EECA - Antiterrorism and human rights: 10 years of non-compatibility?

In June 2001, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan, Kirghizistan, Uzbekistan and China formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), officially to “strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good neighbourly relations among the member states”. After the 11 September attacks, SCO became a platform for cooperation against terrorism, separatism and extremism. The Eurasian authorities took advantage of the post-11 September context to crack down on certain religious, ethnic and political movements. Many people originally from Central Asia, who fled repression in Russia, were refused asylum and since that time, have been tracked by the special services that use all possible methods, including some that are highly illegal, to extradite them to their country of origin, viz:

  • rigging accusations after detention in Russia in order to ensure that the arrest of the person being sought fits in with Russian criminal law;
  • cancelling Russian nationality acquired by immigrants in order to remove any obstacles to the person’s extradition;
  • illegally replacing the formal, rather lengthy extradition procedure by a much simpler, expedited administrative expulsion system. Hearings before the court to file appeals against administrative expulsions have been scheduled unusually fast. Generally, the time between the date of the appeal against the administrative expulsion and the date of the hearing before the court of appeals is over a month, but in these cases, the interval may be a mere eight days;
  • abduction of persons on Russian territory, sometimes with the participation of agents from foreign special services, and the illegal transfer of these people to their country of origin, with the direct involvement of the Russian special services.

The cases of these refugees is becoming more widely known thanks to actions by human rights organisations in these countries, and the extradition orders are being cancelled thanks to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and, more recently, in some cases, the Russian courts. But the authorities in the member states try to circumvent these decisions or, early in the procedure, try to avoid the intervention of NGOs by limiting access to lawyers and keeping the place of detention secret.

In Russia, the traumatic aftermath of the 11 September attacks enabled the authorities to give legitimacy to and consolidate arbitrary, “liberticidal” measures introduced after the second Chechen war, and then extend them to the whole country. The anti-terrorist and anti-extremist laws that were made tougher in 2002 and 2004 were further developed in 2006 through a law providing for the existence of exceptional regimes, not bound by the rules of a state of law. This law restricts freedom of movement and provides for the surveillance of means of communication. It also provides possibilities for banning public demonstrations and for entering private premises without a search warrant. This law has often been applied in the North Caucasus, Inguchie and Daghestan.

Another picture of the fight against terrorism: the vague definitions used in the fight against “extremism” in Russia today have often led to abuses of the representatives of the civil society, be they members of NGOs, political or religious groups, or journalists.

On 29 July 2011, for instance, President Dmitri Medvedev announced the creation of an interministerial commission to combat extremism. FIDH, of course, recognises the need to put an end to extremist and terrorist attacks but calls upon the Russian authorities to clearly define these concepts in order to avoid abuse and confusion, stated Souhays Belhassen, President of FIDH.

For more information:

“Russian Society Under Control: Abuses in the Fight Against Extremism and Terrorism” :

"Persecution of Muslims and Muslim Organizations Charged With Terrorism and Extremism" :

"The Situation in the Northern Caucasus 2009-2010: Human Rights Violations Stemming from the Antiterrorism Campaign Continue" :

Read more