An important court ruling was made by a Russian court in 2013 as a result of cooperation between ADC “Memorial” and attorneys Olga Tseitlina and Sergey Golubok in case of a person without citizenship S. Saint Petersburg city court has ruled that it was not legal to keep foreign citizens for an indefinite period “before the execution of the ruling on deportation”. The law “On legal status of foreign citizens” doesn’t contain the maximal period of detention before deportation (the law only reads “before the execution of the ruling on deportation”). In cases when deportation is not possible (primarily for people without citizenship), this norm de facto means that people can be deprived of their freedom for an indefinite period of time, as was the case of S., a native of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan refused to consider S. its citizen, which meant that S. could not be deported, but a Saint Petersburg district court ruled that he should be kept in a detention center for foreign citizens “before deportation”, that is for a long and indefinite period of time.
Olga Tseitlina and Sergey Golubok appealed to the Saint Petersburg city court against this absurd situation based on an agreement with ADC “Memorial”. The court interpreted the federal law “On legal status of foreign citizens” in light of the legal position of the Constitutional court of the Russian Federation, which earlier stated that depriving of freedom for an indefinite period of time is an inadmissible limitation of freedom and personal inviolability. Since the Federal migration service (FMS) didn’t have proof that a decision on deportation of S. could be implemented in future, the court has corrected the ruling of the court of first instance and set the maximal time period for detention of S. to be before March 6, 2013. After this date S. was freed from the detention center.
This decision by the Saint Petersburg city court, which was made based on the principle of priority of observation of human rights, is an example that the rights of foreign citizens and people without citizenship can be observed even in a situation when the national laws on foreign citizens are not perfect. In a similar sitaution of an ungrounded protracted detention of persons without citizenship in the absence of regular court control ADC “Memorial” and Olga Tseitlina have already appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (the case of “Lakatosh vs. Russia”, in which Russia has admitted violations and paid comensations to the victims). Now a similar case was also won in the Saint Petersburg city court.
The importance of this court ruling for the legal practice was already noted by the Chamber of Attorneys of Saint Petersburg, which published the text of the court ruling on its website.