Human rights defenders: why natives of Caucasus leave for Europe
    Refugee. Photo: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

    The practice to deport natives of Northern Caucasus to Russia contradicts the principles of the international law. People who seek asylum in Europe are victims of domestic violence and unlawful criminal prosecution, as well as those who are being harassed in their homeland for their religious beliefs. This is stated in the report prepared by human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina, extracts from which the "Caucasian Knot" publishes.

    The report "Why do Russian citizens seek asylum in Europe?" prepared by Svetlana Gannushkina, the head of the "Civic Assistance Committee", is an attempt to "draw the attention of the migration authorities of the EU countries to the fact that the growing campaign to deport to homeland the Russian citizens seeking asylum in Europe does not meet the principles of the international law," states the document, presented today by human rights defenders at a press conference in Moscow. The report makes a special emphasis on the change in the attitude of the European authorities towards refugees because of the "aggressive migration policy and propaganda of ultra-right political forces." Thus, in Germany, which has long remained loyal to refugees, there has been a "trend to replace extradition with deportation," the human rights defenders note.

    The 40-page report consists of five parts dedicated to the human rights violations committed by the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya, the situation of women in the republic, the victims of fabricated criminal cases, the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the need for refugees from Russia to relocate to Europe. Furthermore, the report presents examples of some individuals affected by the trends reflected in the report, with mentioning the persons guilty of those tragedies.

    Tumso Abdurakhmanov. BBC News – Russian service. Screenshot from video:

    The problem of deportation to Russia is relevant for natives of Chechnya, which is illustrated by a story of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who sought asylum in Poland, but faced a threat of being extradited to the Russian authorities.

    "With great difficulty, just as a result of the very active international campaign, it has become possible to prevent the extradition from Poland to Russia of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a blogger who sharply criticized the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov. Magomed Daudov, Speaker of the Chechen Parliament, declared 'blood feud' against Tumso Abdurakhmanov. This very fact serves as a bright evidence of what is going on in one of the federal subjects of Russia ... Solo pickets in front of the Polish Embassy in Moscow were held by members of two Russian NGOs, including the 'Memorial' and the 'Civic Assistance'. In different years, both NGOs were awarded by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) the Pro Dignitate Humana Prize (For Human Dignity). However, Polish Embassy officials refused not only to come out to the picketers, but also just to take a letter to the Polish MFA from two winners of the Pro Dignitate Humana Prize. Can we assume that this is now the usual relations between officials of the European Union authorities and the civil society in Russia?" wondered Svetlana Gannushkina.

    On December 27, 2018, a series of solo pickets in support of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who faced deportation to Russia, took place in front of the Polish Embassy in Moscow. The protest action was attended by Oleg Orlov, the head of the "Hot Spots" programme of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", Vladimir Malykhin, a member of the HRC "Memorial", and Svetlana Gannushkina.

    Chechen women try to escape to Europe from persecution of their relatives

    A shelter in Europe is also often sought after by women from Chechnya, who "flee from ill-treatment, forced marriages, and, perhaps, first of all, from the tradition to take children away from their mother in cases of divorce or the death of husband," the report says. Human rights defenders have to mention the situation of women in Chechnya "in almost every report" that concerns violations of human rights in Russia," states Svetlana Gannushkina.

    A woman. Photo: European Parliament,

    "Human rights organizations are often addressed by women who are in permanent fear of deportation from the countries of the European Union, where they seek asylum. Our practice also shows that children taken by their fathers to new families do not always experience good treatment. A new wife of children's father can take it out on the children of her husband for the offenses she suffered from her husband and his mother. There was a case when we helped a woman, the father of whose husband beat her four-year-old son. The boy was intimidated; he tried to keep away from all men and kept holding his mother when she brought him and her daughter to us to Moscow. The family was granted asylum in one of the EU countries. Therefore, in case of return home, not only the woman, but also her child are in danger of physical violence," the report says.

