In 2016, in his report from Turkey journalist Orkhan Dzhemal for the first time explained to the mass Russian-speaking audience: the accusation of Muslims of the Syrian war on the side of the “Islamic State” is a repressive Federal Security Service technology. Dzhemal met with a group of persons originating from the Dagestan village of Gimry. Criminal proceedings were instituted against them in their home country allegedly for participating in illegal armed groups in Syria. As it turned out, they all went to Turkey fleeing the terror of the Russian special services and never crossed the Syrian border. Criminal cases against persons from the republics of the North Caucasus with the stigma “ISIS’ers” appeared in 2015 and continue to appear until now. These Muslims cannot leave the host country – they are put on the international wanted list through the International Criminal Police Organization – Interpol.

A significant part of the wanted Caucasians considers Ukraine as a place where they can feel relatively safe. Indeed, since 2014, it has been in an open armed confrontation with Russia. However, since Ukraine is a member country of Interpol it is obliged to detain all who are on the wanted list upon entering the country. Refugees see the solution of their problems in the removal of their names from the database of this organization.

The Constitution of Interpol prohibits the search for individuals who are persecuted for political or religious reasons. There are cases when the states requested to place their officials accused of embezzlement of budget funds on the Interpol wanted list but the organization denied them to do so. Everything is different with ordinary Muslims from Russia. VAYFOND Association has succeeded to cancel the Interpol search for Chechen citizen Ali Bakaev. Against this native of Shali the Federal Security Service has fabricated a charge of assaulting the military unit of the Russian Guard in the village of Naurskaya. Upon arrival from Egypt to Kyiv, Bakaev was detained by Ukrainian border guards – the Interpol tracing system worked. Subsequently, he was released from the Ukrainian remand prison and Interpol excluded him from the wanted list. Lawyer Alexey Obolenets who worked in the case of Bakayev, states: the ban on the search for political reasons works if the wanted persons themselves or their advocates draw the attention of the police to the real reasons of the persecution. “Interpol is not a judicial instance, it is just a global police structure. And the Russian authorities are actively misleading this structure. So far we have to prove (political and religious reasons – author),” Obolenets said.

However, Ali Bakayev himself is not inclined to overestimate the decision of Interpol. The road to safe countries is still closed for him. In a commentary to the VAYFOND website, he emphasized that although the Interpol decision formally removes the ban on border crossing, he cannot exercise this right. After all, his documents were seized and are stored in the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office. Every two months a preventive measure is extended – a personal obligation to appear in court upon request.

The year of 2019 has been encouraging for Muslims who are trying to get rid of the stigma of “ISIS terrorists.” Dagestani Saadula Gaziev and Karachay national Anna Karakotova after appealing to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files were removed from the wanted list. According to the Federal Security Service, they fought against Bashar al-Assad in Syria while Bakaev was allegedly shooting at the Russian Guard. All three of them were actually living and studying in Egypt, as it was evidenced by the documents also provided by the Russian embassy in Cairo. The decision to cancel the search did not help them to obtain the coveted refugee status and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine continues to examine the possibility of extradition of Karakotova and her four children to Russia. Appeals to Interpol regarding the cases of Karakotova and Gaziev were prepared by the Kyiv organization “Right to Protection”. Lawyer Stanislav Krasnik, who worked on these cases, notes that a request for extradition of his clients from the Russian special services remains in force even after a positive decision of Interpol. “If Russia knows that a person is in Ukraine they don’t even have to contact Interpol, they can send a request directly to Ukraine,” Mr. Krasnik said in a comment to VAYFOND. He emphasized that, despite the actual state of the war, the prosecutors of the two countries are cooperating in the prosecution of asylum seekers, in particular, people from the North Caucasus. The lawyer believes, that it is still premature to talk about how the Ukrainian migration service reacts to the removal of escapees from the Interpol wanted list, so far, there are few such cases and the bureaucratic machine is too slow to respond to decisions made at Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon.

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