Yelena Maglevannaya: Letter to His Royal Highness

April 20, 2011

Your Majesty, the King of Belgians!

Your prison in Bruges holds the bona fide Chechen refugee, Arbi Zarmaev, whose extradition is requested from Russia.

Not only is he facing deportation to a country where he is de facto guaranteed to be tortured and abused as happens to all Chechens in Russian jails, but I am reliably informed that in Your democratic country, he is detained in conditions far from acceptable. He was even beaten whilst in detention. The ministry afterward have tried to conceal the beatings from the public, pretending that his injuries are self inflicted.

I have never been surprised when I heard about such claims made by Russian authorities. Such events are well documented over a long period. However in Your Nation at the heart of the Europe Union which pledges all members to respect human rights openly before the world, beating a Chechen was initially impossible to believe.

In recent years, a worrying trend has emerged – more and more leading European countries have refrained from sheltering Chechen refugees. Would this action be defended in the interests of keeping “good relations” with Russia, and lives have become bargaining chips?

The extradition of Chechen refugees in Russia issue should, in my opinion, be once and forever prohibited, regardless of the charges against them, because they have not the slightest chance of a fair trial in that country. On the contrary, they face unreasonably long period of detention coupled with systematic beatings, torture, and almost inevitable death in prison as a result of these tortures and inhumane detention conditions.

Therefore, according to the Human Rights, it is essential that the Western democracies declare, not in only in words, that Russia is a country which does not respected the most basic right – the right to life – and assure in fact the extradition of anyone to this country carries the burden of responsibility for the consequences that follow.

First and foremost, this particularly relates to the Chechens, who, as a rule, from the standpoint of international law in general were not guilty of any thing under wartime conditions, in defending their homeland from occupation.

Your Majesty, I beg your audience of the arguments for the defence to release Arbi Zarmaev with Your Royal Protection and once and forever forbid his extradition to Russia. Europe should reaffirm the integrity of its stand on human rights that has always been accorded primary attention and have been rigorously enforced.

Elena Maglevannaya,
journalist and a political refugee, Finland.


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