    Meanwhile, a movement to another region of Russia "does not change anything in such a situation." "A woman with children will not be accepted by her relatives. She will not be able to find housing or a job, and she will not be able to process any documents for children's enrolment in school or kindergarten. If a woman tries to do any of the above, she will have to get registered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the information about her registration will be transferred to Chechnya, and the people, whom the woman tried to escape and protect her children, will immediately come from there," reported Svetlana Gannushkina.

    Authorities of European countries distance themselves from refugees suspected of terrorism

    The human rights defender states that the campaign against terrorism in Russia "develops the ingenuity" of the law enforcement bodies and leads to the fabrication of criminal cases. "It is the easiest way to use such campaigns to defeat competitors by accusing them of financing terrorists, plotting terror acts, and participating in hostilities outside Russia. We know a lot of cases with charges of involvement in hostilities in Syria, while defendants have irrefutable documentary evidence of being in another country at the time indicated by investigators, where the defendants studied or was engaged in business," reported Svetlana Gannushkina.

    On May 28, the authorities of Belgium extradited to Russia Immampasha Akhmadov, a native of Dagestan. He was placed to a SIZO (a pre-trial prison), and on the other day, the FSB reported that Immampasha Akhmadov was accused of participating in the hostilities in Syria on the side of the militants.

    ВоREUTERS/Rodi Said

    "Let us give an example that shows how easily false accusations are being fabricated. In 2012, under severe torture, a young native of Chechnya, let us call him Ibragim, confessed to collaboration with illegal armed formations (IAFs). His uncle, a businessman, paid a lot of money to secure that his nephew would be sentenced only to one year of imprisonment. Ibragim went at large, but [a law enforcement body] in Chechnya did not leave him alone. He was constantly taken [to a building of the law enforcement body], and law enforcers extorted money from his family members and threatened him with torture and a new trial. Relatives sent Ibragim to Europe, but he could not prove that he was in need of asylum. The authorities of the country he stayed in were concerned over his past. He was deported to Russia. In Chechnya, law enforces immediately began to fabricate against him a case under a charge of participating in hostilities in Syria," the report says.

    According to Svetlana Gannushkina, NGOs are also often addressed by relatives of young residents of Northern Caucasus, accused of involvement in the "Islamic State" (IS), a terrorist organization banned in Russia by the court.

    "So, in 2015, we got an appeal from Aslan Evloev, the father of Rashid Evloev, who was extradited from Germany at the request of Russia for alleged involvement in hostilities in Syria ... Rashid decided to go to Turkey to enter an Islamic institute and learn Arabic. His parents did not object. Rashid left for Istanbul and began to study. Besides, he worked in a company and sent some things to his parents for selling in their private shop. After some time, an FSB agent visited a house of the Evloev family and reported that, according to the FSB, Rashid was fighting in Syria on the side of the ISIL* ... Aslan expressed his indignation and presented receipts for which he received goods from his son from Turkey, where it was stated that the parcels came from Istanbul. However, that did not help ... The FSB continued to summon the Rashid's parents and assure them that the special services had accurate information that Rashid was fighting in Syria," the report states.

    After that, Rashid Evloev left for Germany with the hope to get asylum there. "He was placed to a refugee camp in Hamburg, and he started the procedure of applying for refugee status. And then Germany received an extradition request from Russia which accused Rashid of participating in the ISIL* and reported an institution of a criminal case against him. <...> The documentary evidence received from Turkey to confirm the fact that at the indicated period of time, Rashid stayed in Turkey and not in Syria was not taken into account. Nine months after the first refusal of extradition because of the lack of evidence from Russia in the case and the re-trial, Rashid was extradited to Russia," reported the human rights defender.

    On August 31, 2016, Rashid Evloev, a native of North Ossetia, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment under the charge of undergoing training at a militant training centre in Syria. According to investigators, in the winter of 2013-2014, after completing the training, Rashid Evloev left for Turkey to return to Russia to commit terror acts. An advocate and relatives of Rashid Evloev stated he was not guilty.

