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15.03.2013

Why is Ukraine ready to extradite refugees?

   

On Friday Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv sanctioned the arrest pending extradition of ex- Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov who was detained when he arrived in Kyiv from the USA on 5 February.

The ruling, according to Interfax Ukraine, was passed by Judge Volodymyr Buhil.  The Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office which lodged the application for the extradition detention asserts that this arrest is not affected by the fact that Abdumalik Abdullojonov has refugee status in the USA.  They claim that this is of importance only when passing a decision to extradite him, and say that the Prosecutor’s Office has still not completed its extradition check.

Abdumalik Abdullojonov has already been held in custody for 6 weeks

The view expressed by the Prosecutor’s Office and unfortunately shared by at least one Ukrainian court differs radically from that stated quite unequivocally on 1 March by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The statement does not name Abdumalik Abdullojonov , but is very clearly referring to him when it says that “Ukraine must not extradite a person recognized as a refugee in the USA”.

The UNHCR stresses that if one state recognizes a person as a refugee, then other countries must respect this and afford the person protection. Under no circumstances may refoulement take place, i.e. he must not be forcibly returned to his country of origin where it has been determined that he would face a well-founded fear of persecution”. 

The extradition request would seem to be based on accusations from the Tajik authorities that Abdumalik Abdullojonov was involved in a 1996 assassination attempt on the current President, backed a 1998 militant attack in the Sughd Province and other offences. 

This however is only for reference since Mr Abdullojonov arrived in Kyiv from the USA where he has been living for the past decade and where he appears to have refugee status.

It is extremely disturbing that the Ukrainian courts and Prosecutor’s Office seem so oblivious to international law.

This raises concern for the fate of Uzbek Khurmatillo Zokirov who tragically fled to Ukraine from Russia where attempts to extradite him to face obviously trumped up charges had failed.  As reported here, he was detained on arrival in Ukraine in June 2012 and has been in detention ever since.  It is understood that the Prosecutor General’s Office issued the decision to extradite him on 25 January this year.  That decision is presently being appealed.

He would almost certainly be subjected to torture if forcibly returned to Uzbekistan.  This was doubtless one of the arguments put forward by the lawyer in Russia provided by the Memorial Human Rights Centre. She first succeeded in getting an extradition decision overturned, and then in preventing the authorities from using administrative expulsion as a way around the failure to obtain Zokirov’s extradition.

Once again the fact that Zokirov was detained at all is worrying given the charges against him and the fact that he was not extradited from Russia.

Recent infringements of international law by the Ukrainian authorities give serious grounds for concern.

As reported, in August 2012 an asylum seeker from Ingushetia who had been offered asylum in an EU country was forcibly returned to the Russian Federation.

Then in October, Leonid Razvozzhaev, a leftwing political activist in Russia was abducted while in the process of asking for political asylum and forcibly returned to Moscow.

Ukraine’s leaders are already doing a dismal job at proving their commitment to the rule of law.  Their understanding of fundamental commitments under international law is unfortunately also in question. 

Halya Coynash

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