Deficiencies in the Russian legislation create conditions for systemic discrimination against foreigners and stateless persons, as the courts rule on their expulsion from the country even in cases where such expulsion is not possible, which in turn leads to long and indefinite periods of imprisonment for them. In Russian judicial practice, the mechanism for the release of prisoners from the temporary detention centres for foreign nationals was established in 2017, when the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation adopted an important decision in the case of Noe Mskhiladze, a stateless person, and declared unconstitutional the norms of the Russian legislation, which had earlier turned imprisonment in the temporary detention centres for foreign nationals prior to expulsion from the country (which in fact was not possible) into an additional punishment. Thanks to this court ruling, Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” was able to secure the release of many foreign citizens and stateless persons from the temporary detention centres. Their expulsion was impossible for various reasons: statelessness, errors in identity documents, and border closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thus, on May 14, 2020, ADC Memorial in cooperation with lawyer Yuri Serov, achieved the cancellation of an earlier court ruling by Kingisepp town court (Leningrad region) on the expulsion of stateless person Boris Zimonin, who on January 30, 2020 had been found guilty of committing an administrative offense for evading the previously assigned expulsion from the Russian Federation, which he had to make by himself. Mr. Zimonin had lived in Estonia for a long time and had a stateless person’s passport issued by that country. After moving to Russia, he was unable to obtain an identity document, and his stateless person’s passport expired. Thus, at the time of the expulsion order, Mr. Zimonin did not have any documents that would give him the right to legally stay either in Russia or in Estonia. Despite the objective impossibility of leaving the Russian Federation, the court had recognized Mr. Zimonin as an offender and had ruled to deport him from Russia with prior placement into a detention centre for foreign nationals.
In May 2020, lawyer Yuri Serov, through the use of the legal mechanism for release of stateless persons from temporary detention centres for foreign nationals, which had been created by the Constitutional Court’s ruling in the case of Noe Mskhiladze, appealed to the Kingissep town court in order to check the legality and justification of the applicant’s further detention in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals. The lawyer asked the court to terminate execution of its earlier expulsion order. The appeal stated that there was no legitimate and achievable goal in keeping Mr. Zimonin in the temporary detention centre, since the authorities did not have information about Mr. Zimonin belonging to the citizenship of any state, and therefore, his expulsion was not feasible. The court concluded that the absence of a de facto possibility for expulsion entailed the prolonged detention of Mr. Zimonin in the detention centre, the period of which was not defined and therefore constituted an excessive restriction of his rights and freedoms. The court has ruled to cancel its earlier decision. After three and a half months of detention in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals, Mr. Zimonin was finally released.
On August 31, 2020, after numerous attempts to appeal against the earlier decision on expulsion from Russia, Georgian citizen Igor Goginava was released from the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals. On February 18, 2020, by a resolution of the Kirov town court (Leningrad region), Mr. Goginava was prosecuted under Section 3.1 of Article 18.8 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation for exceeding the legal period of stay of a foreign citizen in the territory of the Russian Federation. In May 2020, lawyer Yuri Serov made an appeal, first to the Kirov town court, and then to the Leningrad regional court, demanding to terminate the execution of the expulsion order due to the lack of air transport communication between Russia and Georgia. At the same time, the Consular service of the Republic of Georgia in Russia issued a certificate to Mr. Goginava for his return to his native country instead of the passport, which had expired. The applicant was also diagnosed with a serious illness that required treatment. Both the town and the regional courts, despite citing the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation in the case of Noe Mskhiladze, came to the conclusion that the real possibility for expulsion of Mr. Goginava from Russia had not been lost, thus the arguments presented in the legal complaint about the impossibility of expulsion and the state of health of the applicant were recognized as ungrounded and not subject to satisfaction. In June 2020, lawyer Yuri Serov filed another appeal to cancel the decision of the Kirov town court with the Third cassation court of general jurisdiction. After that on August 31, 2020, the decision on Goginava’s expulsion and detention in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals was finally canceled, and Mr. Goginava was released and returned home after spending 7 months in detention.
Finally, on September 2, 2020, as a result of cooperation between ADC Memorial and lawyer Yuri Serov, Azizjon Alisherov, a native of the Republic of Tajikistan, who had been imprisoned for 9 months, was released from a temporary detention centre for foreign nationals. On October 10, 2019, Mr. Alisherov had been found guilty of violation of Section 3.1 of Article 18.8 of the Administrative Code (violation of the rules of stay in the Russian Federation due to the lack of an identity document) by Vsevolozhsk town court (Leningrad region). During the identification procedure, Mr. Alisherov had presented himself under a different name, which had been recorded in the administrative protocol without additional checks, as is required by law. Considering the case of Mr. Alisherov, the court came to the conclusion that there was no reason not to trust the law enforcement officers who had carried out the identification procedure, and made a decision to expel him. In August 2020, lawyer Yuri Serov filed a legal appeal with the court to verify the legality and validity of Alisherov’s further detention in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals and to cancel the forced expulsion from the country with prior detention, since expulsion from Russia was impossible due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the trial, the authorities managed to establish Alisherov’s proper identity and found his passport. After that the court, having considered the lawyer’s legal complaint, came to the conclusion that, in view of the closure of the borders and the lack of transport communication between Russia and the Republic of Tajikistan, Alisherov’s imprisonment in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals de facto became indefinite, as it had no legal and achievable goal and was to be terminated.