On 26 September 2013, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted an Interim Resolution in response to the failure of Russia to implement reforms required by a set of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
All of the cases concern attempts by persons seeking asylum in Russia to halt their requested extradition or expulsion to States where they would face a real risk of torture and ill-treatment, such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Belarus. In each final judgment, the Court has declared that the expulsion or extradition of the applicant would violate their rights under Article 3 European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) on prevention of torture and degrading treatment. In each case still pending, the Court has issued a Rule 39 interim measure prohibiting the removal of the applicant.
The Committee of Ministers is deeply concerned that, despite Russia responding by officially halting removal, many applicants have been abducted and irregularly transferred to States where they face a risk of torture. The sheer number of victims of kidnapping is described in the Interim Resolution as ‘an alarming and unprecedented situation’.
The Committee stresses that “this situation has the most serious implications for the Russian domestic legal order, the effectiveness of the Convention system and the authority of the Court” and calls upon the Russian authorities “to adopt as a matter of urgency special protective measures for applicants exposed to a risk of kidnapping and irregular transfer”.
Rachel Bugler, Amnesty International’s expert on Tajikistan, welcomed the Committee’s Interim Resolution and told the ECRE Weekly Bulletin that, according to Amnesty’s information, “there have been at least nine cases of abduction of people, in relation to whom the Rule 39 measures were in place, since August 2011”. She said that “these incidents of abductions, which are often carried out by the security services of participating countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) operating freely in each other’s territory, have continued unabated and are so frequent that they amount to a region-wide renditions programme”.
“There is clearly a lack of political will to address the problem”, she added. It is hoped that Russia will listen to the strong wording of the Council of Europe’s latest message and effectively put a stop to this long-standing pattern of abductions and irregular transfers.
The group of 34 cases, collectively known as the ‘Garabayev group’, named after the applicant in the first case, Garabayev v Russia (no. 38411/02), arise from a series of applications to the ECtHR since 2002.