UNHCR deplores forced return of asylum seeker by Kazakhstan

Briefing Notes, 10 March 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 March 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has been dismayed to learn about the forced return by the authorities of Kazakhstan of an asylum seeker from Kyrgyzstan.

Kadyrov Dastan Kurmanbekovich, a prominent Kyrgyz opposition figure who was in detention in the Kazakh capital Almaty, was extradited to Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday 7 March, despite having lodged an asylum request with the authorities of Kazakhstan. UNHCR's intervention with the authorities through a written communication sent on 1 March was to no avail.

The extradition was carried out in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, or forced return, one of the basic refugee principles enshrined in the 1951 UN refugee convention, to which Kazakhstan is a State Party.

The principle of non-refoulement 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 reminds all states that this principle prevails over any bilateral or multilateral extradition agreements.