Kyrgyzstan: disappearance of Uzbek asylum seekers
According to reports received from Kyrgyzstan, on 30 July this year asylum seeker from Uzbekistan Sanzhar Khudaiberganov and his 11-year-old son Sarvarbek Erkinzoda, disappeared in Bishkek. Local human rights defenders fear that the two, who had visited a migration office that day to extend their registration documents, may have been abducted and forcibly returned to Uzbekistan.
Sanzhar Khudaiberganov is the brother of Iskandar Khudaiberganov who was extradited from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan, subjected to brutal torture and in that same year sentenced to death on a trumped up charge of terrorism and encroachment on the constitutional system.
In February 1999 Sanzhar was detained in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and a week later hospitalized following torture inflicted by officers of the Uzbekistan Security Service, trying to get information about the whereabouts of his brother (this instance was mentioned in the report of the UN Co-rapporteur on Torture, published in 2003).
On 19 July 2008 the 5 members of the Khudaiberganov family approached the UNHCR office in Kyrgyzstan applying for asylum.
Up till last year cases of forced return of refugees to Uzbekistan were recorded only in South Kyrgyzstan. However in September 2008 asylum seeker Khayotzhon Zhurabayev was abducted in Bishkek and was later sentenced in Uzbekistan to 13 years imprisonment.
If the present fears that the Khudaiberganovs have been handed over to the Uzbekistan authorities are confirmed, this will demonstrate that the Kyrgyzstan authorities have changed the “rules of play”, sanctioning the “hunt” on Uzbek immigrants in the northern part of the country as well.
Victor Ponomarev, Director of the Human Rights Monitoring Programme for Central Asia