ECtHR decision in Zarmayev v. Belgium, Application No. 35/10, 27 February 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Applicant, a Russian national of Chechen origin, was granted political asylum in Belgium in 2005 under a false identity. His refugee status was subsequently withdrawn in 2009 after weapons were found in his house, his stolen identity was discovered, and he was arrested for participation in a number of offences. He was convicted of the Belgian offences and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Following the custodial sentence, Belgium accepted Russia’s request that the Applicant be extradited on the charge of aiding and abetting murder. His appeals for suspension and annulment of the extradition order were dismissed, but his extradition has been halted by a Rule 39 Interim Measure of the ECtHR. The Applicant lodged four unsuccessful asylum applications in Belgium from 2009 to 2013.

In written proceedings before the ECtHR, the Applicant provided new information on events he alleges he experienced as a combatant in the Chechen wars. He claimed to have fled his country due to pursuit by the Russian army and persecution of his family. He submitted that extradition to Russia would result in violations of Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman treatment) and 6 (right to a fair trial). He also claims that his detention in Belgium was arbitrary and that he was subjected to ill-treatment, contrary to Articles 5 (right to liberty) and 3 respectively.

The ECtHR, after noting that the situation in Chechnya is not serious enough to warrant a general prohibition of returns on Article 3 grounds, ruled that the Applicant’s personal circumstances did not justify finding a violation if he is extradited. The Court’s reasoning was based on internal inconsistencies in the Applicant’s version of events, unexplained additions to his account, and the unreliability of the letters of support produced by the Applicant. The Court further noted that the Applicant is at no risk of life imprisonment, and diplomatic assurances indicate that the Applicant, if convicted, will be detained in a Convention-compliant institution. The Belgian embassy will be permitted to visit the Applicant and talk with him unsupervised.

The Applicant’s complaints under Articles 5 and 6 were summarily ruled inadmissible by the Court.

Read the judgment (French only) of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Credibility assessment
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment