The decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Kim v. Russia has strategic significance for similar cases involving the detention with a view toward expulsion of stateless persons in a SUVSIG. No country will accept them, which renders their continued detention both indefinite and pointless. The ECHR has obligated the Russian Federation to take comprehensive measures to remedy this absurd situation.
Vepkhvia Sordia, who was born in Georgia, was fined 5,000 rubles and detained with a view toward expulsion in a SUVSIG for five months, despite having lived in Russia since 1988 and the Georgian embassy having indicated it could find no documentation he possesses Georgian citizenship. In an appeal to the St. Petersburg Municipal Court, Attorney Olga Tseitlina argued that this situation paralleled the violation of Article 5 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights that had been found by the ECHR in Kim v. Russia (prohibiting the ongoing detention of a person who cannot be deported). Sordia’s appeal was granted in part on February 25, 2015, when his release from the SUVSIG was ordered and the order for his deportation was replaced with one for voluntary departure under supervision. The Court noted in its decision that, “He cannot be expelled from the Russian Federation, and his detention is becoming an indefinite one.”
Qurbon Khudoberdiev, who was born in Tajikistan, spent 10 months in a SUVSIG before the Lomonosovsky District Court stayed the order for his deportation on January 13, 2015. It is noteworthy that the stay was initiated by a judicial enforcement officer, who could not execute the Court’s prior order since Khudoberdiev is not a citizen of the Republic of Tajikistan, according to information received from that country’s embassy.
Memorial has previously reported that judicial enforcement officers, who are responsible for carrying out deportations, have begun petitioning courts to stay the deportation of stateless persons as their undocumented status makes it impossible to deport them; however, these requests have been denied.
On the one hand, court orders releasing stateless persons from a SUVSIG at the request of judicial enforcement officers is a positive development in the current situation, as it means individuals are released from an institution whose conditions the ECHR has found to violate the prohibition on torture. On the other hand, when deportation is found to be impossible, the court merely replaces the expulsion order with one for “voluntary departure under supervision,” as happened in Sordia’s case. Voluntary departure, however, is just as impossible as the petitioners, being stateless persons without official documents, cannot voluntarily depart the Russian Federation without risking again being detained by the police and placed in a SUVSIG pending another expulsion (for violation of Article 20.25(3) of the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses ‘Evading Administrative Punishment’). Released stateless persons who are not ordered to voluntarily depart under supervision are likewise at risk: they are often detained once again and committed indefinitely to a SUVSIG.
In order to break this vicious cycle, the methods employed in conducting detentions with a view toward expulsion must be re-examined, periodic judicial supervision of detention periods must be instituted in alignment with international legal standards, and documents should be issued to stateless persons.