UN Confirms That Extradition of Chechen Refugees Has Risks
43rd session UN Committee against Torture was held in Geneva during November 2-20. As a result of the session, UN Committe against Torture confirmes that deportee Chechen refugees may face a real risk of torture.
43rd session UN Committee against Torture, committe discussed the third periodic report of Azerbaijan Republic on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Azerbaijan was represented by 13 state officals. The delegation of Azerbaijan was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov.
In the session, Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan together with the International Federation of Human Rights presented their report about the situation in Azerbaijan. Some parts of the report was related in Chechen asylum seekers and refugees in Azerbaijan:
“In violation of this law and State Party obligation to not “expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture” under the Article 3 CAT, cases of extraditions to the countries with bad human rights records were registered in Azerbaijan, e.g. Chechens to Russia and Kurds to Turkey. In these cases, Azerbaijan prefers rather bilateral agreements than European treaties.
The several thousands of Chechen asylum seekers face permanent problems with registration of their status. The Azerbaijan State Committee on Work with Refugees and IDPs still refuses to deal with this group of asylum seekers and re-addressed this issue to the UNHCR office in Baku.
The Chechens are generally provided with a standard letter confirming that UNHCR is examining their cases, which helps them to avoid forced eviction from the country. But even after 3-4 and more years of such “examination”, they have no official refugee status. Even widow of first Chechen President Djohar Dudayev and family of Aslan Maskhadov failed to receive this status and were forced to leave the country.
Although the authorities of Azerbaijan do not practice the formal refoulement of Chechens, they tolerate the disappearances and extradite the Chechens in Russia. Since 1999, at least 24 Chechens were illegally transferred in Russia where they faced torture. Most famous is the case of Ruslan Eliyevich Eliyev who had been registered by UNHCR as refugee under No.6032. After his kidnapping in Baku on 09 November 2006, he was found dead in Samashki, Chechnya in March 2007 with traces of severe torture, in a bag thrown down from a helicopter. In April 2008, Yusup Nagayev was arrested for extradition to Russia. He had been registered by the UNHCR already in 2002 under no. 4338. On February 7, 2009, he was extradited to Russia. In June 2008, Azerbaijan forcibly extradited a disabled asylum seeker, Suleyman Ayubov, registered by the UNHCR office in Baku under No. 6024.
Besides them, at least 18 Chechens were secretly extradited from Azerbaijan and consequently arbitrarily executed in Russia. Namely, the representative of Chechen rebels informed in May 2008 about the same fate of Azimov Kyuri, Aziyev Rasul, Bogayev Hampash, Chuchayeva Aset Zhavazhbaudinovna, Demelkhanov Zelimkhan Hamzatovich, Dikayev Mussa Vakhaevich, Edilov Ruslan Muslimovich, Eskiyev Aslan Mogomed-Eminovich, Gadayev Bislan, Gaziyev Imran, Marayev Dokka Lechiyevich, Mazhidov Ramazan, Mezhidov Abubakar, Oybuyev Ruslan, Shaipov Shamil Shamsudinovich, Tsulayeva Zara, and Yandarbiyev Salam.
Therefore, some Chechens try to use the temporary prohibition of non-refoulement as interim measure of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). For example, Chechen asylum seeker Hadji Chankayev was extradited to Russia in July 2006 under the request related to the terrorist case in Kaspiysk, Russia, despite the lawyer’s request of interim measure. The ECtHR was misinformed by the Government about the alleged absence of extradition request of Russia. Only a few days after the ECtHR negative response, Chankayev was extradited. Consequently, the Russian law-enforcement agencies did not find his guilt under the terrorist act and changed the accusation to have him extradited. Finally, Russian authorities accused and sentenced him for alleged theft dating back to a decade to justify the extradition request. In another case, on 30 June 2008, the Azerbaijan authorities arrested Alikhan Khasuyev who had been registered under no. 786–06c06036. Only an urgent request of interim measures from the ECHR in the framework of the case Khatuyeva and Khasuyev v. Azerbaijan and Russia (no. 33810/08) prevented him from immediate extradition.
The Republic of Azerbaijan arrested and extradited to the countries of origin dozens of foreigners accused of crimes committed outside of Azerbaijan. Some of them can be considered as falling under Article 4 CAT. However, the existence of bad practice of torture in these countries and the lack of effective procedures of appeal raise the questions under Article 3 CAT. For example, in the case already mentioned of Mr. Yusup Nagayev, Russian citizen of Chechen origin,, the Russian authorities demanded his extradition under Articles 111 (Intentional Infliction of a Grave Injury) and 126.2 (Abduction) of CrC of the Russian Federation. Nagayev was arrested although at the moment of his arrest, he was registered by the local UNHCR Office under the No. 4338. On 09 May 2008, the ECtHR stopped the extradition and communicated the parties the respective information. On 13 December, the UNHCR decided not to provide Nagayev a refugee status. Consequently, on 22 December 2008, the Prosecutor Office decided to extradite him to Russia. On 23 January 2009, this decision was confirmed by the district court, and on February 7, he was extradited, reportedly without opportunity to appeal against the decision.
That is notable that in its judgment on the case Shamayev and Others v. Georgia and Russia (no. 36378/02, 12 April 2005), the ECtHR decided that the intention of Georgia to extradite five ethnic Chechens to Russia violated Article 13 taken in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. That means that before the change of position of ECHR, the courts of the Republic of Azerbaijan have to take this precedent into account and not to extradite the Chechens in Russia and to prosecute them in Azerbaijan if necessary.”
At the last day of the session, UN Committe Against Torture presented its concluding observations with a report. In the report the committe draw attention to “non refoulement principle“:
“The Committee is concerned at cases of extraordinary rendition such as rendition of Chechens to the Russian Federation, based on bilateral extradition agreements, and Kurds to Turkey, where they may face a real risk of torture. The Committee regrets the lack of data provided on asylum applications and refugees, the number of expulsions, refoulement and extradition cases as well as on the number of cases subjected to judicial administrative review. The Committee also regrets the absence of information on diplomatic assurances and any post-return monitoring procedure established for such cases. (art. 3)”