EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
CASE OF R. v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 11916/15)
<*> This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of R. v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Luis Guerra, President,
Pere Pastor Vilanova, judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 5 January 2016,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
- The case originated in an application (no. 11916/15) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Kyrgyzstani national, Mr R. (“the applicant”), on 10 March 2015.
- The applicant was represented by Ms N. Yermolayeva, a lawyer practising in Moscow. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
- The applicant alleged, in particular, that his expulsion to Kyrgyzstan would be in breach of Article 3 of the Convention, that he had been subjected to ill-treatment proscribed by that provision by Russian law-enforcement officers and that his detention pending expulsion was in breach of Article 5 of the Convention.
- On 10 March 2015 the Acting President of the First Section decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, indicating to the Government that the applicant should not be expelled or otherwise involuntarily removed from Russia to Kyrgyzstan until further notice, and to apply Rule 41 of the Rules of Court granting priority treatment to the application.
- On 13 May 2015 the application was communicated to the Government. Furthermore, on 5 January 2016 it was decided to grant the applicant ex officio anonymity under Rule 47 § 4 of the Rules of Court.
- The circumstances of the case
- The applicant was born in 1991. He is currently detained in a special facility for temporary detention of foreign nationals in Moscow.
- Background events
- The applicant is an ethnic Uzbek who lived in Jalal-Abad Region, Kyrgyzstan. In June 2010 the region was a scene of mass disorders and inter-ethnic clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.
- In June 2010 the applicant was present at the barricades raised by ethnic Uzbeks near Suzak village. On 12 June 2010 he was wounded by a Molotov cocktail and was admitted to hospital on account of severe burns. He was released from hospital on 24 June 2010.
- Eventually the applicant fled Kyrgyzstan to Russia, together with many other ethnic Uzbeks, to avoid ethnically motivated violence.
- In 2012 the Kyrgyz authorities opened a criminal case against the applicant charging him with a number of violent crimes allegedly committed in the course of the riots of June 2010. On 26 June 2012 the Suzak District Court in the Jalal-Abad region ordered in absentia the applicant’s detention.
- The applicant’s arrest and subsequent proceedings
- The applicant’s detention and the expulsion proceedings
- On 27 January 2015 the applicant was arrested in Moscow because he was not carrying an identity document. He was placed in the Special Facility for the Temporary Detention of Foreign Nationals, Moscow (“the detention centre for aliens”), run by the Russian Federal Migration Authority (“the FMS”).
- On 28 January 2015 the Gagarinskiy District Court, Moscow (“the district court”) found the applicant guilty of an administrative offence punishable under Article 18.8 § 3 (“breach of rules on entry and stay of foreign nationals in Moscow, St Petersburg, the Moscow Region and the Leningrad Region”) of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (“the CAO”) and sentenced him as follows: “[…] a punishment in the form of an administrative fine in the amount of 5,000 Russian roubles (RUB) [combined] with administrative removal and placement in the centre for detention of foreign nationals, [where he will remain] until the entry into force of that decision and until administrative removal from the Russian Federation under Article 32.10 of the Code of Administrative Offences”.
- On 4 February 2015 the applicant appealed against the District Court’s decision arguing that in Kyrgyzstan he would be subjected to ill-treatment like many other ethnic Uzbeks. It appears that the appeal documentation reached the District Court on 12 February 2015. The appeal hearing was scheduled for 10 March 2015 but was then postponed until 20 March 2015.
- On 10 March 2015 the Court granted the applicant’s request for interim measures and indicated to the Government that the applicant should not be expelled or otherwise involuntarily removed from Russia to Kyrgyzstan or another country for the duration of the proceedings before the Court.
- On 12 March 2015 the applicant’s relatives were told by the officials of the detention centre for aliens that the applicant would be expelled from Russia on that day. At about 8.30 p.m. the applicant contacted his lawyer stating that he was in Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. At 9.30 p.m. the lawyer arrived at the airport and was informed by the border control personnel that the applicant had not boarded the plane scheduled for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. State bailiffs informed the lawyer that the applicant had been brought to Sheremetyevo but had later been returned to the detention centre for aliens. At 10 p.m. a duty officer of the detention centre confirmed to the lawyer that the applicant was back in the facility.
