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13.12.2010

Russian Court accepts that refugees must not be extradited to Uzbekistan

   

Yelena Ryabinina, Head of the Right to Refuge Programme reports an important step forward in the Russian Federation. On 10 December 2010 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan overturned a decision from the RF Prosecutor General to extradite to Uzbekistan Shokirzhon Soliyev, persecuted on religious grounds in his home country, and released him.

The Court ruled that:

the articles of the Uzbek Criminal Code which Soliyev was accused of do not correspond to the articles of the RF Criminal Code which the Prosecutor General had equated them with, meaning that the actions Soliyev is accused of cannot be considered a crime according to Russian legislation;

Soliyev had applied for asylum in Russia at the time the decision was made to extradite him, and therefore extradition would be in breach of the RF Law on Refugees and the UN 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees;

 And finally: “from the documents from the UN and various NGOs provided by the defence, as well as judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, it follows that in the Republic of Uzbekistan those under investigation or convicted are subjected to ill-treatment and torture is widely used, and this would await Soliyev were he to be handed over to the law enforcement bodies of that country”.  The Court referred to a number of decisions from the European Court which established a direct link between remand in custody in Uzbekistan and a serious danger that prohibited forms of treatment will be applied.

It should be pointed out that this ruling was issued during a repeat examination of the defence’s appeal against the Prosecutor General’s decision to extradite.  On 20 September the same court in Tatarstan deemed the decision to be lawful and warranted, and the arguments from the defence about the same strong likelihood of torture and ill-treatment far-fetched and ill-founded.

As well as lodging a cassation appeal against the 20 September ruling, Soliyev’s defence successfully applied to the European Court of Human Rights for Rule 39 to be applied. This halts any extradition until the case has been examined by the Court in Strasbourg.  For a number of years now ECHR has applied this rule in all cases involving Uzbekistan because of the clear likelihood that the person will face torture and ill-treatment.

On 2 November 2010 the Russian Supreme Court revoked the 20 September ruling and sent the case back for new examination due to the fact that the arguments presented by the defence had not been properly investigated by the first instance court and had not received a justified assessment.

Soliyev was represented by Kazan lawyer Ruslan Naliyev and Yelena Ryabinina, Head of the Right to Refuge Programme.  

The story of 36-year-old Shokirzhon Soliyev is familiar. Having come to the RF to work, he was arrested in March this year because he was wanted by the Uzbek law enforcement agencies.  The charges against him in his homeland were for “encroachment on the constitutional system of Uzbekistan”, organizing a criminal society; circulating prohibited literature and taking part in extremist fundamentalist and separatist organizations.  

The charges are those regularly used against people persecuted for their political or religious convictions in Uzbekistan.

The 10 December Ruling is an absolutely crucial breakthrough, being the first time that a Russian court has given the above-mentioned grounds for not extraditing a person.  Yelena Ryabinina says that it has taken the concentrated efforts of lawyers and human rights activists over 5 years, as well as 20 extraditions stopped and 6 ECHR judgments regarding the inadmissibility of sending a person back to a country where they are most likely to face torture.

On the other hand, the day before the Russian Supreme Court rejected a cassation appeal against the extradition of 25-year-old Savriddin Dzhurayev to Tajikistan.  This is despite the fact that the Tajikistan authorities’ documents state that he began his “religious extremist activities” in 1992, when Savriddin was seven years old.

Had it not been for the European Court’s application of Rule 39, Savriddin Dzhurayev could have already been extradited to Tajikistan where under torture he would doubtless have confessed to heinous crimes planned as a 7-year-old.  One has to agree, therefore, with Yelena Ryabinina that it’s far too early to celebrate victory.

However all those involved deserve congratulations for a major achievement.

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