Thursday, 22 November 2007

Against torture

In 2005, American Quakers reported on a massacre at Andijan in Uzbekistan. Nobody knows how many protesters were killed by government forces, but eyewitness accounts tell of of a square awash with blood. No-one can be sure how many men, women and children were killed.

Uzbekistan has a government which doesn't hesitate to kill its citizens. The opposition party is banned. Torture is common. Many critics of the regime have been killed.

It's hard to understand how the British government and courts can authorise the deportation of an Uzbek asylum-seeker. Jahongir Sidikov, who belongs to Erk, Uzbekistan's banned opposition party, faces deportation. He's currently in a cell at Heathrow after passive resistance saved him from being deported yesterday. He's now threatened with forcible removal - to Uzbekistan, where political prisoners are routinely tortured.

If you wish to act in support of Jahongir, even if it's only by sending an e-mail to your MP, these details will be useful:

Home Office ref. – S2185191
Port ref. – BGT/188094
DMS ref. – 67823

Jahongir is currently in Harmondsworth Detention Centre. (possibly now held at Heathrow)

Jahongir's deportation is, beyond any possible dispute, illegal under international law. The UK is a State Party to the UN Convention Against Torture, which states at Article 3:

Article 3 1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

31 years ago, Friends World Committee for Consultation wrote the following minute:

It is a matter of grave anxiety that torture and secret imprisonment are being used by many governments, anti-government groups and others to extract information, to suppress criticism, and to intimidate opposition, so that throughout the world countless numbers of men, women and children are suffering inhuman treatment. We believe in the worth of every individual as a child of God, and that no circumstances whatsoever can justify practices intended to break bodies, minds and spirits.

Both tortured and torturer are victims of the evil from which no human being is immune. Friends, however, believe that the life and power of God are greater than evil, and in that life and power declare their opposition to all torture. The Society calls on all its members, as well as those of all religious and other organisations, to create a force of public opinion which will oblige those responsible to dismantle everywhere the administrative apparatus which permits or encourages torture, and to observe effectively those international agreements under which its use is strictly forbidden.

Friends World Committee for Consultation, 1976

[Quaker Faith and Practice 23.31]

If our government deports Jahongir Sidikov to Uzbekistan,his life will be at risk. I think that we, as Quakers, should join the campaign to halt his deportation.

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