Skip to main content

The Honorable Peter MacKay
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Minister MacKay,

We write to urge that your government take all possible steps to ensure that the Uzbek authorities immediately release Huseyincan Celil, a Canadian citizen, and permit him to return to his home in Canada.

Both China and Kyrgyzstan have placed Mr. Celil’s name on an Interpol wanted list. Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that if Uzbek authorities return him to either country, he would be arbitrarily arrested, tortured, denied due process, and harshly sentenced. An ethnic Uighur from China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Mr. Celil was originally detained in China in 1996 for advocating for the religious and political rights of his fellow Uighurs. His detention and treatment are part of a systematic policy of repression that prevents Uighurs from celebrating their cultural identity, expressing their religious beliefs, or articulating political differences such as a desire for an independent state or full autonomy within China.

After he was conditionally released for medical reasons, Mr. Celil managed to escape to Kyrgyzstan. In 1998, he was imprisoned there for nine months and reportedly tortured. Mr. Celil went to Canada as a refugee in 2001 and became a citizen.

Mr. Celil, his wife, and children traveled to Uzbekistan on their Canadian passports on February 6, 2006, in order to visit family. On March 26, when the family applied to extend their one-month visas, Mrs. Celil and the children were granted extensions but Mr. Celil was immediately taken into custody. Mrs. Celil has not been able to see him. It is our understanding that Canadian consular officials also have been denied access. The use of torture of detainees by law enforcement agents in Uzbekistan has been well-documented. Mr. Celil is at risk of mistreatment while in police custody there.

Human Rights Watch calls your attention again to the dangers of returning suspects to countries that, even if diplomatic assurances are proffered, routinely torture or ill-treat suspects, and whose use of the death penalty is extensive. Given the abuses Mr. Celil has already endured in China, we are concerned about the treatment to which he may be subjected upon return there, including execution. Torture has long been a problem in Kyrgyzstan. Human Rights Watch continues to receive accounts of beatings and sexual assaults by police. We are further concerned that should Mr. Celil be returned to Kyrgyzstan, he would be at risk of deportation to China. We also remind you of the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen extradited by the U.S. to Syria, who once back in Canada reported in detail his extensive torture while in Syrian custody.

Canada’s record as a staunch defender of human rights is well known and well respected, one of which Canada is deservedly proud. We ask that record be enhanced through your government’s unremitting efforts to secure Mr. Celil’s immediate release from Uzbek custody and for his prompt return to Canada.


Brad Adams
Executive Director
Asia Division
Human Rights Watch

Jasmine Herlt
Canada Office
Human Rights Watch

Cc: Christopher Westdal, Canadian Ambassador to Russia
Robert Desjardins, Director General, Consular Affairs Bureau

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country