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Kazakhstan Criticized for Repatriating Uzbeks

Uzbeks walk along line of riot police as they secure the area near checkpoint in the town of Korasuv at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border (file photo).

Human Rights Watch says Kazakhstan's government has violated international law by forcibly repatriating at least 28 people to neighboring Uzbekistan, where they believe they could face torture.

The New York-based rights group says the Uzbeks fled their homeland fearing religious persecution after being wanted by authorities on anti-state and religion-related charges.

Human Rights watch says the forced extradition violates Kazakhstan's international commitments to protect individuals fleeing persecution.

The Uzbeks were returned to their homeland Thursday. The Associated Press reports they had been held in Kazakh jails since last year, when Uzbekistan made the extradition request.

Numerous United Nations reports have criticized the treatment of prisoners held in Uzbek facilities. A 2007 report by the U.N. Committee Against Torture found that torture in Uzbekistan is "routine" and occurs "with impunity."

The Uzbek government has provided diplomatic assurances that the men will not be tortured.