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8 November 2012
Uzbek asylum seeker and Strasbourg applicant disappeared in Nizhny Novgorod
On 6 November 2012 we have learnt that four days before, on 2 November 2012, Uzbek national Azamatzhon Ermakov, born in 1972, had disappeared in Nizhny Novgorod. His background allows to reasonably conclude that he had become another victim of abduction and perhaps had already been unlawfully transferred to his country of origin.
Ermakov was detained in Nizhny Novgorod on 14 November 2009 upon the request of the Uzbek authorities who had been searching him on the basis of politically motivated charges of religious character. The decision of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to extradite him was upheld by the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. The real risk of torture of the applicant in Uzbekistan was ignored, as well as the multiple traces of falsification in the Uzbek investigation documents and the fact that the extradition decision had been taken during the examination of Azamatzhon’s refugee application and thus per se unlawful. However, the extradition decision could not have been enforced given that the European Court of Human Rights halted the extradition pursuant to rule 39 of the Rules of Court. In June 2011 Azamatzhon was released as under Russian law he could not have been detained for more than eighteen months.
On 1 July 2011 he was again detained, this time on suspicion of strolling around the city with a grenade in his jeans’ hip pocket. Azamatzhon alleged that the grenade had been planted on him during the apprehension. He insisted on that during both investigation and trial which lasted approximately a year when he was repeatedly offered to enter guilty plea in exchange of immediate release. Having been firm in claiming his innocence, Mr Ermakov categorically refused to incriminate himself. In the end of the day, on 7 September 2012 the Nizhny Novgorod Kanavinskiy District Court sentenced him to a year and four months’ imprisonment and extended his detention until the entry of its judgment into force. The examination of his appeal is scheduled to take place on 23 November 2012.
On 2 November 2012 attorney Yuriy Sidorov who had been defending Ermakov since his arrest with a view to extradition in 2009 came to visit his client at the pre-trial detention centre. However, it was not possible for him to see his client when he found out that the staff was celebrating the penitentiary service’s “professional day”. After the national holiday, a day of popular unity 4 November, the lawyer found out that on 2 November Mr Ermakov had been released and his current whereabouts were unknown.
However, less than a week before that Azamatzhon again expressed to the lawyer his concerns that he could be abducted at the moment of release. Given that during the last year the practice of abduction and extraordinary rendition to the countries of origin of the asylum seekers who cannot be lawfully expelled due to the Strasbourg orders is developing, these concerns are well-founded.
The attorney requested the local police department and the Nizhny Novgorod city prosecutor’s office to investigate his client’s disappearance and prosecute those responsible. Ermakov’s counsel before the European Court of Human Rights informed the Court about what had happened to him and sent the requests to the Prosecutor General’s Office and to the Ministry of the Interior to take the urgent measures to establish his whereabouts. Besides that, they sent a letter to the Federal Security Service which is in charge of the Russian border control in order to establish whether Azamatzhon had crossed the Russian border and, if yes, where, when, and how.
In all those requests the attention was drawn to the fact that Ermakov’s case in Strasbourg had already passed through all preliminary stages of examination and awaits to be considered on the merits. If the concerns about his possible abduction and involuntary transfer to Uzbekistan are confirmed, this will mean that the Russian Federation has again breached its international obligations under article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing a right of individual petition to the Court (compare with the Court’s recent judgment in Abdulkhakov v. Russia).