An open appeal regarding possible extradition of Kazakh opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov to Ukraine
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, the All-Ukrainian Association of Civic Organizations, and “No Borders” Project express their deep concerns regarding possible extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a well-known Kazakh opposition politician, to Ukraine.
While lacking accurate information regarding the validity of charges against Mr. Ablyazov in Ukraine, we cannot help but underline the uniqueness of this case. At least we are not aware of any other cases of Ukraine demanding extradition of a foreign citizen, who had never lived in Ukraine, and had not caused any harm to any of its residents, while the legal reason for the criminal prosecution had been a claim by a foreign-owned business entity, which up until recently had been owned by Mr. Ablyazov himself.
A careful analysis of the recent events related to Mr. Ablyazov, including numerous facts of his family members and friends held in custody pending extradition and subsequently extradited to their country of origin, put in reasonable doubt the sincerity of Ukraine’s intentions, which obviously are not limited to the desire to just bring the guilty parties to justice.
In view of the general political context, and, particularly, the close cooperation of Ukraine with its CIS partners – Russia and Kazakhstan, and taking into account overall situation in our country, we have a good reason to fear that after his extradition to Ukraine Mr. Ablyazov may be re-extradited to third countries and ultimately end up in Kazakhstan.
Even in spite of diplomatic assurances, if any such assurances have ever been provided by Ukraine, the risk of Mr. Ablyazov’s further illegal transfer will be the highest during the entire period of the criminal investigation and his stay in Ukraine.
No matter how bitter it is to say, unfortunately, diplomatic assurances of Ukraine currently cannot be trusted.
First of all, Ukrainian legislation has no legal provisions that regulate such cases: there are no regulations on legal responsibility for the violation of guarantees, neither the mechanisms to review the compliance with such guarantees. Secondly, and most importantly, any guaranties or assurances a priori cannot be observed in an atmosphere of total corruption, abuse of power and lawlessness that prevail in all spheres of the state activity.
These are the conclusions of this year’s UNHCR report on Ukraine, in which the UN Refugee Agency says that Ukraine cannot be considered a safe country for refugees, and urges other countries not to return asylum seekers to Ukraine until the status quo will remain unchanged.
According to the above UNHCR report, "UNHCR is aware of a recent case, when the authorities of the country of origin even were granted access to the refugees in detention centers." In the report, the UNHCR expresses "deep concern" regarding another unusual case when extradition “occurred as a result of the abduction of an asylum seeker from the territory of Ukraine." According to the UNHCR’s report, “in October 2012 an asylum seeker from Russia disappeared near UNHCR partner non-government organization’s office and reappeared two days later in a Russian detention center”. The UNHCR also refers to two previous cases of alleged abduction involving asylum seekers from Palestine and Uzbekistan. According to the UNHCR, these incidents have not been investigated properly.
Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that in Ukraine abduction and illicit trafficking of foreign citizens occur systematically, and the government remains persistently reluctant to acknowledge the problem. Meanwhile, experts rule out even a theoretical possibility of successfully carrying out such operations without a direct support or indulgent attitude on the part of the government. However, no guilty parties have yet been named, neither anyone has ever been punished.
Ukraine not only ignores its obligations under the international treaties, it openly defies its own laws. Cases are known when refugees, recognized by Ukraine itself, were returned to their countries of origin.
The worst is of all is that the Ukrainian state fails to protect a person from a contract murder even when such person is in custody and cries out for protection. That had happened to a Russian citizen Mr. Kurochkin, who repeatedly informed the law-enforcement about a threat to his life to be subsequently shot dead while escorted out of a Kiev court in 2007 and whose murder remains unpunished.
Another similar incident occurred in the Kiev remand prison. According to the U.S. State Department Ukraine Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012, "On August 3, refugee A. was severely beaten while in custody in a Kyiv pretrial detention center. A. had been classified as an asylum seeker, and the UNHCR recognized him as a refugee under its mandate. Detention officials reportedly moved A. to the visiting area of the detention center, where an unidentified outsider beat him. He suffered a number of injuries and lapsed into a coma.”
In view of above, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and the “No Borders” Project appeal to the Republic of France with a request not to extradite Mukhtar Ablyazov to Ukraine, where there is a high risk of his re-extradition to his country of origin, and the requesting state cannot guarantee the physical safety and personal security of any persecuted person.
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