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24.12.2008

Sovereign law of a “sovereign democracy”

   

On 22 December 2008, Russia’s Supreme Court turned down the cassation appeals from the defence against the decision of the Prosecutor General to extradite to Uzbekistan Abdullazhon Isakov, who is originally from Uzbekistan but insists that he has Russian citizenship.

Then on 23 December, the same court passed an identical ruling on a cassation appeal over the decision to extradite Uzbek national Abdumutallib Karimov, a refugee from Andijon.

Both cases were examined by panels of judges presided over by Judge Sviridov. Evidence from the defence showing that Karimov is presently within the asylum application procedure and that the issue of Isakov’s citizenship has not been resolved by other courts did not concern the panel of judges. This is despite the fact that Russian legislation strictly prohibits the extradition of asylum seekers  

The decisions on extradition from the Prosecutor General have now, as a result, come into effect.

In view of this it is important to note that both of these judgments were passed in relation to people whose extradition has been halted by the European Court of Human Rights’ application of Rule 39 of the Court’s Regulations in view of the risk that the men would be subjected to torture in their country of origin. The Russian authorities were officially informed of this almost a month and a half ago: on 10 November in Isakov’s case, and 13 November – with regard to Karimov.

Furthermore, in the letter from the Russian Federation Representative at the European Court Georgy Matyushkin regarding Isakov, which Strasbourg passed for reference to the applicant’s representatives, it is stated that the Russian authorities have taken the appropriate measures to carry out the instruction of the Court. There can be no doubt that the authorities were equally well-aware of Strasbourg’s decision regarding Karimov.

Since the Russian law on ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes the European Court’s jurisdiction, the Supreme Court’s rulings in these new cases, as in the case of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks”, have created a paradoxical legal collision since enforcement of the Prosecutor General’s decisions would mean direct breach of Russia’s commitments undertaking when ratifying the European Convention.

If the Supreme Court sees the Court’s halt on the extradition pending examination of their cases on the merits as a temporary delay, they would be well-advised to consider the Court’s conclusion in the case of the Ivanovo Uzbeks, judging that they could not be extradited given the danger that torture would be applied. 

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