Moscow City Court ratifies the "legality" of substituting extradition with deportation. The final word remains with Strasbourg

12 October 2012 

By Elena Ryabinina 


Moscow city & Moscow region  Refugees, migrants  Judicial protection  European Court of Human Rights 

On 10 October, the Moscow City Court dismissed an appeal by lawyers against the ruling of the Meshchansky District Court of 19 September 2012 on the administrative deportation of Uzbek citizen Akram Karimov, whose expulsion to Uzbekistan had been rejected by the General Prosecutor's Office. Thus, the ruling on Karimov's compulsory return to Uzbekistan came into force, despite the fact that the procedure determining his refugee status had yet to be completed and that he is threatened with torture in a future criminal prosecution on religious grounds.

Karimov might have immediately been sent to Tashkent after the announcement of the Moscow City Court's decision, if Strasbourg had not stayed his expulsion by accepting his lawyers' request for the application of Regulation No 39 of the Rules of the European Court of Human Rights.

As has already been reported, an administrative case against Akram Karimov, a pastry chef from Bukhara, had been initiated by the Russian Chief Prosecutor's Office. Despite having to order his release from remand prison as a result of the dismissal of his extradition due to the lack of a punishable offence under Russian law with regards the criminal acts attributed to him in his homeland, the Chief Prosecutor's Office demanded that he be kept in custody despite "the lack of any grounds" to do so. This order was promptly implemented: the detainee was transported directly from the remand prison to the Krasnoselsky District Police Station where a protocol for an administrative offense that had been committed six months previously was drafted - namely not being registered for residency prior to his arrest for extradition. After this, the Meshchansky Court sustained a request made by the Migration Supervision Service for Karimov's deportation, stating in its ruling that: "the existence of an appeal against the possible refusal by the Russian Federal Migration Service to grant Karimov refugee status... is not, of itself, an obstacle preventing him from being held to administrative account for violating the residency regulations of the Russian Federation". The applicant's argument that there was a risk of him being tortured in his homeland "is of a conjectural nature and is not grounded in the materials of the case", and the "references to decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights... may not be taken into account by the court during the examination of this specific administrative case".

It has to be noted here that the first and last of these assertions are in direct contravention of the law of the Russian Federation and its obligations under international agreements and that the second assertion is by its very nature plainly absurd. For similar reasons Strasbourg has repeatedly stated that decisions of this sort will have predictable consequences and that it is unlawful to demand indisputable proof of events, which might take place in the future.

However, during the Moscow City Court's examination of the appeal against this decision by the Meshchansky Court, Karimov's lawyer's arguments regarding the inadmissibility of replacing extradition with deportation, especially when the issue at stake is the compulsory rendition to his homeland of an asylum seeker who is threatened with torture, were heard but not understood. When examining the written materials of the case the judge paid meticulous attention to the documents pertaining to the extradition investigation and the above quoted reasoning behind the disputed deportation decision. Documents confirming the existence of Karimov's appeal against the refusal to recognise him as an asylum seeker, the systematic use of torture in Uzbekistan and the position of the European Court of Human Rights on similar cases were of considerably less interest to the Judge.

As a result, not for the first time the situation unfolded in a way that has become almost traditional for cases of this sort: the ruling of the Meshchansky Court, which was unlawful in all respects was deemed lawful and well founded, Akram Karimov, who was prevented thanks to the ECHR from being handed back to Uzbekistan, will spend even more time at the Severny Detention Centre for Foreign Citizens and his case will have to run its course at the European Court of Human Rights. There can be no doubt that Karimov's representatives, who have already had to conduct many cases of this sort, will make every possible effort to prevent the compulsory return of their client to face torture in Uzbekistan.

And while this court case has not lost its immediacy a number of interesting questions spring to mind: How many more rulings from the European Court of Human Rights will it take before Russian judges finally take note of their own Russian laws? Why not consult these laws immediately here in Russia - rather than have them pointed out to us via Strasbourg?

Elena Ryabinina, Head of the "Refugee Rights" Programme