A Low Point 30


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:

Sarah,

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.

Best Wishes,

Craig

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.


30 thoughts on “A Low Point

  • geomannie

    I contacted my MP Tom Harris yesterday whose office immediately responded. On learning however, that Jahongir had never resided in his constituency was told that he could do nothing. I don't know why not. Protocol I suppose?

  • k

    I'm relieved he is still in the country. What airline is being used? Is it possible to apply pressure on the airline?

    What area/constituency is Jahongir in? It might be possible to mobilise local church organisations etc to support him, if that hasn't already been done.

    I know it's awful and hope you can continue to fight the deportation – and draw attention to the way deportations are carried out more widely.

  • k

    In response to geomannie, if an MP is unwilling to raise the individual case of Jahongir, I think it would be acceptable to ask the MP instead to take up the matter of YOUR concern that deportations to Uzbekistan are permitted. It might be worth going back to your MP to ask him to raise this matter on your behalf.

  • Dodo

    Compare and contrast the report that the Prime Minister yesterday (21st) intervened to prevent the deportation of Lay Naing to Burma. "Deportation that could have sent him to the torture chamber".
    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article

    The terrible silence of the press and disinterest of authorities in the case of Jahongir Sidikov is utterly reprehensible. But there have been and cannot be any protests in Uzbekistan which might catch the attention of the world.

    Let us do what we can.

  • Paul Martin

    This is a shocking situation. I have written to my MP and await his response. This man must be in dreadful fear.

    What sort of country are we becoming?

  • ruth

    Maybe this is part of an overall plan to break Uzbekistan's oppposition political parties, raise the profile of Usmanov and encourage Usmanov to take over from Karimov presumably with Russian approval as Usmanov has ingratiated himself to Putin. Once in power Usmanov will then break Russian ties and act as a Western puppet.

  • k

    Hannah Arendt points out in one of her books that stateless people and asylum seekers are safer and have more rights if they come under the criminal law. Jahongir would be better off if he were charged with a crime and held in prison, or if a European arrest warrant were issued in any state of the European Union. In the latter case, I believe the British authorities would be obliged to hand him over rather than deporting him. The risks would be high – but perhaps not so bad as deportation to Uzbekistan.

  • QT

    I am so disappointed that there hasn't been more publicity about this – It is reprehensible that the Home Office are planning to effectively send this man directly to the torture chamber.

    As k suggests, have you contacted the airline? If British and European law both fail this man can something be done to stop this that way?

  • QT

    This is what I have sent to my MP, you may use it as a basis for your own letters:

    Dear MP,

    I am writing to express my concern regarding an urgent human rights matter.

    An attempt was made yesterday to deport to Uzbekistan a member of an opposition political party in that country, Jahongir Sidikov. This deportation has been fast-tracked by the Home Office (Home Office ref. ?" S2185191) and approved by the FCO, despite serious concerns regarding the human rights record of the Uzbek regime.

    Craig Murray (ex British ambassador to Uzbekistan) and Human Rights Watch believe there is a very high likelihood that Sidikov will be tortured, and that he may perhaps even be executed on return to Uzbekistan. Hence, that the deportation is illegal under Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture. Read more: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/

    I hope that you will be prepared to raise this man's case and do whatever you can to prevent the deportation.

    Yours sincerely,

    QT

  • ruth

    Thanks for your letter. I've sent it to my MP and Norman Baker. Would it not be a good idea to email it to every MP? We could divide up the list of MPs and send them all a copy tonight.

  • writeon

    The context is that both Britain and the United States have "interests" in Uzbekistan. Cordial and friendly relations are the top priority, especially in these uncertain times. If the Uzbeks using torture can save lives in Britain, then it's a price we are willing to pay, even though it's really defenceless Uzbeks that will do most of the "paying".

    The people in charge of Britain don't really have a sense of morals, except when it suits them. Moral indignation is cloaking-device one pulls out to hide ones actual lack of moral standards. In the "Great Game" the lives of indviduals, innocent or not, count for very little. They can be sacrificed in the national interest with more or less impunity.

    The same attitude to human rights, and individual liberties that is characterized by rendition and Guantanomo Bay, and all the other "black" torture sites; is spreading inexorably through the rest of society, almost like an infection.

    It's sad, frustrating and makes one angry that one is powerless to prevent injustice. Every human life is precious.

  • RA

    The letter below has been sent to ITV, The Times and Independent. It is very terrible of what is going on.

    Dear Editor,

    Until this day I believed for freedom of media and its role in civil liberties in this country. But information I have read today slightly changed my mind. I do not know if you are aware or not but UK government is going to send back failed asylum seeker to Uzbekistan and it means UK government is probably most definitely is going to be involved in murder of this asylum seeker. His name is Jahongir Sidikov. Uzbekistan is the country run by one of the most cruel and brutal dictator in modern world. I myself from Uzbekistan and I also came here as asylum seeker before and you can believe me I know what is going to happen to Jahongir Sidikov if he is sent back to that dark place. I was lucky to escape that brutality some of which I have tasted on my own body when I was taken and beaten by uzbek police and lived in nightmare awaiting worst. Now I am here I was lucky to get asylum in the UK and I am proud of being part of this society. I still think that UK is one of the most democratic and free countries in the world. But today I doubted about many things I though before. How is it possible for such civilised and democratic society as British to be involved in such case like with Jahongir. It is not for me to decide if Jahongir should be given asylum or not but one thing is certain that he MUST NOT to be sent back to Uzbekistan. According to the information from the web site of former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Mr Craig Murray Jahongir is now in Heathrow awaiting his deportation. You may find more information via this link http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2007/11/a_

