ESPECIALLY DANGEROUS UZBEKS
The illegal aliens deported from Ukraine are accused of having propagandized “radical Islam”, as well as having recruited young Crimean Tatars into the “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” and the party “Hizb ut-Tahrir” (“The Islamic Liberation Party”)
Alexandr Ilchenko, the newspaper “Sevodnya” [“Today”]
A month and a half ago a group of citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan was deported from Ukraine. The official version was that they were illegally staying in Ukraine. The unofficial, and probably more likely, version is their (alleged) involvement in terrorist and religious extremist activities. Both in their own country and here.
“WE ARE VICTIMS OF PERSECUTION”
According to the State Committee for National Minorities and Immigration of Ukraine (hereafter the State Committee), the 11 Uzbeks arrived in our country around a year ago. Some came via Russia, others through Moldova, all ending up in the Crimea.
“They were in Ukraine illegally”, our correspondent was told by the Deputy Director of the State Committee, Sergei Chekhovich. “They should have registered immediately, as required by Ukrainian legislation, but they didnt do so. And it was only in the first days of February 2006, as if suddenly having woken up, they made applications for refugee status to our regional office in the Crimea….
The reason, according to their applications, was persecution by the Uzbek authorities. Supposedly some had by chance witnessed last years mass riots in Andijon, someone else was suspected by Tashkent of providing business support for the opposition, and someones whereabouts had been asked about by the Uzbek security service.
The applicants, who are Muslims, denied any involvement in any political or religious activity in Ukraine. Our staff, in their turn, asked specific questions: what were you subjected to persecution for, what were the facts? There was one standard answer: “The regime is persecuting us”.
IT SMELLS OF TERRORISM
The branch of the immigration service approached the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) asking them to check whether the reasons given were well-founded. The security service involved their Uzbek colleagues and soon received a staggering answer. It turned out that the 11 people were all on the Uzbek wanted list. They were accused of extremely serious crimes of a criminal nature, complicity in terrorist activities, sabotage, mass riots, threatening the constitutional system. Some were accused of murder, illegal possession of firearms, organizing criminal gangs. The National Security Service of Uzbekistan also informed them that six of the Uzbeks had taken an active part in the disturbances in Andijon in spring 2005.
In fact, in the West one more often hears a different interpretation of the Andijon events, which views them not as an “Islamic revolt”, but as a peoples uprising against the regime of Islam Karimov. Similarly, in Europe little credence is given to the accounts given by the Uzbekistan regime about the “terrorist activities” of its opponents (it is considered that the regime is in this way trying to justify its repressive measures against the opposition).
Anyway, the security service listened attentively to the “objective material” presented by their colleagues from Tashkent. Then in their answer to the immigration bodies, they informed them that the people named had arrived in Ukraine not only in order to escape punishment for crimes committed in their own country, but also to actively propagate the idea of “radical Islam” on our territory. They said hat the Uzbeks had made attempts to draw young Crimean Tatars into the terrorist organization “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” , a national branch of the party “Hizb ut-Tahrir”, and the religious extremist movement “Akramiya”. Not only should there be no thought of granting refugee status, but they should free themselves of them just as fast as they can.
THE COURT HAS RULED, PERIOD …
The Uzbeks would have probably left our country voluntarily, but they didnt get the chance. On 7 and 8 February SSU officers rounded them up with lightening speed on the grounds of their “illegal presence in Ukraine. And having obtained permission from the Crimean Prosecutors office, they were placed in the local temporary detention unit. The security service then notified both our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Uzbekistan Embassy in Kyiv.
At the same time the work on those detained continued. In their written testimony they admitted – a rare occurrence – that “in Crimean mosques they had propagandized the idea of creating a world caliphate, they had called on citizens of Ukraine to embrace the ideology of “Hizb ut-Tahrir”, and to provide all means of support for the “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan”.
Other people in the temporary detention unit (which is normally used when down-and-outs are detained) also testified that the Uzbeks had not registered with the law enforcement bodies of our country since they “feared criminal prosecution for such activities both from the Uzbekistan and Ukrainian law enforcement bodies”.
Witnesses were also found from among people from the Crimea who claimed that the detained men had «recruited Ukrainian citizens from among Crimean Tatar youth” into the above-mentioned organizations.
