Abakan court released stateless person, based on Constitutional Court’s ruling on inadmissibility of indefinite detention

On March 5, 2019 the Abakan city court ruled to release Denis Li, a stateless person, who had been detained for nine months in the regional temporary detention centre for foreign nationals “with the aim of ensuring further expulsion from the country”. Li was represented in court by lawyer Valery Zaitsev, with the support of the Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”.

Denis Li is a native of Uzbekistan, an orphan, who in the late 1990s has moved to Abakan with his relatives. A few years later, Li lost the citizenship of Uzbekistan, because during his entire residence in Russia he did not notify the consulate of Uzbekistan of his whereabouts, thus becoming a stateless person. For several years, Denis Li appealed to various state bodies in order to obtain Russian citizenship, however, even despite the fact that he had children, who were citizens of Russia, he was refused the country’s citizenship.

On June 22, 2018 Li was found guilty of violating Section 1.1 of Article 18.8 of the Code on Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation for exceeding the period of stay in the Russian Federation. He was sentenced to a fine of 3,000 rubles with administrative expulsion from the Russian Federation and prior placement into the Abakan detention centre for foreign nationals. When considering this case, the court mistakenly considered Li a citizen of Uzbekistan, although at the time of the trial he did not have any citizenship.

On July 20, 2018 the bailiffs received a certificate from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan, which stated that Li had lost citizenship of this country and that providing him with identity documents, which would allow him to return to his native country, was not possible. Having received this certificate, Li has immediately appealed to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Khakassia with a complaint against the earlier decision on his expulsion from Russia and illegal placement in the detention centre for foreign nationals. Li referred to the Russian Constitutional Court’s ruling, which had been made on the complaint of another stateless person, Noe Mskhiladze, whose defense had also been supported by the ADC “Memorial”. Thanks to the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation on the complaint of Mshiladze, a legal mechanism was set up in Russia for the release of stateless persons, who were actually deprived of their liberty for indefinite periods of time.

Despite the confirmation of the lack of citizenship and the impossibility of a grounded court ruling on expulsion, the regional court continued to consider Li as a citizen of Uzbekistan and refused to satisfy his legal complaint.

Finally, on December 10, 2018, lawyer Valery Zaitsev filed a complaint with the Abakan city court asking for Li to be released from the detention centre. The lawyer pointed out the fact that it was impossible to execute the expulsion order due to the absence of citizenship of Li, which made his detention at the centre for foreign nationals de facto indefinite and violated his rights under Article 46, Section 3 of Article 55 and Section 3 of Article 62, and also contradicted the position of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.

Having considered the lawyer’s complaint, the city court recognized that, taking into account the requirements of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, the term of Li’s detention in a special institution entailed an unjustified restriction of his right to liberty and personal inviolability, and decided to stop the execution of the administrative expulsion order and to release Li from the detention centre.

Denis Li is now free. Thanks to the work of human rights defenders and his lawyer, he received a certificate, which identified him of a stateless person, which now enables him to begin the legal procedure of obtaining Russian citizenship.