April 16, 2021 - Magomed Gadaev, a Chechen asylum seeker, who was wrongfully deported from France is at high risk of torture in Chechnya as a result of the actions by the French, Russian and Chechen authorities which violated international human rights law. Twelve human rights organisations, including OMCT, urge the French authorities to enable Gadaev’s return to France, to ensure his safety and to suspend all pending deportations of Chechens who might face torture in Russia.
On April 11, Chechen police abducted Magomed Gadaev, an asylum seeker from Chechnya and a key witness in a high-profile torture investigation against Chechnya’s authorities, two days after he was wrongfully deported from France to Russia on 9 April. Chechen police continue to hold him in custody.
French authorities proceeded with Gadaev’s expulsion, despite the decision by the national asylum court to prohibit his expulsion due to substantiated fears for his life and safety taken on March 10, 2021. French authorities’ actions have put him at immediate risk of torture and other ill-treatment and exposed him to a grave danger to his life. This is in flagrant violation of France’s international obligations prohibiting the return of any person, whatever the circumstances, to a territory where they are at risk of serious human rights violations. This prohibition is a non-derogable norm of international law and is affirmed by numerous human rights treaties ratified by France.
In the morning of April 9, French authorities wrongfully and forcibly put Gadaev on a flight from Paris to Moscow. On arrival to Moscow, Russian border guards held Gadaev at the Sheremetyevo airport’s transit zone for over 12 hours, denying him access to his lawyer. After hours of negotiations, the border guards consented to put Gadaev on a flight to Novy Urengoi, a town in the far north of Russia where his close relatives reside. On 11 April, Gadaev was abducted by allegedly Chechen law enforcement officials in plain clothes.
On April 14, Gadaev’s lawyer, met him at the Urus-Martan police department. Gadaev looked subdued, although visibly unharmed, and told the lawyer that he no longer needed his services and already had another lawyer representing him. Based on a conversation between police officers, the lawyer learnt that Gadaev was to be placed under arrest on charges of illegal possession and circulation of arms (Article 222 of Russia’s Criminal Code) and would be jailed in Grozny (Chechnya) pending trial.
There are strong grounds for concern that Gadaev refused the services of his trusted lawyer under duress. Gadaev faces a credible and imminent risk of being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment that even puts his life in danger. Gadaev also risks an unfair trial.
We also note with great concern that in the months following last year’s horrific murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher in a town on the outskirts of Paris, by 18-year old Chechen refugee Abdullakh Anzorov, the number of Chechen asylum seekers being deported from France has been on the rise, including those who are at high risk of torture in Chechnya. What happened to Gadaev immediately after his return to Russia provides one more stark example of the lack of internal safe alternatives elsewhere in the territory of the Russian Federation for asylum seekers from Chechnya.
We urge the French authorities to:
- urgently liaise with the Russian authorities regarding Gadaev’s case to ensure that he does not suffer any violation of his rights, including his rights to life, to be free from torture, to liberty and security, to a remedy and protection of the law and, if he is facing charges, to a fair trial;
- take immediate steps to enable Gadaev’s return to France, as Gadaev’s deportation was conducted in violation of international law and contrary to the ruling of the national asylum court;
- suspend all pending deportations and extraditions to Russia of Chechens who face a well-founded risk of torture must and instead take meaningful steps to provide them with international protection.
The full text of the statement is available here.
Civic Assistance Committee
Civil Rights Defenders
Committee Against Torture, Russia
Comité Tchétchénie, France
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
IPHR (International Partnership for Human Rights)
Human Rights Watch
Memorial Human Rights Center
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture)
Stitching Justice Initiative