Background Briefing

Russian Federation

Ivanovo Refugees’ Case

The Russian police detained a group of 12 Uzbek refugees and one Kyrgyz national in June 2005 in the Russian city of Ivanovo. The men are the subjects of an extradition request from the government of Uzbekistan, which claims that they were involved in the May 2005 unrest in the Uzbek city of Andijan, which resulted in the massacre by Uzbek government forces of hundreds of civilians.31  The Russian prosecutor general ordered the men’s extraditions on August 3, 2006, despite the fact that the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had recognized the men as refugees after determining they each had a well-founded fear of being persecuted, including a risk of torture, if returned to Uzbekistan.  The prosecutor general claimed that the Russian authorities had received diplomatic assurances from the Uzbek government promising that the men would not be tortured or sentenced to death upon return.

On August 15, 2006, the European Court of Human Rights communicated an order for “interim measures” on the application of the men’s lawyers directing the Russian government to refrain from extraditing the men until the ECtHR had an opportunity to review the men’s cases.32

During a November 28, 2006 hearing on the men’s appeal against extradition in the Supreme Court, the prosecutor general reiterated that the Uzbek government had provided diplomatic assurances, which the Russian authorities considered sufficient to protect the men from abuse upon return. During the hearing the men’s defense lawyer detailed the systematic torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials, of suspects in the Uzbek criminal justice system, including those alleged to have been involved in the Andijan events, and the inherent lack of reliability of diplomatic assurances from the Uzbek authorities.33  The Supreme Court, however, ruled that all the men’s extraditions could go forward.34

Because of the order for “interim measures,” the government of Russia is prohibited from extraditing the men until the ECtHR reviews the men’s cases. In the meantime, the men remain in detention in Ivanovo.

31 Human Rights Watch, “Bullets Were Falling Like Rain”: The Andijan Massacre, May 13, 2005, vol. 17, no. 5(D), June 2005,; and Burying the Truth: Uzbekistan Rewrites the Story of the Andijan Massacre, vol. 17, no. 6(D), September 19, 2005,

32 “The Strasbourg Court Intercepts Vladimir Putin’s Gift to Islam Karimov,” WPS: Central Asia News (Russia), August 16, 2006. 

33 A representative from Human Rights Watch was present in court and observed the men’s appeal on their extraditions on November 28, 2006.

34 “Russian Supreme Court Rejected Challenge to Extraditions of Uzbek Asylum Seekers,” The Times of Central Asia, December 1, 2006.