- On 20 March 2015 the Moscow City Court (“the Appeal Court”) upheld the District Court’s decision of 28 January 2015 on appeal. The Appeal Court dismissed the applicant’s allegations of the risk of ill-treatment stating that “the documents submitted by the [applicant’s] defence d[id] not demonstrate a breach of rights and freedoms of the person in question” and reasoned that “[a]ssessment of actions by law-enforcement agencies of a foreign State, as well as of [legal] acts carried out by them f[ell] outside the subject-matter jurisdiction of a court examining a case concerning an administrative offence committed in the Russian Federation by a foreign national”.
- On 10 April 2015 the Government informed the Court that “the proceedings on the administrative removal of the applicant have been suspended” and that the applicant “continues to be held in the detention centre for foreign nationals of the Moscow department of the Federal Migration Service” (“the Moscow FMS”).
- Application for refugee status
- On 4 February 2015 the applicant applied for refugee status arguing that in Kyrgyzstan he would face persecution based on his ethnic origin.
- On 12 March 2015 the Moscow FMS dismissed the applicant’s request for refugee status. The parties have not provided the Court with a copy of the decision.
- The applicant challenged the decision before the Basmannyy District Court, Moscow. The proceedings are pending.
- Alleged ill-treatment of the applicant and subsequent events
- According to the applicant, on 24 February 2015 he was severely beaten by officers of a special police squad in the detention centre for aliens. He received rubber-truncheon blows to his back, buttocks and heels.
- The applicant notified his lawyer accordingly and provided mobile phone photos of his injured back.
- On 25 February 2015 two lawyers visited the applicant along with several other persons awaiting expulsion in the detention centre for aliens. The applicant and other detainees informed them that regular beatings of detainees had begun on 17 February 2015 following unsuccessful suicide attempts by several inmates. The applicant claimed that the officers of the special police squad had beaten him on 24 February 2015 with rubber truncheons on his back, heels and buttocks.
- On 26 February 2015 the lawyers reported the beatings to the main investigative department of the Moscow Investigative Committee. They emphasised that the medical staff of the detention centre had refused to enter the detainees’ injuries into the medical logs. The lawyers requested that the beatings of the detainees, including the applicant, be investigated. In support of their request they enclosed, among other things, the applicant’s photos showing injuries to his back.
- On 19 March 2015 the lawyers’ complaint was forwarded to the Troitskiy district investigation department of the Moscow Investigative Committee.
- It appears that no investigation into the applicant’s alleged beatings in the detention centre for aliens has been instituted.
- Relevant domestic law and practice
- Code of Administrative Offences (“the CAO”)
- Under Article 3.2 § 1 (7), administrative removal (“административное выдворение”) constitutes an administrative penalty. In Article 3.10 § 1, administrative removal is defined as the forced and controlled removal of a foreign national or a stateless person across the Russian border. Under Article 3.10 § 2, administrative removal is imposed by a judge or, in cases where a foreign national or a stateless person has committed an administrative offence following entry to the Russian Federation, by a competent public official. Under Article 3.10 § 5, for the purposes of execution of the decision on administrative removal, a judge may order the detention of the foreign national or stateless person in a special facility.
- Article 3.9 provides that an administrative offender can be penalised by administrative arrest (detention) (“административный арест”) only in exceptional circumstances, and for a maximum term of thirty days.
- Under Article 18.8 §§ 1, 1.1 and 2, a foreign national who infringes the residence regulations of the Russian Federation, including by living in the State without a valid residence permit, or by non-compliance with the established procedure for residence registration, shall be liable to an administrative fine of RUB 2,000 to 5,000 and possible administrative removal. Article 18.8 § 3 provides that administrative offences described in Article 18.8 §§ 1, 1.1 and 2 and committed in Moscow, St Petersburg. Moscow Region and Leningrad Region are punishable with an administrative fine of RUB 5,000 to 7,000 and automatic administrative removal.
- Article 23.1 § 3 provides that the determination of any administrative charge that may result in removal from the Russian Federation must be made by a judge of a court of general jurisdiction. Chapter 30 of the CAO contains provisions concerning review of decisions concerning administrative offences. Article 30.1 § 1 guarantees the right to appeal against a decision on an administrative offence to a court or to a higher court. Article 30.9 contains provisions governing appeals against such decisions given by an administrative body or a first-instance court. Article 30.10 gives a prosecutor a right to seek review of the decision on the administrative offence. Article 30.11 became inoperative in 2008. Article 30.12 provides that first-instance and appeal judgments which had become final can be challenged by, inter alia, the defendant or his counsel. A regional prosecutor or his deputy, the Prosecutor General or his deputy and the public official that had submitted the administrative offence case for judicial examination can also lodge requests for review.
