Are the Kyrgyz and Uzbek secret services involved in his disappearance?
On 18 February 2013, an Uzbek citizen Shukhrat Musin went missing in Bishkek. Shortly before noon, someone called on his mobile, and he went out, telling that he will be back soon. His two underage children and his colleague were in the house he rented in the Alamedin residential area of the Sverdlovsk district of Bishkek. His wife, at this time, was on her way from Jalal-Abad to Bishkek. The colleague could not wait any longer, to see him come back, and left when Musin’s wife returned.
It has been 8 days, since Musin was last in contact, he is not picking up the calls.
Shukhrat Sharipovich Musin was born on 30 September 1984 in the town of Jalal-Abad in Southern Kyrgyzstan. He grew up in the town of Khanabad of the Andijan region of Uzbekistan.
In 2007, after he and his friends watched the video of the events in Andijan in May 2005, he attracted the attention of the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB). In April 2008, several of them were arrested, accused of involvement in the so-called wahabbism and sentenced to imprisonment. The house where the Musins lived was searched several times, during which religious literature was planted. Later, it turned out that the planted literature was banned, by the State Committee for Communication, Informatisation and Telecommunication Technologies of the Republic of Uzbekistan, under the law of censorship.
Shukhrat’s father, Sharip Musin was already on the list of Uzbek law enforcement agencies for his compliance with Islamic rites. In 2008, law enforcement authorities were actively collecting material of accusatory nature against him, and he left for work in Russia. Soon after that Shukhrat Mussin’s mother began to fear arrest. It irritated the authorities that she was wearing hijab.
In 2008, the local policeman, later the agents of law enforcement bodies and the National Security Service often paid visits to Shukhrat Mussin. Musin decided to leave Uzbekistan.
Together with his wife and mother, Shukhrat moved to Kyrgyzstan; his father came from Russia to join them. Together they approached the UNHCR office in Bishkek.
In 2009, Shukhrat Musin was recognised as a refugee under the UN mandate and lived in Kyrgyzstan, awaiting resettlement in a third country. By that time, Uzbek authorities proclaimed him wanted. His parents were soon resettled to the United States through the UNHCR.
In October 2010 Shukhrat Musin was detained in Bishkek by the agents of the State Committee of the Kyrgyz National Security (SCNS), on the basis of a request for his extradition to Uzbekistan. At home Mussin was declared wanted under the Article 159 (encroachment on the constitutional order of Uzbekistan) of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, on charges of belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Musin denied allegations of the crimes and involvement in extremist organisations. In the detention centre of the SNSC, Shukhrat Mussin was forced, under torture, to incriminate himself and tacit cooperation. Musin stubbornly refused all this, and torturers struck heavy blows on his head. As a result, Shukhrat Musin incurred impaired hearing. He was threatened that if he did not accept the conditions of the National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan, the UNHCR would deprive him of the status of refugee, and he would be extradited to Uzbekistan. Musin personally informed the Association “Human Rights in Central Asia” of the incident; the same was said by his father Sharip Musin.
In February 2011, following the intervention of the UNHCR office in Bishkek, Shukhrat Musin was released. In December 2012 he was again arrested by the National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan for 4 hours.
Soon after that, pseudonym articles with charges against him began to appear on the Internet, without Mussin’s consent, a certificate of the High Commissioner for Refugees, issued to him in January 2010, was made public. According to Musin, as soon as he discovered these publications, he reported them to the UNHCR staff in Bishkek (in July, September and November 2012). He also reported that he noticed the interest to him and his place of residence by law enforcement agencies of Kyrgyzstan. He did not receive any protection, in response to his reports to the UNHCR office and was forced to move from place to place about every three months.
In November 2012, the representative of the UNHCR office in Bishkek met with refugees, among whom was Shukhrat Musin. In the presence of more than 10 refugees, Musin said that once the officers of the SNSC of Kyrgyzstan learn his address, they tell the landlords that he is a terrorist and encourage the landlord to evict Mussin. The situation did not improve even after his meeting with the UNHCR representative. By this time, the U.S. had twice refused to resettle Musin, the validity of his Uzbek passport expired in September 2009. Musin was forced to hide his place of residence from all, especially from the National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan.
The UNHCR office learned of Shukhrat Mussin’s disappearance by noon of 19 February 2013. On the same day, his wife applied for legal aid in the Public Foundation “Adilet Legal Clinic”, and now Mussin has a lawyer. However, Musin’s whereabouts is not known so far.
The case of Shukhrat Musin is not the only one that took place in the last eight years. Human rights defenders registered more than 20 known examples of forced return of Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan with the involvement of the special services of the two countries. There is reason to believe that the number of such cases is much greater, the names of many of the victims of forced displacement are unknown, as they were not registered with the UNHCR office and did not approach the human rights defenders.
The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia – AHRCA regularly receives complaints about the office of the UNHCR in Geneva which granted the applicants a UN recognised refugee status. He began to consider cases of refugees from Uzbekistan very slowly and in increasingly formal manner. This is true even of torture victims and former prisoners of civil society. When reviewing the applications of Uzbek refugees, the UNHCR rarely takes into account that torture and fabrication of criminal charges are systematically practiced in Uzbekistan, for over 10 years, the government did not allow the 10 thematic UN Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, and international organisations, including HRW, are driven out from Uzbekistan, more than 200 human rights activists and independent journalists are subjected to harassment. The fates of refugees who are forcibly returned to Uzbekistan are usually shrouded in mystery.
The past three years of experience shows:
- Giving in to the political pressure from the countries of Central Asia and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the UNHCR is departing from its constitutional principles;
- The governments of the EU countries, USA and Canada increasingly refuse to grant asylum to the UN recognised refugees who are wanted in their country of origin on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations of serious crimes. In taking such decisions, the governments are relying on information received from the Uzbek authorities, although Uzbekistan is notorious for malicious violation of human rights and lack of rule of law;
- Refugees have to wait for the decision of the UNHCR in countries where the law enforcement authorities take arbitrary decisions; the number of cases of kidnapping of refugees by the Uzbek secret services is increasing;
- Persons persecuted for their religious beliefs are not protected and are increasingly losing the prospects of resettlement to a third country, if applied to the UNHCR offices in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia – AHRCA calls the:
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees;
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;
- UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
- UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Fight against
to enforce the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and other international human rights treaties in the context of protecting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, to pay serious attention to the plight of refugees from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan and other countries of the CIS and the SCO.