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24.04.2008

European Court of Human Rights halts extradition of Uzbek asylum seeker from Russia

   

On 22 April 2008 the European Court decided that Dilshod Kurbanov, whose extradition on politically motivated charges of a religious nature is demanded by the Uzbekistan authorities, must not be extradited from Russia pending further notification. The relevant documents were passed to the Government of the Russian Federation via the RF Representative at the European Court.

Dilshod Kurbanov was detained in the Tula region on 30 May 2007 because the Uzbekistan law enforcement agencies had placed him on the wanted list.

In June that year, from the SIZO [pre-trial detention centre], he sent an application for refugee status in the Russian Federation, since in Uzbekistan he is accused of taking part in prohibited Islamic organizations and movements which he categorically denies.

This application was rejected on 9 April 2008. It should be mentioned that the Federal Migration Service ignored the conclusions of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Mission in Russia who found that Kurbanov is in need of international protection and must not be returned to Uzbekistan

On 18 April 2008 the Tula Regional Court rejected Kurbanov’s appeal against the decision of the Russian Federation Prosecutor General (from 26 December 2007) to extradite him to his country of origin to face criminal charges of “encroachment on the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan” (Article 159) and “preparation or distribution of material containing a threat to public safety and order” (Article 244-1) of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code.

As already reported, the charges are the standard fare used in Uzbekistan against Muslims persecuted for their religious beliefs.

We also reported earlier the grounds given for refusing to recognize Kurbanov a refugee.  They are extraordinary enough to warrant repetition. The Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Department for the Tula Region asserts that in the charges against Kurbanov “there is no sign of a political motive for the prosecution” and “according to information from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Uzbekistan government denies the existence of torture.” He also claims that “the Russian Federal Migration Service has no facts concerning persecution of citizens on ethnic and religious grounds”.

The Russian Federation Prosecutor General and Tula Regional Court saw fit to ignore the norms of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and the UN Convention against Torture prohibiting sending people back to countries where they could be subjected to torture.

It is important to note that the application to the European Court of Human Rights to apply Rule 39 was based on the well-founded fear that Kurbanov would face torture if returned. Strasbourg accepted these grounds and has halted the extradition.

This is at least the sixth time that applications have been made to the Court in connection with the threat that people persecuted for their religious convictions in Uzbekistan will be forcibly returned there from Russia.

In two cases, the Russian Federation breached the instructions from Strasbourg. Rustam Muminiov was handed over to the Uzbekistan authorities in October 2006 and was later sentenced to 5.5 years imprisonment. In December 2007, Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov) was illegally expelled, despite more than 24 hours having passed since the notification from the European Court of Human Rights was received. He was sentenced in Uzbekistan to 11 years imprisonment.

In both cases, the Russian authorities claimed that they had not had enough time to respond. Since the period allowed for an appeal against the Tula Court’s ruling has not expired, such an excuse cannot possibly be used on this occasion.

Based on a report by Yelena Ryabinina of the Civic Assistance Committee

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