Chechen Refugee at Risk for Extradition from Belgium

23 March 2011 – The Belgian media has reported that the Justice Minister of Belgium has signed an extradition decision for a Chechen refugee, allowing him to be sent back to Russia. However, Pax Christi Flanders, Amnesty International and Russian human rights organization “Memorial” are against the extradition.

According to the news, in 1999-2000, Arbi Zarmaev fought in the Chechen resistance against the Russian invasion. After he returned to civil life, but when the Russians learned that he was a former fighter, they tried to kill him. Then, in 2002, he ran from Chechnya to Belgium. He was granted refugee status there soon after. After he received the status, he married and had two children in Belgium. In December 2008, he was arrested by Belgian police in Oostende on suspicion of a crime, but Zarmaev has denied all of the allegations. Since then, he has been in prison in the city of Hasselt. On March 8, Stefaan De Clerck, the Belgian Justice Minister, signed a document ordering his extradition from Belgium to Russia at the request of Russian authorities.

However, human rights organizations like Pax Christi Flanders, Amnesty International and Memorial are strongly against the decision. On March 14th, two lawyers, Paul Bekaert and Thomas Gillis, delivered a petition to the State Council for a suspension of the extradition.

“If this decision stands, it will bring immediate danger to the life of the individual. It is in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights,” said Jo Hanssens, Chairman of Pax Christi Flanders,

Jo Hanssens also drew attention to the decisions on Chechnya from the European Court of Human Rights where Russia has been repeatedly condemned for human rights violations. He said that it is an illusion to believe that Russia will comply with human rights. “According to the independent NGOs, there are more than 25,000 Chechen prisoners. We have numerous reports and testimonies from Chechen prisoners who were tortured and humiliated during interrogation, custody and later while they were serving their sentences. The chances of a fair trial for Zarmaev are virtually nonexistent,” said Jo Hanssens.

Andi Zarmaev, brother of the Chechen prisoner, said that he recently visited his brother and it turned out that Arbi was kept in isolation for nine days. The Belgian authorities claim that it was a disciplinary sanction due to an incident between Arbi and the prison guards. But Arbi’s brother believes that it was a request from Russia.

On the other hand, Jan Boeykens, the President of Werkgroep Morkhoven Association has published a press statement. According to the press-release, on March 22nd, they tried to hold a demonstration in front of the European Parliament building in Brussels together with 40 Chechens. But, their action was shut down immediately. All the protesters were surrounded by police and obliged to give them their identity cards. The police also destroyed a banner with the words: “Freedom to Arbi!”. Jan Boeykens pointed out that if Arbi, who was granted political refugee status and weighs 50kg at the moment, dies in prison due to torture and exhaustion, the Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck will be personally liable.

*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco

http://www.waynakh.com/eng/2011/03/chechen-refugee-at-risk-for-extradition-from-belgium/

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3 thoughts on “Chechen Refugee at Risk for Extradition from Belgium

  1. kruitvat Post author

    Arbi is still locked up in solitary confinement in the prison of Bruges. He had received no water for 4 days.
    Using torture techniques, they try to drive him mad. At night they are constantly knocking on his door. Every fifteen minutes they arrive at the isolation cell and they shine light in his eyes so he can not sleep.
    The prison authorities of Bruges would now have prepared a report to protect themselves. The report claims that Arbi “should be left alone so much as possible because of his poor health”.

    We wrote an Open Letter to the Minister of Belgian Justice Stefaan De Clerck (Christian Democratic Party) who has signed an extradition decision for Arbi. Some days ago the Minister had a phone conversation with the Russian embassy and claims that there is ‘no risk of torture and violation of human rights in Russian or Chechen prison’.

    Reply
  2. kruitvat Post author

    On Facebook

    CHECHEN REFUGEE: TORTURE
    The Chechen refugee Arbi Zarmaev is still locked up in solitary confinement in the prison of Bruges. He had received no water for 4 days. Using torture techniques, they try to drive him mad. At night they are constantly knocking on his door. Every fifteen minutes they arrive at the isolation cell and they shine light in his eyes so he can not sleep. The prison authorities of Bruges would now have prepared a report to protect themselves. The report claims that Arbi “should be left alone so much as possible because of his poor health”…

    We wrote an Open Letter to the Minister of Belgian Justice Stefaan De Clerck (Christian Democratic Party) who has signed an extradition decision for Arbi. Some days ago the Minister had a phone conversation with the Russian embassy and claims that there is ‘no risk of torture and violation of human rights in Russian or Chechen prison’.

    http://www.waynakh.com/eng/2011/03/chechen-refugee-at-risk-for-extradition-from-belgium/

    ——-

    I tried to publish this post 11 times as a normal comment
    on Facebook but the comment always disappeared in a mysterious way, as if it were a secret State Case.

