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UNHCR concerned for four refugees in detention in Kyrgyzstan

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UNHCR concerned for four refugees in detention in Kyrgyzstan

9 January 2006

Monday 9 January 2006

GENEVA - UNHCR is concerned about the fate of four Uzbek refugees who remain in detention in Kyrgyzstan months after they were arrested following an extradition request from the Uzbek government. The refugee agency is calling on the Kyrgyz government to refrain from any action aimed at forcibly returning these four refugees to Uzbekistan.

The four arrived in Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of the violent events in Andijan last May. They were part of a group of some 500 asylum seekers, all of whom were subsequently recognised as refugees. All the other refugees in that group were evacuated out of Kyrgyzstan in July after being accepted for urgent resettlement elsewhere.

"I have expressed my gratitude to the Kyrgyz government for having worked closely with UNHCR to ensure the protection of the group," said Ekber Menemencioglu, the Director of UNHCR's Bureau for Central Asia. "I also wish to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to continue to provide adequate protection to the four refugees remaining on their territory."

The four were detained in June following an extradition request from the Uzbek government. Since then, they have been kept in detention in Osh, in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where they are still awaiting a decision on their fate. Some months ago, they were recognised as refugees by UNHCR under its mandate. This decision was made after a thorough review of all the circumstances surrounding their cases.

UNHCR wishes to reiterate the importance of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugees should be forcibly returned to their country of origin. The extradition of recognised refugees would be a violation of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to which Kyrgyzstan is a signatory. It is also against international law, including the Convention against Torture, to send people back to countries where they may face torture. There has been no independent investigation of the events that led to the deaths of a still unknown number of people in the town of Andijan in May.

UNHCR wishes to assure the Kyrgyz authorities of its continuing assistance and stands ready to provide solutions in other countries for the four refugees currently in detention.