On April 24, press conference “Fikrat Huseynov’s long way home. Extradition of victims of political persecution to their countries of origin” was held at press center Glavcom by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and Right to Protection
Participants: People’s Deputy of Ukraine Mykola Knyazhytskyi, Director of UHHRU Advocacy Center Borys Zakharov, Head of the charitable foundation Right to Protection, Fikrat Huseynov’s lawyer Dmytro Mazurok and Director of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group Yevhen Zakharov.
The extradition procedure and asylum system in Ukraine as well as the established case law create favorable conditions for the extradition of political refugees to their countries of origin, particularly to the aggressor state of Russia, as well as other authoritarian countries of the former USSR where they face with death, torture, forced disappearance or long-term imprisonment.
According to Director of UHHRU Advocacy Center Borys Zakharov, the problems that asylum seekers face in authoritarian states include a violation of the right to liberty and personal integrity in extradition cases. “We have mandatory temporary detention but no other precautionary measures,” says the human rights defender. “These exists a practice of repeated detentions, when a person gets arrested numerous times and a legal conflict arises when, for instance, an appellate court releases a person while the investigating judge orders an arrest again.” He also cited illegal extension of extradition detention, which is supposed to last no longer than one year according to the law, but often gets extended by 40 extra days.
Ukrainian system in this area shows a wide range of systemic human rights violations, which are analyzed by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group in its report “Safety of victims of persecution by foreign authoritarian regimes in Ukraine”:
Abduction and illegal extradition to the country of origin;
Denying the option to apply for asylum in Ukraine and misuse of the application procedure;
Providing confidential information to the authorities of the country of origin;
Unjustified refusal to grant asylum;
Violation of appeals procedure;
Failure to comply with court decisions and launch of numerous appeals against court decisions by the State Migration Service of Ukraine;
Violation of the right to liberty and personal integrity in extradition cases due to the lack of alternatives to temporary detention; repeated arrests; illegal extension of the duration of extradition detention;
Torture and ill-treatment.
Recent years saw numerous instances of murders, forced disappearances and kidnappings in Ukraine, as well as torture of persons persecuted by the Russian Federation and other authoritarian regimes. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, within the framework of the project “Asylum System Reform” and with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is handling over 50 cases of victims of persecution by foreign authoritarian regimes, asylum seekers, foreigners and stateless persons whose rights have been violated. Strategic representation of victims of persecution, combined with advocacy campaigns, helps a lot a people. One such case is the case of the famous Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist, citizen of the Netherlands Fikrat Huseynov (Huseynli).
On October 14, 2017 Fikrat Huseynov was arrested by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine at the Boryspil International Airport. When he was about to board a flight to Dusseldorf, it turned out that Mr. Huseynov had been put on the international wanted list at the request of Azerbaijan. As a result, the journalist was detained and on October 17 arrested by the Boryspil District Court for 18 days in order to extradite him. Azerbaijani Government claimed that in 2008 Fikrat Huseynov left the country allegedly for the purpose of organizing illegal emigration of certain citizens from Azerbaijan. The journalist was suspected of forging documents regarding the persecution of certain individuals for their ideological and political views and social affiliation, and provided this information to foreign immigration authorities. As a result, certain individuals were granted refugee status in various European countries. Fikrat Huseynov actually left Azerbaijan after he had been kidnapped, brutally beaten and stabbed in the neck with a knife. The kidnappers were never found. He was granted refugee status and then citizenship by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A week before the arrest, Fikrat Huseynov arrived in Ukraine without difficulty. He meant to open a Ukrainian branch of the political opposition’s Azerbaijani satellite TV channel Turan.TV. According to the journalist, the whole time he was in Ukraine he was followed by secret services.
The call in defense of Fikrat Huseynov was voiced by the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, IPHR (International Partnership for Human Rights) and Turan.TV, as well as other international and Ukrainian organizations.
On October 27 Fikrat Huseynov was released on the order of the Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv, vouched for by People’s Deputy Mykola Knyazhytskyi and Director of UHHRU Advocacy Center Borys Zakharov.
Prosecutor Rustam Sutko went straight from the courtroom to Kyiv pre-trial detention facility, where the journalist had been kept, and unlawfully took his passport. Only two months later, during the extended period of the preventive measure, the prosecutor’s office managed to “sell” an additional obligation for Fikrat Huseynov “to provide his passport of a citizen of the Netherlands for safekeeping”.
We found out almost immediately through diplomatic channels that the Interpol’s Commission for the Control of Files removed Fikrat Huseynov’s name from the wanted list in light of the obvious political persecution. However, Ukraine’s National Police, Prosecutor’s Office and courts ignored this and refused to make the necessary inquiries.
No apparent progress had been made in the case for six months. Fikrat Huseynov was forced to stay in Ukraine, and the Prosecutor’s Office of Kyiv Oblast responsible for the extradition check was taking its time. During this time, only two inquiries were sent to the State Migration Service of Ukraine to ascertain whether the journalist had applied for refugee status or Ukrainian citizenship. Only on April 2, 2018 the investigating judge of the Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv ruled against extending the preventive measure against Fikrat Huseynov. This was so sudden for prosecutor Serhiy Ostapets who was present at the trial that he took the journalist’s passport from the court secretary and left the building. Unfortunately, neither Fikrat’s complaints nor the report of the crime made by People’s Deputy Mykola Knyazhytskyi were enough to get the illegally taken passport back. Fikrat once again was forced to stay in Ukraine, with no such restriction imposed by the court.
Despite the gross violations of the law by the prosecutor’s office, in a few days the court received another petition to authorize a preventive measure which would require Fikrat not to leave Kyiv without first informing the prosecutor and to relinquish his passport to the Prosecutor’s Office. However, the investigating judge could not reach a decision in a single sitting and announced a break. After the hearing ended, lawyer Dmytro Mazurok approached the secretary and took the case files and Fikrat’s passport. Despite the protests of the prosecutor, the court refused to intervene and cover another violation of the law by the prosecutor’s office.
This allowed Fikrat Huseynov to leave Ukraine legally the next day. He crossed the border with Poland and safely arrived in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that the extradition check is still ongoing, the journalist is no longer in danger of being extradited to Azerbaijan.
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