Kazakhstan: Open letter to the French authorities concerning the potential extradition of Mr Ablyazov

Press release
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Mr Manuel Valls
Minister of the Interior of France

Mr Laurent Fabius
Minister of Foreign Affairs of France

Paris, 5 September 2013

Open Letter regarding the requests for extradition of Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov

Dear Ministers,

Following the arrest of Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov in France on 31 July 2013, FIDH, LDH and KIBHR urge you not to extradite him to Kazakhstan or any other country where he could face an unfair trial and/or extradition to Kazakhstan.

Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov is an outspoken critic of the regime of the president of Kazakhstan, Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev. Facing embezzlement charges that he allegedly committed as the chairman of BTA bank, in 2009 Mr Ablyazov fled Kazakhstan. In 2011 he was granted asylum in the United Kingdom on the grounds that he risked persecution in Kazakhstan. In 2012 he went into hiding after a British court sentenced him to 22 months in prison for contempt of court for failing to disclose his assets. Wanted by Interpol, he was found in France.

Without taking a position on whether or not the charges against Mr Ablyazov are well founded, FIDH, LDH and KIBHR urge you not to return him to any country where he risks an unfair trial or extradition to Kazakhstan. It seems that the prosecution of Mr Ablyazov is politically motivated, as proven by the harassment of his family. His wife and daughter were illegally expulsed from Italy to Kazahstan in May 2013. Moreover, the regime of Mr Nazarbayev has a well-documented record of imprisoning critics and ill-treatment of detainees. [1]

We note that on 2 August 2013 Kazakhstan requested Mr Ablyazov’s extradition, as did Russia and Ukraine. If he is extradited to Russia or Ukraine, it is most likely that he will be further returned to Kazakhstan, as the countries cooperate under the multilateral 1993 Minsk Convention on Legal Aid, which provides for ’search of wanted persons and their delivery’. [2] On 6 August 2013 the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan announced that his country will ’take all measures available under the law to have Ablyazov extradited’.

We stress that Mr Ablyazov is a refugee in the European Union; he has been granted asylum on the grounds that he risked persecution in Kazakhstan. These grounds are as valid as ever and any charges against Mr Ablyazov should be investigated within the EU. We further stress that as a signatory of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees [3], and of the 1984 Convention Against Torture [4], France is obliged by the principle of non-refoulement.

We hope that you will take these elements into account while considering any requests for Mr Ablyazov’s extradition.

Sincerely yours,

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President
Pierre Tartakowsky, LDH President
Roza Akylbekova, KIBHR Director (Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights)

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