18 October 2005

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued the following statement today:

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Leandro Despouy, recently visited Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

During his mission to Kyrgyzstan, he was given the opportunity to meet with four Uzbek citizens being held in detention facilities in Osh, the main city in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The four fled the mid-May events in Andijan, Uzbekistan, which a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has concluded may have amounted to a mass killing. The four had been held at a camp in Kyrgyzstan together with 450 other Uzbeks. They were among 33 people arrested following extradition requests by the Prosecutor-General of Uzbekistan. Four other of those persons arrested were involuntarily returned to Uzbekistan in June under what are still unknown circumstances. Recently, 450 persons, including 25 of those arrested, have either been evacuated on humanitarian grounds or resettled in third countries. The Special Rapporteur deeply appreciates the courageous decision taken by the Kyrgyz authorities to facilitate these operations.

The Special Rapporteur expresses grave concern with regard to the fate of the remaining four Uzbek citizens. He also notes that they have already been in Kyrgyz detention facilities since mid-June.

The Special Rapporteur encourages the Kyrgyz authorities to facilitate a resettlement of the four Uzbeks to a third country. This is especially important in view of the involuntary return, without judicial review, of the four other Uzbek citizens in June. International treaties ratified by Kyrgyzstan contain the prohibition against the return of any person to another State where he or she may face a real risk of torture. Furthermore, the principle of non-refoulement is a part of customary law which cannot be derogated. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has pointed to reports of widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of detainees. The Special Rapporteur against Torture of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has concluded that torture is systematic in Uzbekistan. In addition, the Special Rapporteur is concerned about the pressure on Kyrgyzstan and attempts by Uzbek agents on Kyrgyz territory to return the four to Uzbekistan.

The Special Rapporteur calls upon the Member States of the United Nations to consider hosting the four persons.

Mr. Despouy will be addressing the media today at 11.30 CET at the UN's Geneva headquarters, the Palais des Nations.