On December 23, 2019, Vsevolozhsk city court (Leningrad Region), after having examined the application of lawyer Yuri Serov, ruled to release two stateless persons who had been held in a centre for temporary detention of foreign nationals for a long time.
Both defendants had lived in Russia for more than twenty years by the time of their arrest and have families in this country. One of them Mr. O., a native of Armenia and a stateless person, had been held in the detention centre for foreign nationals since November 2017 awaiting deportation from the country. The bailiffs became aware of the fact that Mr.O. did not have citizenship of Armenia at the beginning of 2018, when the consulate of Armenia declined to confirm Mr.O.’s Armenian citizenship. However, despite the fact that Mr.O.’s further detention at the centre for foreign nationals was purposeless, the bailiffs did not appeal to court to terminate execution of the earlier decision to expel him from Russia.
Mr. Kh., a native of Turkmenistan, who had been placed in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals back in April 2018, has found himself in a similar situation. In May 2018, the consulate of Turkmenistan announced that it couldn’t confirm that Kh. was the citizen of Turkmenistan and refused to issue him documents necessary for crossing the border from Russia. Although Kh. did not have any other documents confirming his citizenship, the bailiffs did not take any action in order to release him from the detention centre.
On December 23, 2019, lawyer Yuri Serov, with the support of Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”, appealed to the Vsevolozhsk city court with a request to verify the legality and validity of the holding Mr.O. and Mr.Kh. in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals. The lawyer also requested to terminate the administrative cases against Mr.O. and Mr.Kh., which were still underway. The court, having examined the application of the lawyer, found that the citizenships of Mr.O. and Mr.Kh. had not been confirmed by any state, and admitted that their further detention in the temporary detention centre for foreign nationals was unlawful. In substantiating its position, the court referred to the order of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation in the case of Noe Mskhiladze (2017), which had required to verify the constitutionality of the provisions of Articles 31.7 and 31.9 of the Russian Administrative Code, which has became an important milestone in the fight of ADC “Memorial” for the rights of stateless persons in Russia.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling in the case of Noe Mskhiladze has established a legal mechanism for the release of stateless persons from detention. It has also required systematic changes to be introduced into the Russian legislation so that stateless persons were not imprisoned indefinitely. Unfortunately, the Russian law has not yet been changed and stateless persons continue to be deprived of their liberty for no purpose, while it is only possible to release stateless persons from detention only in particular cases.