August 24, 2006

U.S. urges Kyrgyz to investigate refugee incident

BISHKEK (Reuters) - The United States urged Kyrgyzstan on
Thursday to investigate reports that two Uzbek refugees had
been deported to neighboring Uzbekistan.

The United Nations and other organizations believe refugees
handed back to Uzbekistan may face torture and execution.

"The United States is very concerned by reports that two
officially registered Uzbek refugees were forcibly removed from
their homes in Osh, Kyrgyzstan," the U.S. embassy said in a

"According to information provided by UNHCR (the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and Kyrgyz
non-governmental organizations, these two refugees are
currently being held in a detention center in Andizhan,

Kyrgyzstan's authorities were not available for comment. No
further information on the two Uzbek refugees was available.

Kyrgyzstan drew international criticism this month when it
extradited five Uzbeks it was holding in a remand prison to
their home country.

Those five were among the hundreds of refugees who fled the
Uzbek town of Andizhan into Kyrgyzstan in May 2005.

Witnesses said they saw troops kill hundreds of men, women
and children in Andizhan when they fired on a large crowd of
people who had gathered in the center of town.

"We urge the Kyrgyz government to take immediate steps to
ensure the safety and rights of all refugees and asylum-seekers
in Kyrgyzstan," the U.S. embassy said.

Uzbekistan wants the refugees back, saying it has evidence
they are criminals. It has pressed its smaller neighbor to
return them.

Uzbekistan says 187 people died in the Andizhan clashes and
that most of the victims were armed extremists whose aim was to
overthrow the government and establish an Islamic caliphate.