One year after Uzbekistan killings UN rights chief conveys sympathy to families

“One year after the killings, no internationally accepted account of the events has been established,” said the High Commissioner, expressing the hope that Uzbekistan will still take advantage of the offers for assistance made by the international community, including the UN.Ms. Arbour has on several occasions called for an independent, international inquiry into the events on 13 May last year when reports stated that hundreds of protesters were killed after Uzbek troops fired indiscriminately to disperse them. The event sent hundreds of Uzbeks fleeing out of their country, and sparked a refugee crisis with Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbek Government claimed fewer than 200 people were killed in the unrest. However, more than 450 of the Uzbek refugees subsequently provided testimony to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regarding the events of 13 May and an OHCHR report in July concluded that based on consistent, credible testimony, military and security forces committed grave human rights violations that day.The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) assisted in the evacuation to Romania of 439 Uzbeks who had fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan after the killings and almost all of these have been resettled to other countries worldwide.However UNHCR said today that the repercussions of last year’s tragedy are still being felt by the survivors, some of whom remain in Kyrgyzstan, while others have been given jail terms in Uzbekistan for alleged involvement in the events of last May.Haitvoy, a 29-year-old Uzbek, has been in exile in Kyrgyzstan for a year now, struggling to survive amid news that his brother back home was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison. Others tell similar stories, many having left their families behind, including Dilshot, whose brother is still in detention for taking part in the protests.Another Uzbek, Rasuljon, is alone in Osh, which is in south-western Kyrgyzstan, having not been resettled because he couldn’t get into the border camp at Jalal-abad from where the 439 were evacuated, due to security measures. Now he is among a group of Uzbeks awaiting a decision on their refugee status from the Kyrgyz Government.Another four Uzbeks recognized by UNHCR as refugees are still in detention in Osh, pending a decision by the Kyrgyz authorities on their fate, and a UNHCR spokeswoman today reiterated the agency’s concern about the fate of the four and its calls on the government not to send them back by force.Those who do file asylum claims are interviewed by the Kyrgyz Government’s Committee on Migration and Employment together with the UN refugee agency.UNHCR closed its office in Uzbekistan last month after 13 years of service following an ultimatum by the Foreign Ministry to end its work by 17 April.“UNHCR expressed regret over the decision as our work in the country was ongoing and many refugees continued to depend on assistance from us,” UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said at the time. “But we only work in a country by invitation and in support of the government. So in those exceptional situations where we are asked to leave, we leave.”

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