UNHCR deplores forced return of refugee by Azerbaijan

Briefing Notes, 14 November 2006

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 14 November 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR deplores the forced return to Turkey by Azerbaijan authorities of a refugee recognised under the 1951 UN refugee convention. The refugee, a Turkish citizen of Kurdish ethnicity who had been granted refugee status in 1999 in Germany, was forcibly returned to Turkey on 13 October, 2006. She had spent the last two years in detention in Azerbaijan, initially and briefly on charges of illegal entry into the country, and subsequently on the grounds of an extradition request by a court in Istanbul. She was extradited despite UNHCR's and the Government of Germany's repeated interventions on her behalf to the Government of Azerbaijan.

Upon learning of her reported extradition to Turkey, UNHCR sought clarification of the circumstances surrounding the decision of the Government of Azerbaijan but received only a limited explanation. In the absence of indications justifying this decision, UNHCR considers her forced return to Turkey to be contrary to Azerbaijan's obligations under the 1951 UN refugee convention and a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement. This principle of customary international law prohibits states from returning a refugee or asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

UNHCR is seeking assurances from the Government of Azerbaijan that refugees and asylum seekers from any country will in future be treated with full respect of Azerbaijan's international and national legal obligations concerning refugees and asylum seekers.

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