On 13 February the office of the Crimean Immigration Service handed the Uzbeks written rejections of their applications for refugee status. According to Ukrainian legislation, the given ruling can be appealed within a period of seven days both with a higher official body, and through the courts. This did not take place. Why not? After all, straightforward logic suggests that if only in self-defence people fearing retribution in their own country would use all means available and clutch at any opportunity to put the moment of being sent back, and would use any arguments they could …
Instead, on that very same day (evidently not without someones helpful suggestion) in letters addressed to the Head of the State Committee for National Minorities and Immigration of Ukraine, the unsuccessful asylum applicants submissively gave their assurance that they had no complaints against any Ukrainian bodies of authority and that they were not going to make any appeals.
On 14 February the Kyivsky District Court in Simferopol issued a ruling on this case that the Uzbeks be forcibly deported, moreover in a record-breaking short period of time – within 24 hours. Lady Justice considered them to be individuals illegally present on the territory of the state, and effectively denied them their right to appeal the verdict. It was nonetheless irreproachably implemented by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, with the illegal immigrants being rapidly taken to Simferopol Airport, placed on a plane of the airline company “Uzbekistan Khavaiollary” and sent on the flight to Tashkent, with tickets in one direction, paid for, incidentally from our state revenue. Out of sight, out of mind. In the sense that they were out of our court. Let the Uzbeks deal with the situation.
CORRECT – INCORRECT
The case involving forced repatriation aroused enormous public attention. The actions of the Ukrainian authorities were condemned by the US State Department, the OSCE, the human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Pro Asyl (with the latter demanding that the European Union and the government of Germany break off cooperation with Ukraine). The wave of condemnation reached such a peak that on 3 March the First Deputy of the Presidents Secretariat, Ivan Vasyunik, was forced to protect his chief from its force:
— “The President did not give the go-ahead for the deportation of Uzbek nationals from Ukraine. He was not informed of the decision to deport them”.
Arguments claiming that the decision had been correct were heard from the Press Secretaries of the Security Service of Ukraine and of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Both acted as “lightening conductors”, arguing that everything had been done in accordance with the law, and that the Uzbeks had deserved what they got. Informed sources told “Sevodnya” about the serious trouble experienced at that time by, for example, Igor Drizhchany. They say that the rage on Bankova Street (i.e. from the President) was so strong that the Head of the SSU came close to losing his post. When we asked his Press Secretary, Marina Ostapenko, about this, she brushed it off, calling such conversations idle chat. Alas this was far from being the only question that has remained to this day unanswered.
WHY? WHY? WHY?
One can agree with Sergei Chekhovich that the final authority for determining the fate of the especially dangerous Uzbek-terrorists was the court. However it is hardly possible to agree that in this the rights of foreign nationals were fully observed since in these speedy proceedings the Uzbeks for some reasons lacked … lawyers.
It is possible to refer to the letters which the applicants wrote themselves saying that they did not wish to appeal the decision to turn down their applications for political asylum. One cannot, however, close ones eyes to the purely legal aspects involved, in particular, that same seven-day period for appeal. The Uzbeks were given 24 hours. Were our security service people perhaps hurried along by the Tashkent knights of the cloak and dagger?
The SSU claims that the Uzbeks, while in Ukraine, recruited our citizens. Why in that case were criminal charges not brought here in the place where the illegal activities were carried out? Not perhaps because each such incident, if indeed a proven case and not an operational model, required the relevant documentation, established according to procedural regulations, proof, and not only in the form of testimony from “individuals questioned”.
Who got the Uzbeks to disarm from a legal point of view, to effectively surrender without a fight, this being particularly surprising given the threat of falling into the wringer of their own security service? In such a situation a person will clutch at any straw, and yet here there was unconditional capitulation. Either these were seriously naïve and ignorant illegal immigrants who fell into the hands of the SSU, or they were frightened to death …
Was there not such interference in this purely criminal and legal clash from Her Majesty Politics? Not long before the events described here there was a meeting between Viktor Yushchenko and Islam Karimov. In connection with this summit meeting, “Sevodnya” suggested that the Uzbeks had been handed over in exchange for gas, and that they, without realizing it, had become the pawns in a big political game with a clearly marked economic component.
