Below is a statement by IPHR’s partner organization Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law on the recent French court decision sanctioning the extradition of well-known exiled Kazakhstani opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov.
Brief background information: On 9 January 2014, a court in the French city of Aix-en-Provence ruled that Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker and outspoken critic of the Kazakhstani government, should be extradited to Russia or Ukraine to face criminal charges of fraud and embezzlement. The court gave priority to extradition to Russia as he faces more extensive charges there. The defence said it would appeal the decision. Ablyazov, who has been living in exile in Europe since fleeing his native country in 2009, is also wanted by the Kazakhstani authorities on similar charges, as well as charges relating to his alleged role in the December 2011 Zhanaozen events. Unlike Russia and Ukraine, Kazakhstan does not have any extradition treaty with France.
Statement by Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law on the inadmissibility of the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, 14 January 2014
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) believes that, irrespective of the severity of the criminal charges brought against Mukhtar Ablyazov by the Kazakhstani, Russian and Ukrainian authorities, the decision of the French court to extradite him to Russia or Ukraine contradicts international human rights standards.
Russia and Ukraine are countries where Mukhtar Ablyazov cannot be guaranteed the right to a fair and open public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal. As shown by monitoring undertaken by our Russian and Ukrainian human rights defender colleagues, courts in these two countries may hand down unfair rulings on the orders of executive authorities. In particular, the lack of impartiality is evident in the consideration of politically motivated criminal cases. The criminal proceedings against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev in Russia, as well as against Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine are prominent examples of this. The monitoring findings of human rights organizations also give reason to fear that Mukhtar Ablyazov may be subjected to torture in these two countries.
Mukhtar Ablyazov has been a political opponent of the Kazakhstani authorities for ten years and has financed Kazakhstan’s democratic opposition, supported mass media that vocally criticize the country’s political system and provided assistance to public organizations opposing the regime. Given this, there is no doubt that there is a strong political component of the criminal charges brought against him by the Kazakhstani authorities. This means that, in the current circumstances, the charges against him could not be fairly and objectively considered in Kazakhstan. This same political dimension may also influence the objectivity of court proceedings against Mukhtar Ablyazov in Russia or Ukraine, if he is extradited there.Taking into account the close partnership of the Kazakhstani authorities with the Russian and Ukrainian authorities, as well as the existence of mutual extradition agreements, KIBHR:
– expresses its doubt that legal proceedings against Mukhtar Ablyazov would be just and fair in any of these countries; and does not exclude the possibility that the Russian and Ukrainian authorities may extradite Mukhtar Ablyazov further to Kazakhstan.
In view of the above, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law considers it inadmissible to extradite Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia or Ukraine, where he cannot be guaranteed a fair and just trial and where he would be at risk of being extradited to Kazakhstan to face punishment for political reasons.
The original Russian version of the statement is available here.
For more information on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan, including persecution of the political opposition, see IPHR-KIBHR briefing paper from November 2013.