French court to decide on extradition of Ablyazov
© 13.11.2013

The hearing (Cour d'appel d'Aix-en-Provence) was dedicated to the consideration of the Russian request to extradite Ablyazov. In connection with the guarantees, made by the Russian party, the request will now be considered in parallel with the Ukrainian request. The previous request (Russia filed the second request) has not been transferred through the French Ministry of Justice for consideration by the court.

The purpose of the hearing was to determine the date of the first main hearing during which the substantial issues of the case should be considered. It will probably take place on 12 December (with the first and main hearing regarding the request of the Ukrainian bodies scheduled for 5 December).

The case was considered by a 3-person judiciary (Presiding Judge, Judge-Rapporteur-referent, and the tertiary judge).

When opening the meeting, Judge-Rapporteur defined the key issues requiring examination at different stages of the proceedings. He stressed that the case raises a number of difficulties which require additional information, and therefore one should not expect a rapid conclusion.

The key issues identified included:

  • the submitted request that extradition be halted
  • the need to demonstrate the extent to which the deeds incriminated to Ablyazov were committed in Russia
  • to what extent, and on what basis does Russia wish to prosecute him for crimes that were allegedly committed outside its borders (as is apparent from the documents)
  • the existence of labour camps and the possibility of forcing prisoners to perform public service work in the Russian penitentiary system (apparently, France is carrying out extensive negotiations with Russia on this issue in the context of cooperation with the Russian judicial system, as it is a practice which France most definitely does not accept).

The prosecutor pointed out that France must not violate human rights and comply with the demands of Ukraine and Russia if there is a risk that such compliance may entail the infringement of rights
The counsel Bruno Rebstock, underlined in his statement that:
- the problem, which still remains is the application of detention and difficulties in contacting the family (especially the refusal of visitation rights to his youngest son)
- general standards regarding the observance of human rights in Russia leaves much to be desired
- there are no real (enforceable) guarantees ensuring proper treatment of Ablyazov in Russia
- the Minsk Convention, which is binding to, among others, Russia and Kazakhstan, allows the execution of extradition from Russia to Kazakhstan
- well-documented and frequently encountered are situations where Russian authorities have declared one thing and then done another

Ablyazov himself said: “Of course not” (referring to the question whether he agrees to the extradition), and that "he has nothing more to add, because his position has already been presented by the counsel" (in response to the second question, whether he would like to speak).

In conclusion (at the end of the meeting, prior to the appointment of the date) , the judge pointed out that, at this stage, the most important issue is to obtain answers regarding the potential fate of Ablyazov, following his possible extradition to Russia. He noted that Russia offers guarantees under which, without French consent, the onward extradition of Ablyazov to a third country shall not be undertaken and denied the existence of forced labour camps. He also drew attention to the fact that - like France - Russia has no extradition treaty with Kazakhstan.

The following important issues will include the presentation of all reports concerning the case and the issues at stake, the participation of the Russian prosecutor in the cross-examination in a French court, and obtainment of additional information from Russia (in the scope mentioned above plus raised concerns regarding human rights) necessary to issue a judgement.



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