Chechen exile in UK fears explusion will mean extradition to Russia
Masud Dudayev to appeal against UK court decision returning him to Sweden where ‘asylum is not assured’.
A prominent Chechen exile, who fled to Britain fearing assassination, has been ordered by the high court to be returned to Sweden, from where he could be forcibly removed to Russia.
Masud Dudayev, a friend of the murdered Rusian exile Alexander Litvinenko, and son-in-law of a former Chechen president, arrived in the UK two years ago after Sweden refused to accept his application for political asylum. He and his family are living in London with Ahmed Zakayev, the exiled Chechen nationalist leader who has been granted leave to remain in Britain and who has himself been targeted by a Russian hitman.
Dudayev, who held senior positions in the Chechen Republic, fled from his homeland in 2000 following the second Russian-Chechen war, subsequently moving between Azerbaijan, Lithuania and Turkey before entering Sweden. He left Turkey, the high court judgment said, “because of assassinations of, and threats to, prominent Chechens”.
The Sweden, however, refused to give the family permission to stay on grounds they had not sought asylum when they lived in Turkey and had been granted new Russian passports since then. The Swedish court doubted that the Dudayevs “would be of interest to Russian authorities if they returned”.
Under the EU asylum rules known as Dublin II applicants usually have to apply for residency in the first EU country they enter. Giving judgment, Lord Justice Burnett said: “Sweden is a highly developed democracy governed by the rule of law. This case demonstrates that it has a well functioning system for determining asylum claims …. There is a system which allows fresh applications supported if necessary with court orders preventing removal pending their resolution. Should it be necessary there is access to [the European court of human rights in] Strasbourg with every expectation that Sweden would abide by any interim measures indicated by the Strasbourg court.”
The Home Office, the judge added, was, entitled to come to the conclusion that Sweden would honour its legal obligations to the claimants.
Dudayev said: “I have spent my whole adult life working to realise the Chechen people’s dream of free and independent statehood. Many of my friends and colleagues have been killed, inside and outside Russia, for doing the same. As a result, my family and I have been living in exile for fifteen years.
“While I respect the authorities of the UK and Sweden, I will exercise every legal possibility to prevent my return to Russia where I know my life, and the lives of my wife and children, would be in grave danger.”
Daniel Furner, of the law firm Birnberg Peirce and partners, who represent Dudayev, said: “Mr Dudayev and his family are very disappointed by the court’s judgment, and will be seeking to appeal. Throughout the long history of this case, in which even more clear evidence of how this family will be treated in Russia has emerged, Sweden has offered no assurance yet that it will reconsider the family’s asylum claim and give them a fresh right of appeal. My clients have no option but to believe they could be removed quickly from Sweden to Russia without a proper review of their case.”
There was a growing body of evidence about the fate awaiting Dudayev and his family in Russia, Furner added, including a report by Amnesty International which concluded that “should [Dudayev] and his children be returned to the Russian federation they are at real risk of persecution, serious harm or other ill treatment, including enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial execution, on account of the [Dudayev’s] specific profile and past history”.
Owen Bowcott – Legal affairs correspondent