The practice of the Russian courts in legal cases regarding the placement of stateless persons into temporary detention centres for foreign nationals remains contradictory. It would seem that the decision of the Constitutional Court in the case of Noe Mskhiladze, which had been pronounced 3 years ago, has determined the mechanism for the release of stateless persons from these detention centres once and for all. However, different courts still issue conflicting rulings in cases with similar circumstances.
Thus, at the end of December 2019, the Vsevolozhsk town court (Leningrad region) ruled to release two stateless persons who had been held in the detention centre of foreign citizens for a long time without the prospect of their expulsion from Russia. At the time of the decision on their expulsion, the two applicants had lived in Russia for more than twenty years and had families here. In its decisions on their release and termination of court proceedings in these cases, the court noted that the applicants’ citizenship had not been confirmed by any state, and admitted that their further arrest in the detention centre for foreign nationals was unlawful.
Completely different rulings on identical cases were adopted on January 10, 2020 by the Gatchina town court (Leningrad region) in respect of two applicants who had earlier applied to the Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”, Mr. N., a native of Armenia, and Mr. R., a native of Azerbaijan. Both of these people are stateless persons who have lived in Russia for more than 20 years now.
Mr. N. was accused of violating the rules of stay in the Russian Federation and was placed in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals on August 26, 2019 with the aim of further expulsion. In response to a request from the bailiffs, the Consulate General of Armenia failed to confirm Mr. N.’s citizenship, which made his expulsion impossible and further detention in the detention centre for foreign nationals purposeless. When applying to the court with a statement on the verification of the legality and validity of N.’s detention in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals, the lawyer Yuri Serov provided copies of N.’s birth certificate, a certificate of his permanent residence in the Leningrad region since 1995, his social security and personal taxpayer’s identity numbers. These documents testified to N.’s stable connection with Russia and his serious intentions to live and receive documents for legalization in the country. However, the court dismissed this application. According to the court, the information provided did not indicate the actual impossibility of expelling N. from the country, and the measures taken by the bailiffs to expel him were not comprehensive.
A similar negative decision was also made regarding Mr. R., who has been kept in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals for more than 6 months without the possibility of deportation, since the Republic of Azerbaijan had not confirmed R.’s citizenship. During the court hearings, R. stated that he had close relatives in Azerbaijan and would like to return to them, but did not have such an opportunity due to lack of identity documents. The lawyer Yuri Serov, speaking in defense of R., explained that in the absence of citizenship of any country, further detention in the centre for foreign nationals was meaningless and did not pursue a legitimate aim. The lawyer assured the court that if R. was released from the detention centre, assistance would be provided to him in procuring the documents necessary for the legalization of his presence on the territory of the Russian Federation and his further return to his native country. However, the court stated that there was no information on the absence of the actual possibility of R.’s expulsion from the country, and the cessation of the execution of the expulsion order did not exclude the possibility of prosecuting R. again.
The rulings of the Gatchina town court vividly illustrated the lack of systematic approach for the courts’ decisions on the release of stateless persons. The latter are being released only in certain cases, and these decisions are based not on the practice of higher courts, but on the lower courts’ own interpretation of the rule of law. Having ignored the earlier decision of the Constitutional Court in the case of Noe Mskhiladze, which had created a legal mechanism for the release of stateless persons from the temporary detention centres for foreign nationals, the Gatchina town court sentenced stateless persons, Mr. N. and Mr. R. to unlawful and senseless imprisonment.