The Russian Prosecutor General has ordered the court to extradite innocent people
The first instance court in Ivanovo is completing its consideration of the possible extradition of 14 people whom the Uzbekistan authorities deem participants in the events at Andijon in May 2005, when the military brutally crushed anti-government demonstrations. According to international human rights organizations, several hundred people were killed. Most of the Uzbeks arrested in Ivanovo face charges under the article “murder of two or more people”.
On Uzbekistans request, in summer of last year the Russian prosecutors office carried out arrests. Human rights and civic organizations, standing up for the arrested men, have ascertained that virtually all of those arrested were outside Uzbekistan at the time of the Andijon events.
In July this year the ethnic Uzbeks arrested in Ivanovo were granted mandate refugee status by the UNHCR. The UN declared their readiness to give them refuge in a third country. In addition, one European country (it is not at present being named) declared the ethnic Uzbeks arrested in Ivanovo to be political refugees and offered to give them asylum. However the Russian side has refused to consider these people refugees on the grounds that they are accused of criminal offences. The arguments of lawyer from the organization “Migration and law” of the human rights centre “Memorial”, Svetlana Martynova, who states that criminal charges in this case are a means of persecuting people on political grounds (and in Uzbekistan the arrested men await torture and the death penalty), were not given consideration.
On 27 July this year a fax was received with the decision of the Prosecutor General to extradite one of the men, Kyrgyz national Tashtimirov, who at the time of Andijon was in Turkey from where he left for Russia almost a month after the Andijon events. On 31 July and over subsequent days the Prosecutor General announced that the other ethnic Uzbeks would be handed over to the Uzbekistan authorities. After the official announcement, the arrested men had ten days to appeal this ruling in the Ivanovo regional court.
The last hearing of the cassation appeal stage is scheduled for 21 September. The regional court has already upheld the Prosecutor Generals decision in 11 cases. During the hearings one of the arrested men, Alimov, told of torture which prisoners are subjected to in Uzbekistan, in particular about a case where, in order to get testimony from the accused law enforcement offices raped the mans Muslim wife in his presence. Released, the woman set fire to herself outside the prosecutors building. The Ivanovo regional court nonetheless did not consider this sufficient grounds for granting the men political asylum.
In Russia there is only one chance left for the Ivanovo Uzbeks to challenge the Prosecutor Generals decision, this being the Supreme Court which has thus far not set a day for a hearing.
At present the decision of the Prosecutor General to extradite is suspended in view of a claim lodged with the European Court of Human Rights (http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1155667763). The Strasbourg judges took into consideration the fact that in Uzbekistan the arrested men could be subjected to torture, and the punishment under the articles in question is the death penalty.
During the giving of testimony in the Ivanovo regional court it became known that the arrested men had already been tortured by officers of the department on fighting organized crime. They had been beaten, given electric shocks, and plastic bags had been placed over their head.
Human rights groups are unanimous in saying that the so-called “Ivanovo Uzbek” case is totally fabricated. Yelena Ryabinina, head of the program “Aid for political refugees from Central Asia” of the Civic Assistance Committee believes that the decision to hold these people in SIZO [a pre-trial detention centre] was also illegal. “These people will soon have been held for a year and a half in custody, without their remand having long been absolutely unlawful. The decision to remand them in custody was taken between 20 and 29 July last year, and only once. It has never been extended, there hasnt been one representation from the prosecutor, and no court reviews of this issue. Only in the cassation appeal claims were their rejections of that decision. And under the Criminal Procedure Code the first decision is taken for two months, then it can be extended to half a year, then a year. And each time the level of division of the prosecutors office making the application becomes higher. After 12 months remand in custody, extension can only be on the application of the Prosecutor General which there has not been. There hasnt been anything at all.”
The Uzbekistan embassy refuses to comment on the situation. The coordinator of the social and political organization “Ivanovo regional human rights association” Sergei Valkov assumes that in Uzbekistan any person leaving the country is considered an enemy. “Why theyre demanding their extradition, I myself find baffling. Maybe theyve so flipped that any person leaving Uzbekistan, even though they came here to earn money, is considered a dissident, a political refugee, an enemy of the Uzbekistan authorities. Simply because they left. The court on principle refuses to consider the case on its merits, even whether they could physically have committed the crimes, i.e. whether they were in Uzbekistan at the time. It doesnt consider anything and simply works on the principle, if the prosecutors asked, we have to oblige. Thats it!”
At the end of September, Ivanovo lawyer from the organization “Migration and law”, Svetlana Martynova was supposed to give an address to the annual conference of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Geneva, basing this on the evidence of the arrested Uzbeks. On the day that she went to Moscow to get her Swiss visa, her son was killed in Ivanovo. Svetlana Martynovas colleagues point out that she had on a number of occasions been given to understand that the trip was undesirable.