Victory in the Constitutional Court: The Pointless Detention of Stateless Persons Contravenes the Constitution

On May 23, 2017, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation pronounced a decision in a case checking the constitutionality of the provisions of articles 31.7 and 31.9 of the RF Code of Administrative Offences. Claimant Noé Mskhiladze disputed the constitutionality of norms allowing for the extended, pointless deprivation of a stateless person’s freedom for the purpose of expulsion from the Russian Federation, which is impossible when there is no country of citizenship.

The RF Constitutional Court found that norms of laws on administrative violations that prohibit stateless persons from appealing the grounds for their detention in specialized institutions for the purpose of administrative expulsion under any circumstanceare unconstitutional.

The Court’s decision notes that “the RF Constitution guarantees that each person has the right to freedom and personal inviolability; any restrictions introduced by law that involve the deprivation of freedom must meet the criteria of lawfulness.

“The RF Constitutional Court has previously indicated that a restriction on the right to freedom and personal inviolability for an indeterminate period does not correspond to constitutional guarantees. The European Court of Human Rights also stresses that any deprivation of freedom must meet the Convention’s criteria for protecting people from the arbitrary will of the authorities and that the grounds for the legality of this deprivation of freedom cannot be interpreted broadly.”

Thus, the Constitutional Court directly cites the ECHR judgment in the case of Kim v. Russia, which was akey step in proving the need to change the law and the practice of imprisoning stateless person in order to ensure their (impossible) expulsion from the country.

The Constitutional Court ruled that “Federal legislators should amend the Code of Administrative Offences so that it ensures reasonable judicial control over the timeframes of the detention of stateless persons subject to forced expulsion in specialized institutions.

“Legislators may stipulate in the Code of Administrative Offenses that judges must establish specific timeframes for the application of this security measure (by analogy with current migration law) and enshrine the special migration status of stateless persons released from specialized institutions, which makes it possible to monitor them until the expiration of the statute of limitations of the ruling on administrative expulsion.”

“Until the amendments envisaged by the RF Constitutional Court have been made to RF laws and in the absence of the actual ability to expel them, persons placed in a specialized institution must begranted the right to apply to a court to check the legality of their further deprivation (restriction) of freedom upon the expiry of three months from the day the court decision on expulsion was adopted. Enforcement decisions in the case of the claimant shall be subject to review.”

The implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision in this matter will become a defining moment for the many thousands of people living in the RF who don’t hold citizenship in any country and who were deprived of their freedom for many years for no other reason than “to ensure expulsion.” Courts will be obligated to define specific timeframes within which expulsion must occur, while those already in detention may have the legality of their detentions reviewed after three months.

Roman Kim and Noé Mskhiladze spent years in immigration prison-like centers —like many other stateless people, their rights were violated, which was acknowledged by the Constitutional Court. Such violations will no longer occur—this is a tremendous victory for the claimants themselves, their attorneys (the attorneys Olga Tseytlina and Sergey Golubok submitted Mskhiladze’s complaint to the Constitutional Court), and human rights defenders (ADC Memorial (adcmemorial.org) supported protecting the interests of both claimants).