PRESS RELEASE from the Society of Uzbek Political Refugees in Ukraine
On the night of 14 February a group of 10 Uzbek citizens were deported from Ukraine to Uzbekistan followingf a request for extradition from the Uzbek authorities. Since 11 people were arrested, the fate of one person remains unknown as the information suggesting that he had relatives in Ukraine was not accurate. 9 of the 11 people detained had registered with the UN High Commission for Refugees as having applied for political asylum. The other two were also planning to officially apply, but were not given the chance.
International organizations have strongly condemned the decision of the Ukrainian authorities to deport the refugees from Uzbekistan.
“The forced return of the refugees constitutes a serious violation of the principle of non-repatriation which Ukraine committed itself to in particular by signing the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, in the UN Convention against Torture of 1984”,
The President of OSCE expressed regret that the Ukrainian authorities were not keeping the commitments they had made to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. De Gucht called on Ukraine to look into the situation as a matter of urgency and provide information about the fate of the 11 Uzbek refugees.
“Ukraine had a duty to protect these people and instead it sent them back to almost certain torture and abuse,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Now the government needs to find out how it could have happened that asylum seekers registered with UNHCR were deported. And it must take steps to ensure that it never happens again.”
Six people were detained in Nizhnegorsk (the Crimea) on 7 February, while on the same time a futher 5 people were detained Belogorsk (also in the Crimea). They were held in custody in Simferopol until their deportation.
According to information from the UNHCR, the Uzbek extradition request claimed that the detained had been involved in the Andijon events of 13 May 2006 when government forces killed hundreds of civilians. Tashkent has on many occasions called for the extradition of people whom the regime accuses of involvement in the events in Andijon from other states, including Kyrgystan and Russia.
As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its Protocol from 1966 Ukraine 1951 was obliged to refuse to return people who might face repression in their home country.
The European Convention on Human Rights, which is also legally binding for Ukraine, categorically prohibits the extradition of people regardless of the charges against them or the gravity of a crime to countries where they could face torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Ukraine is subject to an analogous prohibition in the UN Convention against Torture. In 2003, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo Van Boven,, spoke of the “systematic” nature of this practice in Uzbekistan.
In view of the grounds on which Uzbekistan, as far as we can ascertain, requested the extradition of these people, and also bearing in mind the situation as far as human rights are concerned in that country, the deportation was manifestly in contravention of Ukraines international legal commitments regardless of whether the people deported were recognized as refugees in accordance with the 1951 Convention.
We are also concerned by the fact that those detained were denied fundamental procedural rights envisaged by Ukraines international legal commitments. On 14 February the Kyivsky District Court in Simferopol passed a decision on extradition on the basis of the fact that the local immigration office had refused to recognized them as refugees. According to information from the Russian human rights group “Memorial” and the “Civic Assistance” Committee, those detained were not given a real opportunity to appeal the deportation ruling. The Ukrainian immigration authorities stated that the people detained had turned down their right to an appeal. Against the background of the haste and concealment of the public of this procedure, any rejection of the right to appeal can hardly have been voluntary.
In the UNHCR statement it is mentioned that the Commissions representatives had asked for access to the people detained while they were being held in custody.
Ukraine carried out this deportation without observing procedural norms. The authorities of the country did not only return the applications for political asylum without thorough consideration, but also deported them. The hasty decision to deport these ten people, despite the attempts of the UNHCR to involve itself in the issue, convinces us that the Ukrainian authorities flagrantly violated both basic procedural norms and the fundamental prohibition of returning people to where their life may be in danger.
There are many citizens of Uzbekistan in Ukraine who fled persecution in their own country, however the actions of the Ukrainian authorities do not give them confidence that they can enjoy their legitimate right to refuge.
Several dozen Uzbek citizens, persecuted by the Uzbek authorities for free thinking, have approached the Society of Uzbek Political Refugees in Ukraine. They had wished to apply for refugee status but are now frightened to do so.
The Society of Uzbek Political Refugees in Ukraine (SUPRU) had on several former occasions spoken of the systematic violation of human rights in Ukraine.
In December 2005 the SUPRU, in an attempt to draw public attention to the problems of Uzbek immigrants and the potential threat they faced of deportation, held a picket of the UNHCR in Kyiv and published a statement about the violation of refugee rights in Ukraine.
On 6 February 2006, a day before the detentions in the Crimea, the SUPRU circulated an appeal directed to the President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers and the UNHCR in Kyiv trying to alert them to the problems faced by Uzbek political refugees and the imminent danger. There was, however, no reaction, and as though in mockery of us, on the next day 11 Uzbeks were detained in the Crimea.
On 13 February 2006 the leaders of the SUPRU warned the UNHCR management about the possible deportation of the 11 Uzbeks detained and asked it to take urgent measures to protect them form extradition. However the UNHCR took no decisive measures.
On 17 February the SUPRU called on the UNHCR to create an international commission to investigate the deportation of the 11 Uzbeks. The management of the UNHCR stated that while they could take part in the work of this commission, they could not themselves initiate the creation of such a commission.
The government of Ukraine has still not reacted to the deportation of the Uzbeks and has not provided any explanations.
Ukrainian laws have been violated.
Ukraines commitments under international conventions have been violated.
The silence of Ukraines government may be interpreted as disregard for democratic principles. Today, when Ukraine is aspiring to integration into the European Union, a community of democratic nations, the violation and non-compliance with international legal commitments will hardly help to create an image of Ukraine as a law-based state and could cast it back into the ranks of non-democratic countries.
The Head of the Association of Uzbek Political Refugees in Ukraine
Dadazhonov, I. M.
Tel: +380953947091, [email protected]
Deputy Head of the AUPRU
Khadzhymatov, Kh. R.
Tel: +380963882158, [email protected]