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SCO Member State Kazakhstan’s Return of Uyghur Refugee to China Demonstrates Disregard of International Human Rights Obligations

June 1, 2011

Human Rights in China (HRIC) is extremely concerned over reports of the deportation of Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israil to China from fellow Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member state Kazakhstan.

Israil fled to Kazakhstan in late September 2009, in the wake of the July 2009 Urumqi riots in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. He was initially granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Almaty, Kazakhstan in March 2010, and was scheduled to depart for resettlement in Sweden on April 1, 2010. However, Kazakhstan authorities denied Israil’s application for an exit visa and arrested him on June 23, 2010. In May 2011, a Kazakh court denied his application for political asylum.

Deportation of Israil by the authorities of Kazakhstan – which currently holds the rotating presidency of the SCO and will host the upcoming tenth anniversary “Jubilee Summit” of the organization – raises serious questions about the impact of the SCO framework on respect for human rights. Pursuant to SCO agreements, Kazakhstan is obliged to extradite individuals accused by another member state government of “terrorism,” “separatism,” or “extremism,” and to “prevent the granting of refugee status and corresponding documents” to persons alleged to be involved in offenses related to terrorism.

Israil’s deportation appears to be based on accusations by the Chinese authorities of his involvement in “terrorism.” Such accusations, however, were levied against Israil after he allegedly released details of the September 18, 2009 beating death of ethnic Uyghur Shohret Tursun, who had been detained by Chinese authorities following the Urumqi riots. Return of Israil to China will certainly subject him to a system that is politicized, corrupt, non-accountable, and marked by an absence of due process, where disappearance of individuals perceived as “trouble-makers” by the authorities is common.

HRIC calls upon the government of Kazakhstan to immediately confirm the location and status of Ershidin Israil, and, if he remains in the custody of Kazakhstan officials, to comply with Kazakhstan’s obligation under international law to refuse to return individuals to states where they may face torture or persecution. HRIC also calls upon the government of China to immediately confirm whether it has taken custody of Ershidin Israil, and, if so, to confirm where he is detained, his current condition and treatment, the criminal charges against him, and his access to a lawyer and due process protections.

Additionally, in the lead-up to the SCO’s tenth anniversary “Jubilee Summit” on June 15, 2011, HRIC urges the international community to demand an accounting by the SCO for the safety of Ershidin Israil, and for the broader human rights impact of SCO practices such as denials of asylum and forcible returns. HRIC urges further inquiry by the international community into the SCO member states’ ongoing prioritization of questionable regional commitments over their international human rights obligations – particularly those obligations enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

For more information on Ershidin Israil, see:

For more information on the human rights impact of the SCO, see:

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