Ukrainian Refugee Council concerned over detention of asylum seekers from Uzbekistan
The Refugee Council has expressed its concern over reports of a number of detentions by Ukrainian law enforcement bodies of asylum seekers from Uzbekistan. According to their information, this is pending extradition procedure since they are wanted by the Uzbekistan authorities.
The Refugee Council stresses that handing a person over to a country where they could be in danger of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or humiliating treatment, would violate their rights and Ukraine’s obligations, domestic and international law. We would also remind the authorities that while within the asylum application procedure, these people are protected from deportation or extradition from Ukraine where they have sought asylum.
According to information received, on 15 June 2010 in the Kyiv region law enforcement officers detained asylum seeker from Uzbekistan, Umid Khamroyev. He was placed in custody for 40 days as he is sought by the Uzbekistan enforcement agencies.
On 29 June, in another part of Kyiv region, asylum seeker Kosim Dadakhanov was also taken into custody, once again because the Uzbekistan authorities have placed him on the wanted list.
On 1 July two people who said that they were officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrived at the home of asylum seeker from Uzbekistan Alisher Khidirov. When they didn’t find him home, they told his relative without mincing words that they would still find out where he was.
On 2 July Shodilbek Soibjonov was detained because he is wanted by the Uzbekistan authorities. He was later released after being handed a summons to appear at the local police station however on 6 July he was again taken into custody.
The detention of three people sought by the Uzbekistan authorities in such a short space of time leads us to fear that other Uzbek asylum seekers are also in danger.
All of the above-mentioned asylum seekers have been declared wanted by Uzbekistan on charges under the Uzbekistan Criminal Code generally applied against the main groups suffering repression – the political opposition and members of Muslim communities not controlled by the authorities (these include Article 159 “Attempt on the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan”; Article 244-1 “Preparation or circulation of material containing a threat to public safety and the social system”; Article 244-2 “Creation, leadership or participation in religious separatist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organizations”). None of these people, who arrived in Ukraine at different times, have concealed the fact that they are wanted by the Uzbekistan authorities – that is the reason they have applied for refugee status. Nor have they made a secret of where they are living, or tried to hide from the Ukrainian authorities. Not one of them has completed all states of the application procedure for refugee status (including the right of appeal against the application being turned down).
For these reasons, the Refugee Council stresses that:
The extradition of refugees and asylum seekers to their country of origin where they could face persecution – refoulement – is a flagrant violation of international law and the commitments Ukraine has taken on in signing and ratifying in particular the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol to it.
Asylum seekers who have applied for refugee status in Ukraine and have not exhausted all states of the procedure, including the right of appeal against the application being turned down, are protected against being extradited or returned to a country where their life or liberty could be in danger, and their extradition would violate the principle of non-refoulement;
Handing a person over to a country where they could be in danger of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or humiliating treatment, would violate Ukraine’s obligations in accordance with the UN Convention against Torture (Article 3) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 3).
The widespread use of torture in Uzbekistan, especially against people accused of anti-government or prohibited religious activity has been confirmed by a number of observers from the UN Committee against Torture; Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This conclusion was also reached by the European Court of Human Rights whose judgments are a source of law in Ukraine. For example, in the cases of Ismailov and others v. Russia (2008); Muminov v. Russia (2008) and Garayev v. Azerbaijan (2010) the Court directly stated that due to the threat of torture, extradition to Uzbekistan was a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the prohibition of torture).