Sep 19

Extradition in disguise: the ‘deportation’ and refoulement of Central Asian political exiles from Russia

As his lawyer Roza Magomedova notes, it is becoming a common practice of the Russian authorities to deny access to the asylum proceedings to Central Asian exiles, and to substitute extradition with administrative expulsion or deportation proceedings based on violation of migration rules[1].

On 10th of April, 2017, Saidmarufa Saidov, a Tajikistani national whose extradition had been sought by Tajikistan, was released from the pre-trial detention facility in Moscow as the maximum term provided by law for the detention pending extradition had elapsed. During his detention, Saidov applied for asylum as back home, in Tajikistan, he would be subjected to torture. However, his request for asylum was denied by the Russian authorities. Upon his release, he was subsequently re-arrested and placed in a temporary detention center for foreign citizens. He was charged with violation of the regime of stay in the Russian Federation (Article 18.8 of the Administrative Code) and deported to Tajikistan. In this way, extradition to Tajikistan was replaced by deportation. Saidov was deported to Tajikistan despite Rule 39 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which prohibits his removal to Tajikistan where he could face torture.

The recent tendencies of Russian authorities to resort to deportation is very alarming. While extradition or administrative expulsion provide an effective remedy against violation of the right not to be subjected to prohibited treatment in case of removal, the deportation proceedings provide no room for challenging the order. In fact, the deportation procedure takes place immediately, after the deportation order has been issued by the authorities. Therefore, it does not provide any time-space between notification of the deportation order and its enforcement[2].  

Additionally, as the case of Saidmarufa Saidov demonstrates, when a person is wanted by another CIS member states, Russian law enforcement often disregards ECtHR decisions. To recall, in 2015, Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing Russia’s Constitutional Court to ignore judgement of internal human rights rulings.  Since 2015, Russia has continuously ignored the ECtHR bans on extradition. In July 2016, Uzbek citizen Olim Ochilov was forcibly returned from Russia to Uzbekistan, despite the application of the Rule 39. Similarly, in November 2017, the Supreme Court of Russian Federation approved the extradition of Khurshed Odinayev, a Tajik citizen, to his homeland despite the ECtHR ban.

Another underlying reason for such trends is that the Russian authorities give priority to international and bilateral agreements. Under the Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, signatories parties (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan) are obliged to assist each other in extraditions of wanted individuals. Article 56 of the Convention further states that ‘the person can be detained, before the demand of receiving extradition, by special request’. Under this agreement, the Russian authorities effectively disregard the principle of non-refoulement when the individual face a real risk of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment if returned to his country of origin. As such, a person wanted by the law-enforcement authorities of CIS countries, could be deliberately stripped of his rights and legal representation using deportation in contrast to lengthy legal extradition or administrative forced expulsion procedures.

As Daria Trenina and Kiril Zharinov (2017) note: ‘the Russian Government claims that the asylum proceedings (refugee status and temporary asylum proceedings regulated by the Law on Refugees) afford effective protection from removal. In reality, however, this is not the case’. Those who applied for temporary asylum or seekers of refugee status who are considered by law enforcement as protected from refoulement are not safe as their status is subject to the final decision from federal migration authority who often dismisses their applications. As seen with the case of Saidmarufa Saidov, the subsequent judicial proceedings are often ignored and thus do not protect an individual from deportation.

Russia has long been the biggest recipient of Central Asian migrants and political exile groups. Practical factors such as visa-free regimes with Central Asian countries, labour market and the region’s cultural and historical familiarity has attracted many Central Asian citizens to move to Russia. However, the above trends demonstrate that, living in Russia, Central Asian citizens are extremely vulnerable to forcible return to face detention and torture.

[1] Interview Civic Committee Association, Moscow March 25th, 2018

[2] Trenina, Daria and Zharinov, Kiril (2017). ‘From Russia to torture: Lack of or deficient remedies against prohibited treatment in extradition and other types of removal proceedings’. Foreign Policy Centre, December 4, 2017. Available at: