[ 27. Mar 2011 ]

Extradition Impossible = Immediate Release!

Solidarity - for immediate release!

Statement of the "No Borders" Project of the Social Action Center concerning the detention of a refugee Denis Solopov.


Send the letter to the General Prosecutor of Ukraine - :: here.

Denis Solopov came to Ukraine in search of asylum from persecution by Russian Federation authorities. He turned to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ukraine for protection. Having studied his case, UNHCR came to the conclusion that criminal charges pressed against Denis in Russia carried a political character.

The primary goal of UNHCR in Ukraine is to assist the government of Ukraine in :: creating an effective national refugee protection system. In accordance with the Ukrainian Law "On Refugees", Denis therefore turned to Ukrainian authorities with asylum claim, which he submitted to the Migration Service in Kyiv (MSK). Denis presented the same documents to KMS that he presented to UNHCR, hiding nothing - even the fact that he is wanted by Russian Federation for association with the :: «Khimki case». Unlike UNHCR, the State Committee on Nationality and Religion of Ukraine (SCNR) - being responsible for deciding upon Denis's Ukrainian asylum application - nevertheless came to the conclusion that Denis has no basis for fearing persecution in the Russian Federation, and declined to provide him with refugee status in Ukraine.

It is difficult to judge why SCNR's decision differs so radically from the position of UNHCR: notification regarding rejection in status handed to Denis by KMS on 2 March 2011 does not contain any explanation of the rejection except a scant reference to Article 10 of the Ukrainian Law "On Refugees". Unfortunately, only one thing becomes clear: the asylum system in Ukraine - despite the hopes of UNHCR - cannot pretend to be effective and functional, while asylum seekers' requests are denied even without any explanation.

Moreover: what happened to Denis after he received the rejection demonstrates that the refugee protection system in Ukraine exists as but a trap for refugees, easing their transfer into the hands of their persecutors. On 2 March 2011 - when Denis was presented with the rejection - the KMS arranged his «meeting» with the police who detained him right at the doorstep of the Migration Service to secure his handing over to the RF. Nothing else can explain the circumstances of Denis' apprehension. The place where refugees come to seek protection has been turned by Ukrainian authorities into detention spot.

However, the KMS and Ministry of Internal Affairs did not end up alone in their zeal to secure Denis's transfer into the hands of his persecutors. On 4 March 2011, Kyiv's Solomenskyi court ignored an important fact when inspecting the issue of his temporary arrest with the goal of extradition to Russia: handing over Denis - and consequently his detention in order to secure extradition - is IMPOSSIBLE because he is a refugee. The court did take into account documents that confirm his UNHCR-granted refugee status. It also failed to recognize that SCNR's failure to grant Denis refugee status is not a final determination of his status in Ukraine and had been already appealed under legal procedure. The court likewise decided to simply «overlook» the assertion of the defense that handing over Denis to the RF presents a real risk that he will be subjected to torture, or to inhumane and degrading treatment. Failing to at all take into consideration the above facts, the court simply noted that it did not observe any circumstances that would extradition of Denis Solopov, and ordered his temporary arrest for 40 days.

The Ukrainian court system - as is too often the case - proved to be not only blind, but also deaf. The court ignored not only the defense's arguments, but also international human rights standards together with the norms of Ukrainian law itself. "Competent authorities" may recall that Article 466 of the Criminal Procedure code of Ukraine (CPU) says that a refugee (regardless whether he/she was recognized as such by Ukraine, UNHCR, or another government) - MAY NOT BE transferred to a foreign state where his health, life, or freedom may be in danger. Moreover, in accordance with Article 3 of the European Convention on Extradition, a transfer is not executed if there exists enough basis to assume that a request for extradition was made with the intent to persecute or punish a person based on her political convictions. In this case, :: Article 5(1)(f) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Basic Freedoms assumes that as soon as authorities of a State-Party to this Convention realize or should have realized that a transfer may not be executed deprivation of liberty securing it ceases to be lawful. Article 461 of Ukraine's CPU unequivocally prescribes that a detained person must be RELEASED IMMEDIATELY if circumstances preventing her transfer (extradition) were identified.

Ukrainian Authorities must understand that Denis's extradition is impossible, at the least because he is recognized as a refugee by UNHCR. Therefore, he must be RELEASED IMMEDIATELY.

Denis's lawyer has appealed against Kyiv Solomenskyi Regional Court's decision on Denis's incarceration to a higher court. Will the Court of Appeal be as blind and deaf as the court of the first instance? Or, will it "take a back seat" and - despite the requirements of Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights - put all the responsibility to consider whether Denis's extradition to Russia is possible or not on the General Prosecutor's Office? While this question remains unanswered a refugee Denis Solopov is kept in Kyiv City Pretrial Detention Center, where :: detention conditions are called "medieval and inhuman' even by Ukraine's own Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Article published first on 12. Mar 2011 @ ::