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Uzbekistan: Fear for safety of detainees and refugees

The organisation has also repeated its call on the Uzbekistani authorities to allow an independent investigation - with the participation of international experts - into events in Andizhan with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice. Amnesty International has also written to the authorities in Tashkent seeking permission to visit the country urgently.

The Uzbekistani prosecutor general told a news conference in Tashkent on 17 May that 81 people had so far been detained, all of them reportedly insurgents, and that a criminal case had been opened against them on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, organising mass disturbances and committing murder.

It is not clear whether those detained have had access to a lawyer, medical assistance or their relatives or whether they are being held incommunicado.

The risk of torture is particularly high during incommunicado detention and Amnesty International has received hundreds of reports over the last few years of detainees being tortured while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention in order to force them to confess to membership of an illegal Islamic organisation.

The Uzbekistani authorities have accused members and supporters of the Akramia Islamic movement of attempting to organise a violent uprising in Andizhan. They have also linked this movement to the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir opposition Islamic party, categorised by Uzbekistan as a terrorist organisation.

Amnesty International was particularly disturbed at reports that at least three human rights activists were among those detained in Andizhan in relation to the 13 May.

Local human rights activists had monitored events in Andizhan, including the reported indiscriminate and excessive use of force by government troops against mainly unarmed civilian demonstrators, and had tried to publicise their findings at personal risk.

Official reports stand in stark contrast to allegations by eye-witnesses that troops fired indiscriminately at the crowd of demonstrators gathered in the centre of Andizhan. Unofficial sources have estimated the death toll at over 500 people.

Survivors, who fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, have told journalists that soldiers continued to shoot at people indiscriminately even as they were running for safety. Amnesty International is very disturbed by reports that soldiers may have extrajudicially executed demonstrators.

Journalists from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international non-governmental press organisation, interviewed eyewitnesses who described soldiers killing demonstrators with a single shot to the head as they were lying on the ground wounded.

Amnesty International is urging the government of Kyrgyzstan to do everything in its power to guarantee the safety and protection of those seeking refuge on their territory and to ensure that they are not returned to Uzbekistan where they would be at risk of human rights violations.

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