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07.12.2008

ALERT: Ukrainian authorities detain asylum seeker sought by Uzbekistan

   

In the morning of 4 December 2008, two men not in uniform arrived at the Kyiv address where refugee from Uzbekistan Abdumalik Bakaev is living. They identified themselves as police offices and checked the documents of all those in the premises, before taking Bakaev away with them.  His neighbours were told that he was being taken to the Holosiyivsky Police Station to process detention on the basis of a request from the Uzbekistan authorities. However he was only brought to the said police station seven hours later, with the protocol registered at 14.30.  

It is of the gravest concern that  Bakaev was not brought immediately to the police station. In addition, his defender from the civic organization “Social Action” Centre, who was already awaiting Bakaev’s arrival, with a previously signed agreement to provide legal aid, was not allowed to see him for several hours. The men in civilian clothes who refused to allow him to see his client and would also not give their names. They only confirmed that Bakaev had been detained due to his being declared wanted by the Uzbek authorities and claimed that their would be a court hearing that day to determine the preventive measure to be applied.

The lawyer was only able to see Bakaev for a few minutes at around 17.00, where it was learned that the court hearing had been postponed till the next day.

The court hearing did not take place either on Friday or on Saturday 6 December.  Furthermore, Bakaev’s lawyer was twice told at the Holosiyivsky Police Station that his client had been taken to a remand centre [SIZO], though they refused to say which one. It was only in the middle of the day on Sunday that the police informed that he was still being held at the Holosiyivsky Police Station.

The court hearing is now scheduled for Monday 8 December. It does not appear to concern the police that the maximum period that a person may be held in custody without a court order expired in the middle of the day on Sunday.

Abdumalik Bakaev was subjected to persecution in Uzbekistan from 1999 for his religious believes, and was twice sentenced. After serving his sentence, the pressure continued and therefore in 2000 he was forced to flee his country and go to Russia.

Since that time the campaign which the Uzbekistan authorities have been waging against the political opposition and independent Muslims has only intensified. In June 2008, Bakaev learned that the Uzbek authorities had declared him wanted on charges of encroaching against the constitutional order of Uzbekistan (Article 159 of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code).  Aware that for the enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation it has become common practice to hand over refugees to Uzbekistan, Bakaev left for Ukraine.  There he lodged an application for international protection with the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).  He also applied to the Ukrainian authorities for asylum, explaining that he was being persecuted and what the grounds were. He lived at the address he gave on official papers until 4 December.

Abdumalik Bakaev is protected by both Ukrainian and international law which strictly prohibits his forced return to a country where he could be subjected to persecution and torture.  It is worth stressing that the charge mentioned as reason why the Uzbekistan authorities declared him wanted is one of the standard fare for victims of political and religious persecution.

Over the last two years the authorities have seriously damaged Ukraine’s reputation and the confidence of the international community in the country’s willingness to observe its international commitments.

In February 2006 – 10 Uzbekistan asylum-seekers were extradited to their country of origin;

In March 2008 Tamils who all held documents from the UNHCR were sent back to Sri Lanka, despite clear recommendations from the European Court of Human Rights that Tamils may be in danger if forcibly returned to Sri Lanka;

In July 2008, on the direct instructions of the Prosecutor General, Oleg Kuznetsov who had been granted refugee status in Ukraine was sent back to Russia.

We would remind the Ukrainian authorities that contempt for international law on refugees, Ukraine’s own legislation and the country’s reputation cannot be tolerated. 

We will make every effort to ensure that world scrutiny is pointed at Ukraine in the coming days and that a grave injustice is not committed.

Should the Ukrainian authorities ignore the call of law and of conscience, we will make every endeavour to ensure that their contempt for international law on refugees is made as widely known as is within our power, and that those responsible for violating the rights of an asylum seeker are called to answer .

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