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Russia extraditing Uzbeks to face ‘pervasive’ torture: Amnesty

The rights group accused Russia in a new report of being ‘partners in crime’ with Uzbekistan

Published: Updated:

Amnesty International on Thursday condemned Russia for sending migrants and asylum seekers back to its highly repressive ex-Soviet ally Uzbekistan where they face “pervasive” use of torture.

The rights group accused Russia in a new report of being “partners in crime” with Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country ruled by dour former Communist strongman Islam Karimov since 1991.

Amnesty urged Moscow to stop extraditing or facilitating the forcible removal of Uzbeks who face the “real risk of torture” and “manifestly unfair trials.”

“The Russian authorities are not simply turning a blind eye to torture and injustice in Uzbekistan, they are lending a helping hand,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

Hundreds of asylum seekers, refugees and labor migrants have been abducted or forcibly returned from Russia to Uzbekistan since 2014, said the report, based on interviews with lawyers, activists and survivors of torture.

Despite “overwhelming evidence that torture continues unabated in Uzbekistan,” Russia continues to return alleged opponents of Karimov’s regime, it said.

Those sent back undergo “incommunicado detention, torture and other ill treatment to force them to confess,” Amnesty said.

“They face unfair trials that result in long prison sentences served in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions.”

Uzbekistan, which hosted United States Secretary of State John Kerry last year, denies the use of torture.

A relative of an asylum seeker forcibly returned to Uzbekistan in 2014 told Amnesty that his torturers “kicked in almost all of his teeth... He has only tiny splinters sticking out from his gums.”

“They are killing him slowly,” the unnamed relative said.

Amnesty accused Russia of prioritizing “good relations and mutual interests” over international human rights obligations.

It claimed Russia has colluded in “abductions and forced returns” and circumvented emergency orders by the European Court of Human Rights to halt extradition.

Uzbek security forces have resorted to abductions in the “rare instances” when Russia refused extraditions, the report said.

“Police and officers from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) have often been complicit in such abductions.”

It described how Russia’s FSB security service in central Moscow seized an Uzbek businessman accused of organising an Islamist terrorist group and handed him to Uzbek guards at an airport despite a European Court ban on his extradition.

Uzbekistan, a country of some 30 million people, was last year listed among the “Worst of the Worst” countries in terms of political rights and civil liberties by US think tank Freedom House.

The US State Department’s 2015 human rights report highlighted Uzbekistan’s “torture and abuse of detainees by security forces” and “denial of due process and fair trial.”