Russia plans to extradite to Uzbekistan 13 people suspected of involvement in the events at Andijon
The Office of the Russian Prosecutor General has formally announced its decision to extradite 12 Uzbek nationals and 1 Kyrgyz citizen presently held at the pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) in Ivanovo. The decision was taken despite the fact that all of them were recently granted mandate refugee status by the UNHCR. Human rights activists consider the accusations levelled at these people to be fabricated.
The Prosecutor Generals official website on 3 August claimed that: “All of them are suspected of taking part in an extremist, criminal association, in public calls to carry out extremist activities, terrorism, diversion, murder, mass riots and the illegal acquiring of firearms and ammunition”.
It goes on to read: “the request to extradite the suspects is not connected with persecution on political grounds or with their ethnic origin or religion”. “This is a case only involving criminal charges against those who have committed particularly serious crimes”. The text further passes on assurances from the Uzbek authorities that the people will not be ill-treated, etc.
However protests against their extradition have been made by human rights organizations and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the grounds that Uzbekistan still has the death penalty, the newspaper Izvestia notes.
The Director of the Civic Assistance Committee, Svetlana Gannushkina is adamant that Russias decision to extradite these people to Uzbekistan is in contravention of its international commitments, first and foremost because they are under the protection of the UN Convention regarding the status of refugees as asylum seekers. They have, furthermore, been recognized as mandate refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In an interview given to “Echo Moskvy”, Svetlana Gannushkina also added that the extradition ruling would definitely be appealed, not only in Russian courts, but also in the European Court of Human Rights.
14 ethnic Uzbeks (12 of whom are citizens of Uzbekistan, one a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic, and one has Russian citizenship) were remanded in custody a year ago after the events in Andijon in May 2005 when hundreds of people were killed. An investigation was launched into the extradition request by the Uzbek authorities who accuse the men of involvement in organizing the disturbances which ended in bloodshed. Before being taken into custody, the Uzbeks were involved in business. Four of them, for example, are founders of the company “Russian Textile Union” (Rostex), which imports cotton from Uzbekistan. The Uzbekistan Prosecutors office claims that Rostex was linked to the organization “Akramiya” and took part in financing the Andijon disturbances in which nearly 200 died.
As already reported here, human rights groups came to the defence of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks”, pointing to procedural and other violations of the rights of aliens. Their lawyer, Irina Sokolova effectively only discovered that the Uzbeks were to be extradited when she lodged an appeal on their behalf against their being remanded in custody for a year without any formal extension to the original court ruling (in contravention of Russian legislation).
The lawyers attempted to avoid extradition by asking for refugee status on the grounds that some of the charges could carry the death penalty in Uzbekistan. The department of the Federal Migration Service for the Ivanovsk region turned down the application for refugee status, claiming that, according to Russian legislation, since they were not being persecuted when they arrived on Russian territory, they could not be victims of persecution on the grounds of race, nationality or religion following their deportation either. Two appeals against this decision were unsuccessful.
Yet the arrested men were granted mandate refugee status a few months ago when four lawyers from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees came to Ivanovo to interview the men. As a result the UNHCR recognized all of them as mandate refugees given that they were foreign nationals, were being unwarrantedly persecuted by the authorities in Uzbekistan, with this being on religious or clan grounds.
Most of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks” are businesspeople who were working in Andijon, but, according to his lawyer, the Kyrgyz national, Mamirzhon Tashtemirov even has an alibi since when the events took place he was in Turkey where he had been living for two years. He went to Ivanovo as a courier, bringing samples of cloth to the only one of the detained Uzbeks – Khatam Khadzhimatov who, thanks to his Russian citizenship, escaped extradition. Khatam was released and managed to flee to Ukraine from where he was granted asylum in Norway.
The “Memorial” Human Rights Centre and the Civic Assistance Committee are aware of extradition rulings having been handed down as of 2 August 2006 on the following people:
1 Mamirzhon Tashtemirov
2 Ilkhomzhon Ismoilov
3 Obboskhon Makhmudov
4 Abdurrauf Mukhameadsobirov
5 Izatullo Mukhameadsobirov
6 Rustam Nayimov
7 Shchurkulo Sabirov
8 Sardorbek Ulegkhodzhaev
9 Iskanderbek Usmanov
10 Khurshid Khamzaev
The human rights organizations did not have information regarding rulings in the cases of Umaral Alimov, Kabul Kasimkhuzhaev and Makhmud Rustamkodzhaev, but if they are added to the list above, the number is that given by the Prosecutor General.
see also: http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1154391032
 This figure is much lower than the estimates of most human rights observers and information agencies. (translators note)