Jahongir Sidikov is still in detention at Heathrow, having offered passive resistance to the attempt to deport him today. Next time they will use staff authorised and equipped to use force.
I am deeply depressed. All yesterday I was working on trying to save him from being returned to the horrors of the Karimov regime’s treatment of dissidents, and it was like living inside a nightmare. Together with an Uzbek friend, we got in an emergency application to the European Court of Human Rights for an Article 39 stay on deportation as Jahongir’s life was in danger. This involved my friend filling and faxing numerous forms. I spoke with the legal officers filing the report to the Court, and with the National Council for Assisting Deportees who told me that a temporary stay was “always…automatically” granted so the case could be investigated. By the early evening Jahongir had already been taken to the airport to be deported, and still no result. Finally, the news came from Strasbourg – the appeal for a delay had been rejected by the assistant registrar of the Court. I have no idea why.
I am still in a genuine state of shock and disbelief that we should start shipping asylum seekers back to Uzbekistan, of all places. It is as though the government have gone into official denial of what kind of place Uzbekistan is. I am also astonished that I have been met with complete indifference from everybody – officials, MPs and journalists. I can’t get anybody to take an interest.
I telephoned the British Embassy in Tashkent and the Ambassador, Iain Kelly, refused to speak to me. So both a yes man and a coward, then. In 2003 Iain Kelly was deputy to Matthew Kydd, Head of “Whitehall Liasion Department”, the link between the FCO and MI6. Kelly’s boss Kydd told me that it had been decided between Richard Dearlove and Jack Straw as a matter of policy that we should use intelligence from torture in the context of the War on Terror, specifically from Uzbekistan, and that this intelligence was “operationally useful”. (Murder in Samarkand pp 160-2)
Iain Kelly is therefore not just passively but actively implicated in the policy of cooperation with the torture of Uzbek dissidents by the Uzbek intelligence services. He will also have been directly implicated in the use of intelligence obtained by torture through extraordinary rendition, in Uzbekistan and elsewhere.
It is therefore essential that the Uzbek human rights community are aware of this and do not trust the British Embassy with any information or cooperation in future.
The choice of Kelly as the new British Ambassador. together with the decision to end EU sanctions against the regime and to start handing over dissidents like Sidikov to the Uzbek regime, seems to indicate a return to a closer relationship with Karimov.
After Kelly refused to speak with me, I received an email from a junior official in the FCO asking me to route my enquiry through her. She confirmed that the FCO was aware of the deportation of Jahongir Sidikov and had liased with the Home Office on it. I asked if there were any arrangements in place to track what happened to him once he arrived back in Tashkent. Evidently there were not, but she promised to speak to the Embassy about it. I followed up with this email:
We spoke. I should be most grateful if you could ensure that, should Mr Sidikov be deported as planned today, the Embassy monitors what happens to him and maintains an interest in his welfare. As I am sure you are aware, there is a strong argument that any deportation of Mr Sidikov is in contravention of Artilce 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, to which the UK is a state party. Have Legal Advisers been consulted?
I should also be grateful if you could inform me whether diplomatic assurances have been sought from the government of Uzbekistan over treatment of those refouled, and if so with what result, and what weight you place upon any assurances from the government of Uzbekistan?
This is the first time, to my knowledge, that we have deported an asylum seeker to Uzbekistan. Is that correct?
I shall remain regularly in touch for updates on Mr Sidikov’s situation. If this man is tortured or killed because the UK government sent him back to the custody of what is widely acknowledged to be one of the worst regimes on Earth, it will not be able to be kept secret.
Again, I restate my disbelief that we are doing this. How on Earth can we consider deporting dissidents back to Uzbekistan. Do Ministers not know what happens in that country, or do they just not care? And why can’t I get any politician, journalist or official even vaguely interested? Even on the internet, no prominent bloggers have shown any interest. I don’t know that I have ever felt so frustrated and alone – but my problems are nothing compared to how Jahongir must be feeling. To sit in a condemned cell awaiting a relatively quick death must be awful. But to await the kind of things the Uzbek security services will do to you – and to be awaiting them in England – is unthinkable.