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Rights groups fear for safety of defecting Afghan military personnel in Uzbekistan

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 4th September, 2021 05:41:53 PM
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Rights groups fear for safety of defecting Afghan military personnel in Uzbekistan

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New York: Rights groups have raised concerns that Afghan army personnel who defected to Uzbekistan would be deported to their country, Voice of America (VOA) has reported.

Following the US exit from Afghanistan on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other groups fear that Uzbek authorities will send back the Afghan refugees, where they would be vulnerable to reprisal from the Taliban.

"Tashkent is obliged under international human rights law to not under any circumstances return people to a country where they could face torture or even death," said Hugh Williamson, HRW's director for Europe and Central Asia. The group is also worried about hundreds of Afghans who fled to the Central Asian nation and are at risk of being sent back.

As many as 585 Afghan military personnel and their families flew to Uzbekistan before the fall of Kabul. They were later forced to land at an airport in Termez.

"Now, Uzbekistan must decide whether to provide a haven for the refugees, send them back to Afghanistan or help them move to a third country. That decision is complicated by Tashkent's desire to establish friendly relations with the new Taliban government without offending Western powers," the VOA report said.

Washington should welcome these pilots to the US by offering them asylum, said Jennifer Murtazashvili, director at the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh.

Murtazashvili added that the US should Afghans just as it has done for other Afghan service members who were critical to the American war effort.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday said that the US has taken in almost 24,000 Afghans at risk as part of evacuations efforts from Afghanistan. The US allies and partners have also housed scores of Afghan refugees.

"Since August 17th and through August 31st at midnight Eastern time, 31,107 people have arrived at - to the U.S. as part of this operation. So of that subset - which, of course, is just a small subset of the 124,000 - about 14 percent are US citizens, or 4,446; about 9 per cent are LPRs [legal permanent residents], 2,785; and the remaining 77 per cent - 23,876 individuals - are Afghans at risk," Price told a press briefing on Wednesday.

Source: ANI