returned to the country they have fled from. We would like to believe that Ukraine, our nearest neighbour and a country in which many of us have relatives and friends, will overcome this current difficult period in its development and will not permit violations of international legal norms in the future.
Svetlana Gannushkina, chairperson of the Civic Assistance Committee
Sergei Kovalyov, Chairperson of the Russian historical and educational, human rights and charitable society “Memorial”
Lyudmila Alekseeva, Moscow Helsinki Group
Oleg Orlov, Chairperson of the Council of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”
Tatyana Kasatkina, Executive Director of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”
Lidiya Grafova, Chairperson of the Forum of organizations for resettled people
Yury Samodurov, Director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Centre
Lev Ponomaryov, Executive Director of the Nationwide movement “For Human Rights”
Valentin Hefter, Executive Director of the Human Rights Institute
Vitaly Ponomaryov, Director of the Central Asian Program of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”
Yelena Ryabinina, the Civic Assistance Committee
Andrei Blinushov, Editor of the Internet website “Human Rights in Russia” (HRO.org)
Mikaiil G. Arutyunov, President of the International Human Rights Assembly
Vladimir Shaklein, the Ural Inter-regional Centre for Human Rights
L.Y. Rybina, Tambov Human Rights Centre
Oksana Chelysheva, Editor of the Russian-Chechen Information Agency, Nizhny Novgorod
Irina Zolotarevskaq, Ирина Золотаревская, the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, Moscow
Sergei Sabano, the Institute of Social Issues “A Single Europe”, the Youth Human Rights movement
Uzbek Political Émigrés
Valery Petrenko, Editor of the website “Free Uzbekistan”, Belgium
Nadezhda Ataeva, Editor of the newspaper “Central Asia”, Paris
Vladimir Masyutin, Chief Editor of the newspaper “Slavyansky bazaar”, Paris
Farmon Khamroyev, member of the National Democratic Party “Byrlyk”, Canada
Nagi Dauletariyev, the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan “Epgulik”
Bokhodir Choriyev, leader of the movement “Byrdamlyk”, USA
Uzbek human rights activists
Lutfullo Shamsuddinov, former president of the Andijon section of NOPCU
Tamara Chikunova, NNO “Mothers against the death penalty and torture”, Uzbekistan
Yadgor Norbutayev, Uzbekistan