Russia and Ukraine colluding in region-wide renditions programme - new report

People abducted and sent back to torture and unfair trials in Central Asian countries

‘These renditions would not be possible without the complicity of public officials in the judicial and law-enforcement structures’ - John Dalhuisen

The security services of Russia, Ukraine and the Central Asian republics are colluding in the abduction, disappearance, unlawful transfer and torture of people in what amounts to a region-wide renditions programme, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

The programme, which has been stepped up in the last two years according to Amnesty, is being resorted to with “increasing frequency”, with people from former Soviet countries abducted by foreign security forces operating in Russia and forcibly returned to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in spite of European Court of Human Rights rulings blocking their extraditions.

Amnesty’s 68-page report, Return to torture: Extradition, forcible returns and removals to Central Asia, shows that people detained on charges related to national security or “religious extremism” are particularly at risk, as are civil society activists, members of Islamist parties and groups, and wealthy individuals who have fallen foul of the regimes.

Cases highlighted by Amnesty include Savriddin Dzhurayev’s - a 27-year-old man from Tajikistan who was abducted by unidentified people in Moscow on the night of 31 October 2011. He was put on a plane to Tajikistan where he says he was tortured by officials at the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Dzhurayev, who had fled Tajikistan in 2006 after being accused of involvement with banned Islamist organisations, was jailed for 26 years in April last year after an unfair trial.

The Russian authorities have denied involvement in Dzhurayev’s rendition to Tajikistan, but in April this year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had been responsible for illegally returning Dzhurayev to Tajikistan, saying Russia’s actions had been “tainted by manifest arbitrariness and abuse of power”.

Over the past two decades thousands of people across the region have said they’ve been arbitrarily detained and tortured or ill-treated in custody in order to extract a forced confession or money from relatives. It is unusual for extradition requests to be rejected, said Amnesty, as good relations and the perceived mutual interest in combating terrorism nearly always come before the human rights of individuals wanted for extradition.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:

“Old habits die hard. These renditions would not be possible without the complicity of public officials in the judicial and law-enforcement structures. Nor would they be possible without CIS states wilfully disregarding the absolute ban on torture and their obligation not to return people to countries where they may be at risk of torture.

“The authorities protest innocence and ignorance about abduction cases, but this lacks all credibility. It is virtually impossible for a wanted individual to disappear on release from a prison in one country and reappear shortly afterwards in prison in another, without the involvement - and close cooperation - of the secret services of both countries.”

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