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Kyrgyz Authorities Must Stop Returning Uzbek Asylum Seekers
The government of Kyrgyzstan should immediately stop deporting asylum-seeking citizens of Uzbekistan and should grant them full access to independent lawyers, human rights defenders and the media, Freedom House said today.
Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor conveyed her concerns in a meeting June 14 with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva in Washington D.C.
Many citizens of Uzbekistan fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan in the aftermath of a brutal crackdown by Uzbek authorities last month. According to some accounts, at least 700 civilians were killed-some execution style-by security forces.
Last week Kyrgyz authorities deported 4 Uzbek asylum seekers who were also denied access to independent counsel. While reports indicate that some Uzbek citizens detained in camps in Kyrgyzstan have had limited access to lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists, unlimited access has yet to be granted.
"Kyrgyzstan is party to international conventions on refugees and torture, which protect asylum seekers from being returned to their home countries until their claims have been adjudicated," said Ms. Windsor." There is also sufficient reason to believe that Uzbek refugees are in danger of being subject to torture upon their return home."As the interim Kyrgyz government struggles for legitimacy, it is imperative that it take this opportunity to uphold Kyrgyzstan's commitments under these conventions and demonstrate its desire to establish and abide by the rule of law," she said.
"Only through the work of independent and competent attorneys, human rights defenders and independent media, can the rights of Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan be fully protected," said Stuart Kahn, director of Freedom House's human rights project in Kyrgyzstan.
More background on Kyrgyzstan is available on the Freedom House website:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.