    At a trial, the court listened to a witness in the case who actually participated in hostilities in Syria and was sentenced for that to three years of conditional imprisonment. "The witness confirmed that he saw Rashid in Syria in a militant camp with a gun in his arms. We are aware of at least three cases where the same omnipresent witness claimed that he had seen other defendants in similar cases. Rashid was sentenced to six years of imprisonment. We cannot but mention that the German side did not show sufficient attention to the Rashid's case, despite our requests to take control over the detention conditions of Rashid Evloev and the substantive part of the case," the report says.

    Human rights defenders concerned over persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses**

    After on April 20, 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia recognized the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses** in Russia as an extremist organization, a "campaign of persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses** began, which became widespread," Svetlana Gannushkina states in her report.

    "Like in other cases of recognizing organizations as extremist and even terrorist, there were no members of the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses** at the trial ... Decisions are made at the request of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), with the grounds on the basis of excerpts from texts by which it is impossible to judge the organization's activity or its ideology ... The campaign of persecution was sharply intensified in April 2018, when searches and arrests began in various regions and affected dozens of believers, many of whom became defendants in criminal cases and were taken in custody. As of the early May of 2019, at least 154 believers were persecuted," states the report.

    Svetlana Gannushkina mentioned that on February 6, in the city of Orel, the court found Danish citizen Dennis Christensen guilty under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of the activities of a religious organization in respect of which a liquidation decision has been made in connection with its extremist activity) and sentenced him to six years of imprisonment. "In 1994, by decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Jehovah's Witnesses** were rehabilitated and recognized as victims of political repression. However, the dark times are returning now," reported Svetlana Gannushkina. The human rights defender explained that after Dennis Christensen was sentenced to imprisonment on February 6, the campaign of persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses** was sharply intensified.

    "At the press conference, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses** community spoke of more than 400 searches conducted in the houses of their colleagues. 160 people were brought to criminal responsibility, including about 40 women, and criminal cases were instituted against 70 people," stated the author of the report.

    The "Caucasian Knot" has reported about one of such cases in Kabardino-Balkaria, when Yuri Zalipaev, the head of the Jehovah's Witnesses** community in Maisky, was accused of inciting religious hatred and calling for extremist activity. He pleaded not guilty. In court, an advocate of the defendant stated that witnesses for the prosecution were affiliated with the law enforcement bodies, and a linguistic expert noted the difference between the defendant's speech style and the statements attributed to him.

    Members of the Jehovah's Witnesses** organization whose relatives consider their faith as a crime and apostasy, find themselves in an even worse situation, Svetlana Gannushkina notes. As an example, she referred to a story of a woman from North Ossetia and her daughter. The woman had to relocate to hide from her former husband, who pursued them and also beat the daughter with the demand to renounce her faith and mother.

    "The mother and her daughter have to move from place to place, but the former husband always finds [the woman] and their daughter, comes to their home and speaks for hours stating that they have chosen the wrong way and that they have to change their ways of thinking. Any daughter's word which contradicted his speech provoked his anger and cruel treatment of her. All our attempts to find an opportunity for [the woman and her daughter] to find a refuge outside Russia did not succeed. They were denied visas even when they just tried to buy a tourist tour," the report states.

    The "Caucasian Knot" has prepared the biographies of Ramzan Kadyrov and Tumso Abdurakhmanov.

    * The "Islamic State" (IS, formerly ISIL) has been recognized as a terrorist organization and banned in Russia by the court.

    ** 396 Russian organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses have been recognized as extremist, and their activities have been banned in Russia by the court.

    This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 15, 2019 at 01:36 pm MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

    See earlier reports:

    Chechen girl forcibly taken away from Moscow, activist reports, Rights defenders find it dangerous for Tumso to return to Russia, Rights defenders call on to take measures to prevent women's discrimination in the Caucasus.