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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Kyrgyzstan to deport more Uzbeks
Uzbek women dry clothes at a refugee camp at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border
About 500 Uzbek refugees are sheltering in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan plans to deport 29 Uzbek refugees, despite concerns voiced by the UN that they could face torture.

Top prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov said the refugees were criminals who broke out of jail ahead of a bloody crackdown in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May.

"They need to be punished, their place is in prison," said Mr Beknazarov.

But the UN has warned Kyrgyzstan it could violate international conventions if it hands back refugees who fled the Uzbek violence.

Hundreds of Uzbeks sought refuge in Kyrgyzstan after Uzbek government troops fired on the Andijan protestors.

The Uzbek government said 173 people were killed, most of them Islamic militants. But eyewitnesses dispute this, saying up to 500 people were killed, among them women and children.

'These are criminals'

Mr Beknazarov said the 29 refugees concerned would be handed over the Uzbek authorities in a week's time.

"These are criminals, they killed people," he told Reuters news agency.

He was speaking after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to Kyrgyzstan's government "to strictly abide by its international obligations in the treatment of asylum seekers".

He also urged the government of Uzbekistan "to refrain from any action aimed at ensuring forcible return of Uzbek asylum seekers to their country".

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said there were well-founded reasons to believe the refugees in Kyrgyzstan could face torture or execution if they were returned to Uzbekistan.

UN officials say sending those applying for asylum, or those who have been designated as refugees, back to a country where their life or freedom is threatened, is a violation of the refugee convention.

The Kyrgyz authorities have already handed four refugees back to the Uzbeks, an action they said was carried out under bilateral agreements.


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