Court obliged a person escaping from the military conflict zone to return there

In September 2017 Mr. L., a native of the Luhansk region (Ukraine), was detained in St. Petersburg without identity documents and found guilty by the court of violating the Russian immigration regulations. He was sentenced to a fine and administrative expulsion from the country and was placed into a temporary detention centre for foreign nationals ahead of expulsion. L., who is an orphan and a former inmate of an orphanage, had been forced to flee from his native region when an armed conflict broke out in the Donbas region. He had lost his Ukrainian passport and because of that he could not return to Ukraine at the time. The Consulate General of Ukraine in Russia could not confirm his Ukrainian citizenship, since parts of the Luhansk region, where L. had been registered, are now beyond the control of the Ukrainian government. Thus, L. has de facto become a stateless person, his expulsion was impracticable and the deprivation of liberty in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals became indefinite and did not pursue a legitimate and achievable goal.

After L. has appealed to the court of second instance, his expulsion was not canceled, but only replaced with “an independent controlled departure” from Russia. However, L. cannot leavethe country because of the lack of identity documents required for his departure. The court has ignored the arguments of Olga Tseitlina, the lawyer who defended L. with the support of ADC “Memorial” and argued that following the instructions of the court on “independent departure” would entail criminal liability for L. She also pointed out that there was a real threat to his life and health in view of the ongoing military operations on the territory of the Luhansk region.

Despite these arguments, as well as an earlier decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of “Kim v. Russia”, in which the Court had ordered the Russian government to adopt measures, which excluded expulsion of stateless persons from the country, and which had been subsequently confirmed by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, the court nevertheless ruled that L. must leave the Russian Federation.

Now L. is free, however, he still lacks identity documents, so he can neither legalize himself in Russia, nor leave the country. Stateless persons and those who have de facto found themselves in a similar situation still find themselves trapped in a legal impasse: the provisions of judicial control over imprisonment in temporary detention centres for foreign nationals have not yet been properly incorporated into the Russian legislation, although the need for these changes had been recognized by the ECtHR’s decision in the “Kim v. Russia” case and by the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation in the case of Noe Mskhiladze.