Legal options are running out for a group of Uzbek asylum seekers who are in detention in Kazakhstan, facing deportation to Uzbekistan. The case threatens to form an uncomfortable backdrop as Astana prepares to host a December summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
As President Nursultan Nazarbayev toured Europe in October, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) wrote to him expressing “deep concern” about the fate of the Uzbek asylum seekers, urging him to ensure that Kazakhstan respects international commitments.
“These persons risk being subjected to torture and ill treatment in Uzbekistan and their return would be in grave violation of international law,” the October 26 letter stated, adding that Astana is signatory to international conventions prohibiting refoulement – extradition to a country where a deportee may face torture. FIDH urged Nazarbayev “to ensure that Kazakhstan respects its international obligations and does not forcibly return refugees or asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan.”
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer specializing in Central Asia.