- Under Article 27.5 § 2, a person subject to administrative proceedings for a breach of the rules on residence within Russian territory can be held in administrative detention for a term not exceeding forty-eight hours.
- Under Article 27.19, a foreign national awaiting administrative removal shall be placed either in a detention centre for aliens or in the designated premises of the border agencies until their involuntary removal from the State.
- Under Article 31.1, a decision on an administrative offence takes effect on expiry of the term for bringing an appeal. Decisions which cannot be appealed against take effect immediately.
- Under Article 31.9 § 1, a decision imposing an administrative penalty ceases to be enforceable two years from the date on which the decision became final. Under Article 31.9 § 2, if the defendant impedes the enforcement proceedings, the limitation period specified in Article 31.9 § 1 is interrupted.
- Code of Administrative Procedure
- On 15 September 2015 a new Code of Administrative Procedure (Law no. 21-FZ of 8 March 2015) entered into force. Chapter 28 governs the proceedings for placement of an alien in a special-purpose facility pending his or her deportation or readmission and for the extension of the term of such detention. Article 269 § 2 requires the courts deciding on the detention of an alien to set a “reasonable time-limit” for such detention and to justify its duration; moreover, the operative part of the decision should set “a concrete term of detention” in a special facility.
- Relevant case-law of the Constitutional Court
- In decision no. 6-R of 17 February 1998 the Constitutional Court stated, with reference to Article 22 of the Constitution, that a person subject to administrative removal could be placed in detention without a court order for a term not exceeding forty-eight hours. Detention for over forty-eight hours was only permitted on the basis of a court order and provided that the administrative removal could not be otherwise effected. The court order was necessary to guarantee protection not only from arbitrary detention for over forty-eight hours, but also from arbitrary detention as such, while the court assessed the lawfulness of and reasons for the placement of the person in custody. The Constitutional Court further noted that detention for an indefinite term would amount to an inadmissible restriction on the right to liberty as it would constitute punishment not provided for in Russian law and which was contrary to the Constitution.
III. Relevant international materials concerning Kyrgyzstan
- For a number of relevant reports and further information, see Makhmudzhan Ergashev v. Russia (no. 49747/11, §§ 30 – 46, 16 October 2012), and Kadirzhanov and Mamashev v. Russia (nos. 42351/13 and 47823/13, §§ 72 – 77, 17 July 2014).
- The Kyrgyzstan chapter of “Amnesty International Report 2014/15: The State of The World’s Human Rights”, in so far as relevant, reads as follows:
“The authorities failed to take effective measures to address allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and bring perpetrators to justice. No impartial and effective investigation took place into human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, committed during the June 2010 violence and its aftermath. MPs initiated draft laws that if adopted would have a negative impact on civil society. Prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov remained in detention.
TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT
Torture and other ill-treatment persisted despite a programme of independent monitoring of places of detention and the establishment of the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. On 20 December 2013, the UN Committee against Torture issued its concluding observations on the second periodic report on Kyrgyzstan. The Committee expressed grave concern “about the ongoing and widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, in particular while in police custody to extract confessions”. On 23 April 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee considered the second periodic report of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Both Committees highlighted the failure of the authorities to promptly, impartially and fully investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and to prosecute perpetrators. They expressed concern about the lack of a full and effective investigation into the June 2010 violence.1 The Committees also urged Kyrgyzstan to address these concerns by taking immediate and effective measures to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment, by tackling impunity, prosecuting perpetrators and conducting investigations into all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including in cases related to the June 2010 violence.
On 16 June 2014, the Jalal-Abad regional human rights organization Spravedlivost (Justice) recorded two incidents of torture during a monitoring visit to the Jalal-Abad temporary detention centre. A medical practitioner, who was part of the monitoring group, documented the signs of torture. One detainee alleged that police officers had beaten him with hands and fists and a book, and put a plastic bag over his head. He was handcuffed to a radiator until the next day. He suffered concussion as a result of the ill-treatment. Another detainee alleged that police officers hit him in the larynx, kicked him in the stomach and beat his head with a book. Spravedlivost submitted complaints to the Jalal-Abad city prosecutor. After conducting an initial check and ordering two forensic medical examinations, the city prosecutor nevertheless refused to open criminal investigations into these allegations.
