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The Russian Supreme Court and Refugees

29.11.2006    source:
Yelena Ryabinina
On 28 November the Russian Supreme Court rejected the cassation appeal lodged by the “Ivanovo Uzbeks” against the decision of the RF Prosecutor General to have them extradited to Uzbekistan. This means that the extradition ruling has now entered into force, despite the fact that these people are UNHCR mandate refugees and despite clear discrepancies in the arguments presented for their extradition

On 28 November 2006 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation rejected the cassation appeal lodged by the “Ivanovo Uzbeks” against the decision of the RF Prosecutor General to have them extradited to Uzbekistan. This means that the extradition ruling has now entered into force.

During the court hearing, lawyer Irina Sokolova emphasized that the Prosecutor General in taking the decisions on extradition had ignored the numerous discrepancies in the documents provided by the Uzbek authorities which suggested the trumped-up nature of the accusations being made against her clients. In the defence appeal material was added to the case which confirmed that the appellants were people seeking political asylum in the Russian Federation since they still had the right to appeal the refusal of the Department of the Federal Migration Service for the Ivanovo region to refuse them temporary refuge. The forced return of these people to the country of their origin is prohibited by international legal norms. The lawyer noted that the extradition of “mandate refugees” recognized by the UNHCR was also a violation of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Irina Sokolova also presented the Court panel with a document from the European Court of Human Rights confirming that the Russian Federation authorities have been informed of the need to refrain from extraditing her clients before their appeal is considered in Strasbourg.  Pursuant to the Regulations of the European Court, this is a preliminary measure ensuring the possibility for later consideration in cases where there are serious grounds for believing that following their extradition, the appellants could be subjected to torture.

The position of the prosecutor V.Y. Pogorelaya revolved around two basic premises, these being that:

- the reliability of the guarantees presented by the Uzbek side that the rights of the people whose extradition is requested would be observed did not arouse any doubts with the RF Prosecutor General;

- the duration and extent of the extradition check were in themselves sufficient proof that they were comprehensive.

Therefore, Ms Pogorelaya stated, the extradition rulings were legal and there were no grounds for revoking them. The prosecutor stressed the need for Russia to comply with the demands of the Minsk Convention which does not contain a ban on extraditing to countries where torture is applied and does not allow for the refusal to extradite people persecuted on political grounds.

The Court panel, presided over by A.P.Shurygin, together with Judges V.P. Stepanin and A.S. Kolyshnitsyn, through their Judgment demonstrated that the highest court of the Russian Federation can with ease ignore the commitments which Russia took upon itself by ratifying the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the UN Convention against Torture and other international agreements.

It should be noted that the Constitution of the Russian Federation states: “The universally-recognized norms of international law and international treaties and agreements of the Russian Federation shall be a component part of its legal system. If an international treaty or agreement of the Russian Federation fixes other rules than those envisaged by law, the rules of the international agreement shall be applied” {Article 15 § 4).  The Court panel has thus failed to “take into account” the Main Law of the Russian Federation.

“The Judgment of the Supreme Court has clearly shown that the issue of extradition of my clients is not at all juridical”, Irina Sokolova stated. “I am sorry that these people have become the hostages to the policy of Russia on whose territory they were unlucky enough to end up on.” After the entry into force of the rulings of the Prosecutor General on the extradition of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks”, the question now becomes especially burning as to whether the authorities of the Russian Federation will again infringe a decision of the European Court on suspending extradition.

It should be remembered that on 24 October this year, despite an analogous directive from Strasbourg, Uzbekistan national Rustam Muminov was illegally deported and handed over to the Uzbekistan authorities. The official explanation presented to the European Court by the Russian side was that they had not managed to bring the relevant notification to the attention of those who carried out the deportation in Moscow.

The ruling on halting the extradition of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks” was passed by Strasbourg on 7 August 2006, and on 15 August information about it was posted on the official website of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.

For more information about the “Ivanovo Uzbeks”, please follow the links below.

Yelena Ryabinina, Head of the Program to assist political refugees from Central Asia of the Civic Assistance Committee

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