We are deeply concerned over the deterioration of the international reputation of Ukraine connected to the extradition of refugees and prisoners of conscience to countries with a low level of democracy, and we hereby call on representatives of the new government not to repeat the mistakes of the past regime and to refuse to cooperate with authoritarian regimes in Russia and Kazakhstan in their abuse of the Interpol system carried out in order to persecute political opponents.
Repeated incidents of violations of the rights of refugees and persons prosecuted for political reasons, have proven that the state of Ukraine is oblivious to the systematic practice of kidnapping and secret transferral of foreign nationals outside the country. Such inaction inevitably entails conclusions, reflected in the report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the year 2013 in Ukraine, in which the UN Agency for Refugees stated that Ukraine cannot be considered a safe country for refugees, and called on other countries not to render asylum seekers to Ukraine. Violation of the rights of refugees has had an extremely negative impact on Ukraine’s international image and undermined the confidence of the international community in the Ukrainian authorities regarding its adherence to democratic standards.
An illustrative example is the case of Leonid Razvozzhayev, a participant of protests at Bolotnaya Square in Russia, who was accused by Russian law enforcement agencies of organising the riots on the basis of materials of the film ‘Anatomy of a protest – 2’. On 19 October, 2012, he disappeared near the office of a partner organisation of the UN Agency for Refugees, where he declared his intention to seek asylum in Ukraine. The next day, Russia’s Investigative Committee stated that Razvozzhayev had issued a written confession in Moscow. Then, a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine announced that a kidnapping had taken place, yet stating “it is not a criminal case, but rather part of cooperation between law enforcement agencies, of which I know nothing.”
Unfortunately, some instances of a lobbying influence on the investigative authorities of Ukraine, which may be qualified as corruptive, have also been noted. An example of such cooperation is the case of BTA Bank, in particular, the request to extradite to Ukraine, Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh opposition leader and former owner of BTA Bank, as well as his colleague, Tatiana Paraskevich. In March 2014, correspondence between representatives of BTA Bank (Kazakhstan) and employees of the law firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’, representing the interests of BTA Bank in Ukraine and lobbying for the criminal prosecution of parties to the case, has been published. This correspondence confirms the direct interference of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank with the work of Ukrainian investigative bodies in order to bring about contrived criminal proceedings. Through the law firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’, the Kazakh party transferred to Ukrainian investigators information and personal data of an accused individual in the case of BTA Bank; produced indictment acts and requests for extradition, provided guidance to Ukrainian investigators as to who shall be declared wanted by Interpol, what questions to ask during interrogations and on which areas required a specific focus during the investigations.The data transfer was conducted through unofficial and rather informal e-mails, bypassing the rules established through legislation.
Considering that currently, 97.3% of the property of BTA Bank is owned by the state of Kazakhstan, BTA Bank fully represents the position of Kazakh government, which is interested in the criminal prosecution of the former managers of the bank. Mukhtar Ablyazov as well as his partners, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov and Roman Solodchenko, were granted refugee status in the UK. Poland has granted refugee status to another ally of Ablyazov – Muratbek Ketebayev, and the Czech Republic granted Tatiana Paraskevich international protection for one year. Kazakhstan demands the rendering of the people associated with the former head of BTA Bank, as they are an important source of information in the political case against Mukhtar Ablyazov. Therefore, international and Ukrainian human rights organisations, as well as representatives of the European Parliament call for the prevention of Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associates’ extradition to Ukraine, Russia or Kazakhstan.
Dependent on Kazakhstan, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies under the regime of Yanukovych abused the Interpol mechanisms with the aim of prosecuting political opponents, including opponents of Nazarbayev’s regime. The Istanbul Declaration of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly notes that it was Belarus, Russia and Ukraine which most blatantly abused the Interpol system, particularly, in the cases of Petr Silayev, William Browder, Ilya Katznelson, Ales Mikhalevich and Bohdan Danylyshyn. It is significant that in July 2013, representatives of Ukraine and Kazakhstan in the OSCE expressed their strong disagreement with these statements.In addition, Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its concern over the fact that “the secret services of Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia are more and more frequently conspiring to kidnap and illegally transfer wanted people to prisons”.
In a situation where Russia rudely violates its commitments regarding the security of Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, represented by Nursultan Nazarbayev, has supported the invasion of Russian troops in the Crimea, Ukraine must tell the world about its European aspirations and its refusal to cooperate with non-democratic regimes.
We hereby urge you to condemn the use of Interpol as a political tool and demonstrate to the international community your willingness to abandon the unlawful methods of Yanukovych’s regime.
We recommend that your intentions be confirmed by the following actions:
1. Offer official apologies to the refugees and their families, affected by the actions of Ukraine, including: Dirar Abu Sisi, Filipp Dolbunov (Galtsov), Ulugbek Zaynabitdinov, Leonid Razvozzhayev, Denis Solopov, Ruslan Suleymanov, Khamidullo Turgunov and others against whom unjust legal actions have been carried out and must now be acknowledged and rectified.
2. Immediately rescind the request for the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov and other persons accused in the contrived case filed by Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank.
3. Withdraw the request to Interpol for issuance of an international arrest warrant for Mukhtar Ablyazov, Tatiana Paraskevich, Igor Kononko, Roman Solodchenko and other defendants in the political case involving BTA Bank.
4. Conduct an investigation into the actions of former General Prosecutor, Viktor Pshonka who has been declared wanted, as well as other law enforcement officers who falsified charges and made extradition requests for Mukhtar Ablyazov and his colleagues, thereby facilitating their political persecution in Kazakhstan and Russia.
5. Cease cooperation with the secret services of Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other authoritarian regimes (in particular, post-Soviet), who intend to destroy their political opponents by means of prosecution, kidnapping and rendering refugees to their countries’ of origin.
The appeal was signed by:
1. Maksim Butkevich, co-coordinator of the No Borders Project (Ukraine)
2. Arkadiy Bushchenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (Ukraine)
3. Bartosz Kramek, Chairman of the Board of the Open Dialog Foundation (Poland)
4. Aleksandra Matviychuk, chairperson of the Centre of Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
5. Tatiana Pechonchik, director of the Centre for Human Rights Information (Ukraine)