Chechen Refugee Faces Extradition From Greece
A Flemish daily newspaper, “De Standard” has reported that a Chechen, who has been granted refugee status in Belgium, is facing the threat of extradition from Greece to Russia.
Aslan Chamutaev, born in 1982, and his brother Aslanbek Chamutaev, born in 1981, fled the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in 2000 because of the war and oppression that they faced. In 2006, both of them were recognized as refugees in Belgium and started new lives there in peace. More than three months ago, Aslan wanted to go to Turkey in his car. As he approached the border, he was arrested by Greek police on the pretext that there was an arrest warrant from Russia for him since May of 2012. The Greek authorities immediately started the extradition process, and on March 22, a Greek court decided to extradite him to Russia.
“Aslan is accused of offenses in 2011; however, he left this country in 2000 and has never returned. It is just incomprehensible. He has also been recognized as a political refugee in Belgium, because he was persecuted in Russia. It is mind boggling that he will be extradited to the country from which he fled. What is the Geneva Convention worth?” said Joris Van Cauter, his Belgian lawyer.
“I fear for the life of my brother,” said Aslanbek.
“Unfortunately there is no formal rule that a country prohibits anyone with political refugee status to indicate to the country that the person just fled. But each member state, including Greece, is bound by the Geneva Convention and the EU Directive not to extradite someone to a country where he/she is in danger. But there is an interpretation by each member state. So, a member state may decide that there is now no longer fear for the person in the country from which he had fled. However, my experience is that pretty soon it will be decided not to extradite him,” said Dirk Van den Bluck, Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons.
Aslan’s lawyer Joris Van Cauter has also asked the UNHCR, and the UN refugee agency, to intervene. He will also try to start a procedure in the European Court of Human Rights.
“It is a fight against time, because Greece can, at any time proceed to extradite. I do not dare to think of the possible consequences. I hope that Belgium takes responsibility and asks Greece not to extradite him,” added Van Cauter.
*Text was written by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco