Kazakhstan: UNHCR extremely concerned at detention of Uzbek refugee

Briefing Notes, 5 July 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 July 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A high-profile Uzbek human rights activist, Mr. Lutfullo Shamsuddinov, has been detained by police in the Kazakh capital, Almaty, along with six of his dependents. Mr. Shamsuddinov sought asylum in Kazakhstan after the 13 May events in Andijan, Uzbekistan.

He arrived in Kazakhstan on 25 May 2005 and was registered at UNHCR on 27 May. After a thorough refugee status determination process, he and his six dependent family members were recognized as mandate refugees on 24 June. His case was submitted to a third government for urgent resettlement and we have now received word from that government that in principle, it is willing to accept the request.

Mr. Shamsuddinov was arrested yesterday (Monday) following a request by the Uzbek authorities to extradite him. UNHCR is extremely concerned at the arrest of a refugee under its mandate, and is urging the Kazakh authorities not to forcibly return Mr. Shamsuddinov to Uzbekistan. Under the 1951 Geneva Convention, it is forbidden to forcibly return refugees and asylum seekers to their country of origin.

The arrest in Kazakhstan comes as 29 Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan are also in detention following a request for extradition by the Uzbek authorities. As you know, UNHCR organised a meeting with governments here in Geneva last Friday for urgent resettlement of the 29, as well as for humanitarian evacuation of some 450 other Uzbeks who have sought refuge in Kyrgyzstan and are currently at the Sasik camp near Jalal-Abad. Our bureau for the region indicates there has been a positive response so far from a number of governments, but I cannot at this time give you specifics.

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Railya was born in Kazakhstan but lost her nationality with the break-up of the Soviet Union.