Another deportation of an asylum seeker: Statement from Amnesty International in Ukraine
On 13 October 2006 another asylum seeker was deported from Ukraine. This was in contravention of international conventions to which Ukraine is a signatory and to Ukrainian legislation. Amnesty International in Ukraine considers this to be a serious violation of human rights and of Ukraines international commitments.
It has become known that Hamas Jacques Destin Bris, b. 1966, asylum seeker from Congo-Brazzaville, had papers confirming his status as an asylum seeker from the department of the Migration Service in Kharkiv from 25 September 2006 and valid up till 24 October 2006. Despite the fact that these papers legalized his stay in Ukraine, Mr Hamas had been held in a holding centre for vagrants of the Kharkiv department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs since July awaiting deportation. He was not released after receiving the above-mentioned papers following his appeal to the court, this being an infringement of legislation.
Despite his legal status as asylum seeker in Ukraine, Mr Hamas was forcibly returned to his country of origin. Such actions by officials cannot be qualified other than cynical disregard of fundamental human rights and domestic law.
On 10 January 2002 Ukraine ratified the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its Protocol of 1967, and thereby bound itself to protect the rights and freedoms of people who fall under the definition of refugee as per Article 1 of that Convention. The most important right set down in the 1951 Convention is the right to not be forcibly returned to the country from which they have fled. The country in which a person is seeking asylum commits itself to not return the person until a long-term solution has been found to the situation. The principle of non-refoulement is therefore violated in any case where people are forcibly returned to their country of origin where they fear persecution. This fundamental principle is enshrined in other international conventions, including the UN Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Ukraine, which prohibit the return of a person to a country where there are well-founded fears that the person may be subjected to torture or ill-treatment. The deportation of refugees or asylum seekers is expressly prohibited by Ukrainian domestic legislation.
Amnesty International in Ukraine considers that the reason for such disregard for international law is the impunity typical of law practice in Ukraine with regard to forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers.
On 14 February 2006 11 asylum seekers were sent back to Uzbekistan despite the clear danger that in their country of origin they could face torture, unjust court trials and possibly the death penalty. Regardless of the fact that these actions by the Ukrainian authorities were condemned by both the world community and Ukrainian human rights groups, none of those responsible has been held to answer. Precisely this creates the threat that asylum seekers and refugees in Ukraine will find themselves in further danger of violation of internationally recognized rights.
Amnesty International in Ukraine calls on the Ukrainian authorities:
to publicly acknowledge that there has been an infringement by Ukrainian state authorities of national legislation and international law;
to carry out an immediate, impartial and public investigation into this crime against human rights and to bring those responsible to answer;
to provide serious guarantees that such situations will not be repeated.
Prava Ludyny commentary
Unfortunately, as was the case with the Uzbek refugees in February, human rights organizations were alerted when the deportation had already taken place. In this case, the deportation was carried out following a ruling from the Kyivsky district court, presided over by Judge Donets. Mr Hamas had applied for asylum when already in the holding centre for vagrants. He had lodged an appeal against the ruling of the district court, but the Kyivsky district court refused to consider this, claiming that the appeal was not in accordance with legislation.
There are clearly many unanswered questions in this case. There is also need for human rights organizations to work out strategies for ensuring swift and effective channels of communication so that such infringements are prevented.