ECtHR: detention of stateless persons in centres for foreigners is an unacceptable punitive measure

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has once again recognized long-term deprivation of freedom for stateless persons in the temporary detention centres for foreign nationals in Russia as illegal in the absence of realistic possibilities for their expulsion from the country.

Less than a year ago, the ECtHR communicated the legal appeal of Olimjon Mainov, which had been filed by lawyer Olga Tseitlina with the support of Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”. Mr. Mainov, who had spent more than two years at temporary detention centre for foreign nationals in St. Petersburg, was released from there only on formal grounds although Tajikistan had not confirmed that he had this country’s citizenship.

In its ruling in the Mainov case the ECtHR pointed to the excessively formal approach of the Russian law enforcement agencies: in the case of the obvious impossibility for another country to accept a person, who had to be expelled from Russia, detention ceases to meet its purpose and becomes a strictly repressive measure. This decision of the ECtHR also noted the lack of efforts by the Russian authorities to expel Mainov to a third country. The court has also criticized the delay in the release of the applicant, who has been freed not immediately, but only two weeks after the decision to terminate the law enforcement proceedings against him was adopted.

In its decision the ECtHR took into account the previous legal appeals, such as the cases of “Kim v. Russia” and “Mskhiladze v. Russia”. The court had earlier stated that it was inadmissible to equate the punishment for violating the immigration regulations with the punishment for committing actual crimes. ECtHR, and later also the Russian Constitutional Court (in the case of Mskhiladze), found that the rules permitting an unreasonable long-term deprivation of liberty in the absence of an opportunity to appeal against placement into special institutions for further administrative expulsion to be illegal.

Despite these decisions of the highest courts, judicial control over the terms and grounds for keeping stateless persons and foreign citizens in temporary detention centres for foreign nationals has not yet been introduced in Russia and stateless persons continue to be detained if they cannot be expelled from the country. The legal procedure for their legalization in the country is also still undefined at the legislative level in Russia.