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US …
Ten years ago there was a no less prominent international scandal, albeit with a different finale. At “Yuzhmash” [a missile and space vehicle manufacturer] a group of Chinese nationals were detained and accused of spying. They had supposedly been attempting to gain access to secret rocket technology, but the SSU had foiled their attempts and averted the crime. However the story took on an unexpected twist: the spies were set free, and the first deputy to the Head of the Security Service, Andriy Khomych, and the Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Department of the SSU, Volodymyr Slobodenyuk lost their jobs. The then secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Volodymr Horbulin, explained the reason for the dismissals as being the SSU creating an international incident and somewhat bluntly complained that this was not the last instance in Ukraine, since there was also the political leadership of the country. The parliamentary committee tried to defend both generals, but to no avail.
Neither Khomych, nor Slobodenyuk whom we recently talked with wanted to dwell on the half-forgotten incident. It remained a topic for both which was hardly pleasant to recall. Nevertheless certain analogies with the Uzbeks seem called for.
“The questions you are asking are closely linked with Ukraines international commitments in the area of human rights, and are under the close scrutiny of human rights organizations”, “Sevodnya” was told by Gennady Udovenko Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-ethnic Relations during the last parliamentary session. “They can therefore be used by various political factions not only for decent purposes but also for political speculation. With the granting of asylum, detention, holding in custody or deporting foreign nationals, it is wise to not only be guided by the formal part of legislation, but to also treat such nationals as humanely as is possible. Is there any chance that the people deported from Ukraine will be given any chance to write appeals in a Tashkent prison? I personally wouldnt be too sure of that. Yes, formally, everything was done according to the law. The people had not registered at the right time in Ukraine and had to be held responsible for that in terms of administrative procedure. But to hand them back to the Uzbek authorities, and in the space of a day, there I have my doubts. …”
The Uzbekistan Embassy did not react to our requests to find out about the fate of the deported men – they have more important matters, few diplomats, all that they have to say has already been said. The Deputy Head of the Association of Uzbek Political Refugees in Ukraine, Khattam Khadzhimatov, meanwhile, told us that the deportation had been followed by the mens arrest.
They were sent back on a normal flight accompanied by members of the Uzbekistan Security Service. They were already in handcuffs when put on the plane. And in Tashkent they were met by police officers and taken to a SIZO [pre-trial detention centre]…”
Khadzhimatov speaks of 10 of his fellow Uzbeks. In the State Committee for National Minorities and Immigration of Ukraine, the SSU and the State Border Guard Service they swear that 11 were sent back. So did they lose somebody along the way? ….
List of “unreliable” individuals (the names in Cyrillic have been retained due to possible variations in transliteration - translator)
A. Abdurakhimov А. Абдурахимов,
I. Akhmedov И. Ахмедов,
E. Gafurov Э. Гафуров,
T. Dzuraev Т. Джураев,
B.Ilyasov Б. Ильясов,
D. Iskandiyarov Д. Искандияров,
M. Melikuziyev М. Меликузиев,
B. Raufov Б. Рауфов,
Kh. Khamzayev Х. Хамзаев,
I. Khasanov И. Хасанов,
Sh. Khuzhayev Ш. Хужаев.
 As well as the difficulty with any of these highly controversial words for people who do not have official permission to remain in a country, there is also an added aspect in this case. The Uzbek nationals referred to were not only registered with the Ukrainian authorities as applying for political asylum, but also with the UNHCR. Given the fact that the period to appeal the ruling had not expired, and the UNHCR registration, the term can be questioned. However here, as later in the text, we use the words and terms of the original article (translators note)
 KHPG has already noted that there is considerable doubt as to whether this movement, named terrorist by the UN and the USA, in fact still exists. See for example: “Betrayal” by Yevhen Zakharov on this site. (translators note)
 More on this party can be find on this site in the article: “Uzbek Chekists active in Russia”, or in full, in the article by Alexander Verkhovsky. Is Hizb ut-Tahrir an Extremist Organization? http://religion.sova-center.ru/publications/194EF5E/6CDD8C5 (translators note)
 The very existence of this group has been questioned, not to mention its aims and activities. Radio Free Europe provides information at, among others: http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/05/8ef6fb25-fa97-4fa3-9bc6-44b185158137.html (translators note )
 In fact most reports, at least until recently, spoke of 10 people having been sent back. Ukrainian human rights organizations have repeatedly demanded that the fate and whereabouts of the eleventh person be made public. Articles on this site have expressed concern for the mans safety. (translators note)