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UN Urges Kyrgyzstan Not To Hand Over Uzbeks

Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan Washington, 29 July 2005 -- The UN's high commissioner for human rights has appealed to Kyrgyzstan to decline requests by Tashkent to hand over Uzbek refugees.

Louise Arbour told a news conference at the United Nations she has written to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev reminding him of his government's obligations under law to protect against torture.

"There is an absolute obligation, regardless of who the targeted person is -- absolute obligation -- not return anyone to a situation in which he or she faces a real possibility of torture," Arbour said. "That is an absolute prohibition. It doesn't matter who that person is."

Arbour cited repeated allegations against Uzbekistan suggesting that government forces regularly apply torture. She said Kyrgyzstan should not be assured that torture will not be used in the case of the Uzbek refugees, who had fled following a government crackdown in Andijon in May.

Kyrgyzstan is still holding some 15 Uzbek asylum-seekers in detention at Uzbekistan's request.

The rest -- more than 400 of them -- arrived in Romania today where they have been granted temporary refuge.