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Central Asian Refugees

Russian authorities suspended the extradition to Uzbekistan of thirteen Central Asian men accused of involvement in the May 2005 violence in Andijan. The twelve Uzbeks and one Kyrgyz fled to Russia after peaceful protests by Uzbek citizens erupted into violence by armed extremists and Uzbek security forces. An estimated five-hundred to one-thousand people, mostly unarmed demonstrators, were killed.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office issued a statement last week ordering the Federal Penal Service to suspend the extradition until the European Court of Human Rights renders a decision in the case. Human Rights Watch has also hailed the move, with the head of the organization’s Moscow Office, Alison Gil, calling it the “right decision.”

Civic Assistance, a Moscow-based human rights monitoring group, urged Russian authorities not to extradite the thirteen Central Asian refugees. “The Uzbek [authorities] have fabricated the charges brought against them,” said Iraliya Galimulina, a Civic Assistance activist. “It means," she said, "that they will be sent directly to prison, where they will be beaten until they confess that they are terrorists and confess to rising up against the authorities in Andijan.”

In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department says Uzbekistan’s security forces have “routinely tortured, beaten, and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions or incriminating information.” A report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture said the Uzbek authorities’ use of torture was “systematic.”

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. has a responsibility “to call countries to account when they retreat from their human rights commitments”:

“All men and women desire and deserve to live in dignity and liberty.”

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher says the U.S. wants to improve its relations with Uzbekistan, but “the United States has been and continues to be profoundly concerned about the human rights situation.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.