Law enforcement agencies in Russia are corrupt, act on hints from those in power, and have repeatedly been observed pursuing their own economic interests. In such circumstances it is hard to place confidence in extradition requests from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. Extradition is a most important international legal institution but Russia has frequently used it to carry out an unlawful vendetta against individuals.
Even when Russia’s requests observe all the formal requirements (which is far from always the case) those who approve the return of a suspect to his home country have no guarantee that they will not find themselves complicit in that individual’s persecution. It is very likely that he will not have access to a qualified and independent court and instead, under the guise of a judicial procedure, will be unjustly condemned.
In this context there can be no “straightforward” cases of extradition to Russia. Charges that an individual has committed grave crimes against others may be used as a screen for seizing someone’s business, aided by corrupt law enforcement officials. Accusations of economic crime are often made by the Russian authorities as a way of attacking their political opponents.
Each Western official who has dealings with Russia on issues of extradition must be aware that much depends on his or her decision. Every time the question arises the life of a particular individual is put at risk, as are the life and health of his family and loved ones.
On his return to Russia such an individual comes face to face with an inhuman system that pays no regard to any of his constitutional rights. He may die in a pre-trial detention centre for want of elementary medical care, as was the case with lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Beatings by interrogators may leave a witness crippled if he does not agree to give the testimony they want. That is what happened to Antonio Valdez-Garcia, a Spanish citizen, who was being questioned about the Yukos case. People may be convicted twice on the same charges. An example is the criminal prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
Extradition, in our view, should lead to a fair trial and judgment on the basis of the facts and not result in the total denial of justice to the individual. Acquittals account for less than one per cent of verdicts in Russian courts, however, and are almost regarded by judges as something exceptional.
For all these reasons we are calling for a moratorium on the examination of Russian extradition requests by the European Court of Human Rights. Any other response, in our view, will involve Western judicial bodies in processes for which there is no possible assurance of a fair outcome.
The Russian government has abused, and continues to abuse, the procedures laid down by international agreements on extradition and legal cooperation, the Interpol system and other multilateral conventions against international crime, in order to persecute innocent people – its political opponents, those whose property is coveted or has already been seized by officials, or simply people against whom the government bears a grudge.
We call on all countries of good will to develop mechanisms, at the international and national levels, that will protect their own legal systems and international legal cooperation from abuse by the Russian authorities. Until these are in place a total moratorium should be imposed on all forms of legal cooperation with Russia, including requests for extradition, legal support, and help through Interpol.
You may sign the appeal to your government, using our website or by any other means.
We propose this emergency measure in the sincere hope that the legal nihilism rampant in Russia’s law enforcement and judicial systems will soon be brought under control. Then we shall be able to return to full cooperation with the European Union on matters of extradition.
Nahum Nim, the chief editor of the magazine «Index on Censorship-Dossier»
Grigory Pasko, journalist
Grigory Chkhartishvili, writer
Lyudmila Alekseeva, Moscow Helsinki Group chairman
Sergei Kovalyov, human rights activist
Vladimir Bukovskiy, human rights activist
Natalia Fateeva, actress
Lev Ponomarev, human rights activist
Alexei Simonov, president of the Glasnost defense foundation
Nina Katerli, writer, human rights activist and member of the Russian PEN-Center
Viktor Shenderovich, writer
Yuri Vdovin, human rights activist
Ernst Cherniy, human rights activist
Lydia Grafova, journalist
Yuri Shadrin, human rights activist
Yuri Schmidt, chairman of the Russian Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Andrei Zatoka, The Council of the International Socio-Ecological Union co-chairman
Yuri Ryzhov, the Academy of Sciences academician, State Prize laureate
Mikhail Krieger, the Union Solidarity with Political Prisoners
Artem Kubyshkin, the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners
Sergei Davidis, the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners
Tatiana Monakhova, librarian
Igor Sutyagin, scientist, prisoner of conscience
Vladimir Korsunskiy, journalist
Alexei Kozlov, businessman
Olga Romanova, journalist
Gleb Yakunin, priest, the Committee for Protection of Freedom of Conscience, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Masha Gessen, journalist
Irena Podolskaya, philologist
Marietta Chudakova, a member of the European Academy, Professor of Literature Institute
Lilia Shibanova, «GOLOS» association executive director
Alexander Nikitin, human rights activist, environmentalist
Constantine Kosyakin, «the Left Front» coordinator
Michael Kotsab, ex-Minister of the Czech Republic for Human Rights and National Minorities
Sergei Udaltsov, «the Left Front» coordinator
Liya Akhedzhakova, National Artist of Russia
Sergei Gandlevsky, writer
Vladimir Kara-Murza, journalist
Anatoly Safonov, the special risks divisions veteran
Vladimir Gladyshev, lawyer
Igor Korolkov, journalist, Investigative journalism support fund
Manana Aslamazyan, journalist, Internews Europe
Galina Sidorova, journalist, Investigative journalism support fund
Robert Amsterdam, lawyer, London
Ruslan Morozov, IT-Specialist, Moscow
Ilya Yashin, Solidarity movement Federal Bureau member
Evgeny Usov, journalist, ecologist
George Ramazashvili, historian
Roman Chorny, doctor, advocate, St. Petersburg, Russia
Irina Yassina, journalist, member of the Presidential Human rights Council
Vladimir Osechkin, Moscow, project «NO GULAG!»