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12.12.2007 | Halya Coynash

Worth their weight in questions

   

These words are written for a 49-year-old Uzbek I have never met and certainly now never will.   He is probably already facing torture in an Uzbek remand centre where he will be held until convicted on fabricated charges and sentenced to a long period of imprisonment.  

That is all entirely predictable.  Our failure was not.   We didn’t shout loud enough?  Or were our words unconvincing? 

Human rights defenders sounded the alarm almost immediately after Kamaliyev (Tursinov) was abducted on 23 November.   Once his whereabouts, despite the lies and evasion of officials in Tyumen, were established and it was clear that another illegal "administrative expulsion" was planned, all mechanisms were brought into play.   The Civic Assistance Committee organized a lawyer.  Since Kamaliyev (Tursinov) is married to a Russian citizen, and the request for his extradition had been turned down a year earlier, this should have been sufficient however following a number of illegal abductions and expulsions from Russia at the request of repressive regimes, there were serious grounds for believing that more was needed. .

And more indeed was achieved.  On Monday, 3 December the European Court of Human Rights applied Rule 39 halting any expulsion pending review. The Court does this in cases where through expulsion the person could be subjected to violations, for example, torture, which could not subsequently be redressed.

The flight to Tashkent was at midnight Moscow time on Tuesday, so the Court’s notification had been faxed to Russia’s Representative at the Court, Veronika Milinchuk, more than 24 hours earlier.  It was she who was responsible for taking all measures to ensure the Court’s instructions were implemented. The copy which the Civic Assistance Committee received was faxed to all relevant parties in Tyumen and confirmation was given during the day by telephone that the faxes had been received.

The problem was that the officials directly responsible for forcibly getting Kamaliyev on to that plane stated that they had not been "officially told".

And this was the point at which our voices proved too inaudible.  We certainly tried to bellow – phone calls, emails to all the media, seeking their help in extra decibels and the right questions.   No, we didn’t believe that officials refusing to be "officially informed" would listen to the press. However, the people in Moscow with the power to convince those officials might well have had difficulty confirming to the press that Russia was indeed about to flagrantly ignore a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.  

The phone calls got redirected or cut off, the emails ignored, and the one journalist who wrote back had questions about Sunday’s elections.  The next day, when it was already too late to help Kamaliyev, a lot of media outlets in Moscow reported "the story".

The journalist’s questions about the elections were typical of the focus of media attention this week.  He was interested in what they say about the democratic opposition, what they mean for the economy, whether they had been fair.

And all of those questions deafened some others. Like how could Igor Reshetin, a scientist defended by his colleagues in the Academy of Sciences and human rights defenders be sentenced on Monday to 11 and a half years for passing "dual purpose technology" [?] to the Chinese?   And how could Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov) be illegally handed over to the Uzbek security service when the European Court of Human Rights had ordered a halt on any expulsion 15 hours earlier?  

Even if some believe (I would beg to differ) that one or two individuals make no odds, I would respectfully suggest that the question of where it will all end if the Russian FSB is shown so very clearly that they can act with impunity is ignored at our peril.

Halya Coynash

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (in cooperation with the Civic Assistance Committee in Moscow)

 

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