    I am very shocked finding out that media in the UK does not want to be involved in this case. It is not often when UK authorities send someone to death. This should be very good case for media and yet there is no interests from you guys. It reminds me uzbek media a little bit, when government is doing awful things and there is no reaction from media. I thing it is the duty of media to tell to British people what is happening in Heathrow with Jahongir. He is not known to be a criminal or terrorist and it is very awful why British government is sending him back to the place which is widely known to be one of the most brutal dictatorships. Jahongir is a member of real opposition party Erk and applied for asylum in the UK these two things are enough for uzbek police to issue him a death penalty. He might not be even prosecuted in the court in Uzbekistan he might just disappear like some other uzbek opposition members who were still in Uzbekistan.

    I am very sad of such indifference of British media which I though is one of the most liberal and free in the world.

    Sincerely yours,

    Rus

  • blue_monday

    Basically you are going to have to accept that human rights and morality are concepts that have no relevance to the UK.

  • Albert

    This is an awful thing to happen in this country. I've sent a letter to my m.p. who else can we contact?

  • septicisle

    I've written to the national desk on the Guardian and to Alan Rusbridger himself. If we can embarrass the so-called liberal media into even including an in brief piece it might make all the difference.

  • Raven

    A low point indeed. Thanks Craig Murray.

    As an expatriate Brit, I have written to the foreign office and the office of the PM… Can only hope something breaks through the uncaring facade of our government.

  • ruth

    I've just emailed the letter to the MPs with the surnames beginning with A, whose addresses I could find on the parliament site. If anybody has time could they continue with the B in the list.

  • andy cyan

    We are a disparate bunch here to act on a cause like this. Ive only emailed my mp and tried to cause a fuss in another forum. Im ashamed to be a dumbfounded voyeur on this window on very cruel circumstance. Greatest respect to continued efforts here.

  • andy cyan

    There seems to be little traction developing in the blogsphere, so ive been emailing requests for involvement.

    Dont know who put this up, but good on you! http://questionthat.me.uk/

    A problem with this campaign is it is facing widespread fatigue over the asylum and immigration situation in the UK. It has been mentioned that it would appear Jahongir is being used to send a signal to potential asylum seekers not to come to britain, as it is trying to tackle a backlog of percieved false asylum cases. Besides the cruelty of using him in this way, the signal wouldnt be heeded by ingenuine asylum seekers (the popular bogeymen) as they wouldnt be so fearful of being returned to their origin. This highlights, the follysome senseless cruelty of the case.

  • man_of_the_people

    if as you say he is a "failed" asylum seeker, does this not mean that he must have some had some kind of appeal process???

  • George Dutton

    I can remember back in the 1980s Thatcher sending a Nigerian dissident back to Nigeria many begged her not to send him back (one was Ken Livingstone) as he would be murdered by the Nigerian authorities upon his return. She said the Nigerian authorities had given assurances he would not be harmed. She was told they were lying. Upon his forced return he was taken from the plane taken behind an aircraft hanger and shot through the head. Thatcher as far as I know said nothing when it was learned what had happened.

    The whole UK political establishment is bankrupt of soul.

  • andy cyan

    This case is snowballing on the web now, despite the media silence.

    Here is another powerful report from HRW,
    http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/23/uzbeki1740

    Uzbekistan: UN Body Finds Torture 'Routine'

    Calls for Urgent Steps to Rectify Tashkent's Tarnished Record

    (Geneva, November 23, 2007) ?" The Uzbek government should urgently implement recommendations to combat torture issued by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, Human Rights Watch said today. In a highly critical assessment made public today, the committee concluded that torture and ill-treatment remain "widespread" in Uzbekistan and continue to occur with "impunity."

    ….

    ….

    "The committee also highlighted for particular concern "reports of forcible return of recognised refugees and/or asylum seekers from neighbouring countries" and the lack of information about their "conditions, treatment and whereabouts" in Uzbekistan. It called on the Uzbek government to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ?" which it expelled in March 2006 ?" to return to the country.

    "The committee's conclusions make clear just how much remains to be done before the Uzbek government can claim to have addressed its torture problem," said Cartner. "Tashkent should now engage in a genuine and urgent effort to implement all of the committee's recommendations."

    A 90-page report by Human Rights Watch, published on the eve of the review, documents widespread torture in the Uzbek criminal justice system that goes largely unpunished. The report, based on two years of research and the testimonies of more than 30 torture victims and their relatives, belies Uzbek government claims of progress and details the cycle of abuse that starts at the time of an individual's detention and continues through conviction or beyond to compel confessions or other testimony. It shows that torture and ill-treatment are ignored and overlooked by investigators, prosecutors, and judges, and generally hushed up by the media and the government."

  • Posey

    As one whose country claims the right to do extraordinary renditions and run Caribbean concentration camps, I have to say that I admire your optimism that a large number of protests will make a difference. I do not believe that either the British government or the US government would allow the life of one man to affect their relationship with Uzbekistan, where there are huge deposits of oil and natural gas.

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