‘An Uzbek Razvozzhaev’: Another Refugee Kidnapped in Russia

18 December 2012 


Elena Ryabinina

Source: HRO.org
Uzbekistan citizen Yusup Kasymakhunov, who four days previously had been released following almost nine years of imprisonment, disappeared from the Moscow Region on 14th December 2012. The Uzbek authorities have sought his extradition since 1999, accusing him of being a member of the organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The Russian authorities sanctioned his extradition, completely ignoring both national and international laws in the process. However, the compulsory return of Kasymakhunov to Uzbekistan was prevented from happening in any form by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. 

There is no doubt that the disappearance of Kasymakhunov is kidnap with the aim of handing him over to the Uzbek authorities. In fact, in all likelihood, this has already happened.

This event could be described as unprecedented, although it is the latest in a long line of kidnappings in Russia of asylum seekers protected from extradition by the court in Strasbourg.

As far as we are aware, in all of these cases the Russian authorities were pre-emptively provided with documents showing that any disappearance of the applicant could only be the result of kidnap. And every time human rights activists have attempted to stop the kidnapping, with the help of the office of the Russian Representative at the ECtHR.

The fact that Kasymakhunov has disappeared despite all of this means that the Russian authorities, and, first and foremost, the Russian Federal Security Service, which includes the Border Guard Service, are publically and blatantly ignoring both Russian legislation and Russia’s international legal obligations.

Under these conditions, the only place where refugees wanted for extradition can live without fearing kidnap are detention centres, where the authorities are responsible for them.

Whilst there are obvious parallels between this case and the kidnap of Leonid Razvozzhaev, it is worth pointing out the fundamental difference between the two. Whilst in the Razvozzhaev case the Russian security service was acting in a neighbouring sovereign state, here, as in other similar kidnappings within Russia, they are promoting the disregard of Russia’s sovereignty by its CIS allies.

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In 2004 Kasymakhunov was sentenced by Moscow City Court to seven years and four months imprisonment for membership of the prohibited organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. In June 2011, one day before the end of his prison term, the Kola District Court, Murmansk Region, in a visiting session at the prison where Yusup was being held, imposed a restriction order on him in the form of detention in connection with renewed extradition proceedings.

It should be noted that Yusup had changed his views and left Hizb ut-Tahrir long before this occurred. In April 2011 the Russian Prosecutor General ordered his extradition to Uzbekistan on practically the same charges. This entered into force in July, but was not carried out due to the suspension of the extradition by the ECtHR (see http://www.fergananews.com/news.php?id=19087 and http://www.hro.org/node/14660).

Yusup twice submitted claims for release following the expiry of the maximum possible length for arrest pending extradition. The first, addressed to his lawyer, noted that if he suddenly were to vanish in Russia, and then subsequently be discovered in Uzbekistan, that would mean he had been kidnapped and forcibly removed to his country of origin. He stated that he had no wish to return there voluntarily under any circumstances, knowing that he would face torture and unfair trial on his arrival. The second was a petition to Russia’s representative at the ECtHR (Mr Georgy Matyushkin), asking him to do everything possible to prevent a potential kidnap. The whole of the following day Yusup did not leave the house, just to be on the safe side.

On the evening of 14th December, at around 11 pm, his phone was ‘temporarily unavailable’. Sensing that something was wrong, Kirill Koroteev and Elena Ryabinina, Kasymakhunov’s representatives during his case in Strasbourg, went to Verbilki that night, having informed one of Mr Matyushkin’s colleagues about their concerns. They discovered from her that she had recently immediately granted a request for preventive measures to be taken.

The door to Yusup’s flat was locked and undamaged, there were no signs of any struggle in the stairwell, and everything seemed to be in order. Kasymakhunov’s representatives gave a statement at the nearest police station about his disappearance and noted that the only explanation was kidnap with the aim of his illegal extradition to Uzbekistan.

However, they were told in the police control room that work on the statement would only begin the following day, when the authorities would elect the person to take on the case.

In the morning of 15th December Kasymakhunov’s representatives learned from the landlady of the flat that he had phoned her the day before at around 1.20 pm, asking for some pliers and a screwdriver for a small repair job and to find out where he could take the rubbish that had accumulated over the previous couple of days in his new residence. She suggested that Yusup meet her at the entrance to the neighbouring building where she lived to collect the tools, ringing her first to give her some warning. He did not call.

In the flat everything was completely normal - there were a folder of documents and a Koran on a shelf in a cabinet and a Muslim prayer mat on a chair, the fridge was full of food and there were no traces of any emergency - the bathroom light had even been left on. It appeared that the flat’s occupant had only gone out for a few minutes. The empty bin suggested he might have been taking the rubbish out.

His possessions and documents were in their rightful places. Only Yusup’s outer clothing and the documents which he was recommended to carry with him at all times were missing. Later it became known that the cars that had previously worried Yusup were still outside his house on the morning of 14th December, but by the middle of the day they had gone.

Meanwhile, between the evening of the 14th and the morning of the 15th December there were three flights to Tashkent and one to Andijan from Moscow’s airports. The flight to Andijan and one of the flights to Tashkent were run by the airline Uzbekistan Airways. Incidentally, in 2006 an Uzbekistan Airways aeroplane was used to illegally extradite Rustam Muminov to Uzbekistan, and on 2nd November this year Azamatzhon Ermakov, who had disappeared following his release the same morning from detention in Nizhny Novgorod, “left Russia” via the same route (see http://www.fergananews.com/news/19742 and http://hro.org/node/15037).

Considering all the evidence, Kasymakhunov’s lawyers and representatives are in no doubt that he is already in a detention centre, either in Tashkent or Andijan.

You can find out more about the Kasymakhunov case from Elena Ryabinina (tel. +7 903 197 04 34) and Kirill Koroteev, senior lawyer at the Memorial Human Rights Centre (tel. +7 916 324 97 89).

Elena Ryabinina,
Director of the ‘Right to Asylum’ programme at the Human Rights Institute

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