    Reply
  3. kruitvat Post author

    Political prisoner

    The term “political prisoner” is used by persons or groups challenging the legitimacy of the detention of a prisoner. Supporters of the term define a political prisoner as someone who is imprisoned for his or her participation in political activity. If a political offense was not the official reason for detention, the term would imply that the detention was motivated by the prisoner’s politics.

    Various definitions

    Some understand the term political prisoner narrowly, equating it with the term prisoner of conscience (POC). Amnesty International campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience, which include both political prisoners as well as those imprisoned for their religious or philosophical beliefs. To reduce controversy, and as a matter of principle, the organization’s policy applies only to prisoners who have not committed or advocated violence. Thus, there are political prisoners who do not fit the narrower criteria for POCs.
    In the parlance of many political movements that utilize armed resistance, guerrilla warfare, and other forms of political violence, a political prisoner includes people who are imprisoned because they are awaiting trial for, or have been convicted of, actions which states they oppose describe as (accurately or otherwise) terrorism. These movements may consider the actions of political prisoners morally justified against some system of governance, may claim innocence, or have varying understandings of what types of violence are morally and ethically justified. For instance, French anarchist groups typically call the former members of Action Directe held in France political prisoners. While the French government deemed Action Directe illegal, the group fashioned itself as an urban guerilla movement, claiming a legitimate armed struggle. In this sense, “political prisoner” can be used to describe any politically active prisoner who is held in custody for a violent action which supporters deem ethically justified.
    Some also include all convicted for treason and espionage in the category of political prisoners. Political prisoners can also be imprisoned with no legal veneer by extrajudicial processes. Some political prisoners need not be imprisoned at all. Supporters of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in the 11th Panchen Lama controversy have called him a “political prisoner”, despite the fact that he is not accused of a political offense. He is held under secluded house arrest.
    However, political prisoners are arrested and tried with a veneer of legality where false criminal charges, manufactured evidence, and unfair trials (kangaroo courts, show trials) are used to disguise the fact that an individual is a political prisoner. This is common in situations which may otherwise be decried nationally and internationally as a human rights violation or suppression of a political dissident. A political prisoner can also be someone that has been denied bail unfairly, denied parole when it would reasonably have been given to a prisoner charged with a comparable crime, or special powers may be invoked by the judiciary. Particularly in this latter situation, whether an individual is regarded as a political prisoner may depend upon subjective political perspective or interpretation of the evidence.

    Famous historic political prisoners

    Bobby Sands was the leader of the 1981 hunger strike in which Irish republican prisoners protested against the removal of Special Category Status. During his strike he was elected as a member of the United Kingdom Parliament as an Anti H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner candidate.
    Aung San Suu Kyi led the opposition National League for Democracy which was victorious in 1990 general election. Under jail or house arrest for 15 out of the 21 years from 1990 to 2010.
    Kim Dae Jung served one term (1976–1979) and in 1980 was exiled to the United States, but returned in 1985 and became President of South Korea in 1998.
    Nelson Mandela was arrested for treason in 1956 and acquitted. He left the country and returned, only to be rearrested and imprisoned for a long term (1962–1990) for paramilitary offences & political activism, after which he negotiated the end of Apartheid and went on to become President of South Africa.
    Thomas Mapfumo was imprisoned without charges in 1979 by the Rhodesian government for his Shona-language music calling for revolution.
    Andrei Sakharov was imprisoned in the socialist Soviet Union. He won Nobel Peace Prize.
    Benazir Bhutto was a political prisoner for four years under General Zia ul Haq.
    Antonio Gramsci was a leftist Italian writer and political activist who was jailed and spent 8 years in prison. He was released conditionally due to his health situation and died shortly after.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_prisoner

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