14 March 2014

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe last week issued a decision which reiterated the Committee’s ‘serious concern’ over the continued failure of Russia to implement a ‘protective and preventive mechanism’ to bring an end to abductions and unlawful transfers of asylum seekers in Russia to countries where they face a real risk of torture or ill-treatment.

This requirement to implement these measures arises from a group of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and was reiterated in the Committee’s Interim Resolution, which was adopted on 26 September 2013 in the course of their periodical supervision of the implementation of ECtHR judgments.

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. All of the cases concern persons seeking asylum in Russia who had attempted 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 ECtHR declared that the expulsion or extradition of the applicant would violate their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which prohibits torture and degrading treatment. In the  cases that are still pending, the Court had issued a Rule 39 interim measure prohibiting the removal of the applicant. In all cases, the person has disappeared and their irregular removal is suspected.  

The Committee’s decision last week expressed serious concern that ‘the repetitive nature of the violations established suggests that certain authorities developed a practice in breach of their obligations under Russian law and the Convention’.The Committee is also seriously concerned about a new incident, taking place despite Russia’s alleged reforms and the Committee’s recommendations, which concerns Mr Azimov, who was reportedly abducted on 3 December 2013 from a temporary accommodation centre under the authority of Russia’s Federal Migration Service. His current whereabouts are unknown.

The Committee regrets the slow progress of the Russian authorities in remedying the situation and seeks information from Russia as to how it intends to improve security guarantees in temporary accommodation centres and provide assistance in the resettlement of asylum seekers to safe third countries. The Committee also wishes to have clarification as to what measures Russia is taking to ensure that investigations into abductions are efficient, are subject to close scrutiny, and result in the rapid prosecution of those responsible.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 14 March 2014
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