In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights issued three judgments against Russia, in which it stated that if ethnic Uzbek applicants were to be extradited to Kyrgyzstan, they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
Criminal investigations into allegations of torture were rare. In the first half of 2014, the Prosecutor General’s Office registered 109 complaints, but only in nine cases were criminal investigations initiated; of these only three went to trial. Trials were ongoing at the end of the year.
The media reported that on 26 November 2013, the Sverdlovsk District Court of Bishkek handed down the first ever conviction for torture under Article 305-1 of the Criminal Code. Police officer Adilet Motuev was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. The Court found that he had illegally brought a man to a police station after accusing him of stealing a mobile phone. Adilet Motuev threatened the man and forced him to confess to the theft by squeezing the handcuffs and putting a plastic bag on his head and suffocating him. However, in 2014 the Court of Second Instance acquitted Adilet Motuev of all torture charges and changed the sentence to two years’ imprisonment for unauthorized conduct of an investigation.
The authorities failed to take any steps to fairly and effectively investigate the June 2010 violence and its aftermath in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. Lawyers defending ethnic Uzbeks detained in the context of the violence continued to be targeted for their work, threatened and physically attacked, even in the courtroom, with no accountability for the perpetrators.”
- The Kyrgyzstan chapter of Human Rights Watch’s “World Report 2015” reads, in so far as relevant, as follows:
“Since the outbreak of ethnic violence in June 2010, Kyrgyzstan’s flawed justice process has produced long prison sentences for mostly ethnic Uzbeks after convictions marred by torture-tainted confessions and other due process violations. Seven further cases related to crimes committed during the violence are pending, including that of a man detained in July 2014. All defendants are ethnic Uzbeks, reinforcing concerns of judicial bias.
Impunity for violent physical and verbal attacks at some hearings continued in 2014, undermining defendants’ fair trial rights. After a January hearing in the case of Mahamad Bizurukov, an ethnic Uzbek defendant standing trial for June 2010-related crimes, the United States embassy issued a statement expressing deep concern.
Although the government acknowledges that torture occurs in Kyrgyzstan, impunity for torture remains the norm. Criminal cases into allegations of ill-treatment or torture are rare, and investigations and trials are delayed or ineffective.
In its June concluding observations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) expressed concern about “widespread torture and ill-treatment of children” in detention and closed institutions and called for prompt and effective independent investigations.
According to statistics provided by the Prosecutor General’s Office to Golos Svobody, a local anti-torture group, authorities declined to open criminal investigations into 100 of 109 registered complaints of torture in the first half of 2014.
Monitors from the National Center for the Prevention of Torture encountered some problems accessing places of detention. After one incident in March, the center filed a complaint against the director of the Issyk Kul region temporary detention facility for refusing the monitors entry, but at time of writing the director had not been held accountable.”
- Alleged violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of the applicant’s expulsion to Kyrgyzstan
- The applicant complained that, owing to his Uzbek ethnic origin, he would face a serious risk of ill-treatment if expelled to Kyrgyzstan. In his application form he relied on Article 3 of the Convention. In his observations on the admissibility and merits of the application of 28 August 2015, the applicant raised for the first time a complaint under Article 13 of the Convention. Being the master of the characterisation to be given in law to the facts of the case (see v. Croatia, no. 16115/13, § 75, 5 June 2014), the Court considers that the applicant’s grievances fall to be examined solely under Article 3 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
- The parties’ submissions
- The Government
- The Government contested the applicant’s allegations. They submitted that the applicant’s removal from Russia had been ordered by the domestic courts in full compliance with Article 18.8 § 3 of the CAO and that the administrative sanction had been proportionate to the administrative offence committed.
- The domestic courts had not found any circumstances that would exclude the possibility of applying the sanction in question to the applicant. The applicant had been made aware of his procedural rights; he had admitted his guilt before the District Court and yet had not mentioned any risk of ill-treatment in Kyrgyzstan. The Appeal Court had examined the allegations of the risk of ill-treatment raised in the appeal statement and found that the materials submitted had not demonstrated any violations of the applicant’s rights; moreover, it had not been the judge’s task to assess the actions of law-enforcement agencies of a third country. The Appeal Court had requested information from the Moscow FMS with regard to the applicant’s asylum application and had been notified of its decision of 12 March 2015.
- The applicant had participated in the court hearings at two instances and had had an ample opportunity to make complaints under Articles 3 and 5 of the Convention, which he had made use of.
- The applicant had not lodged any complaints about the domestic courts’ decisions under Articles 30.9-12 of the CAO.
- The Government further submitted the following arguments to demonstrate that human rights protection mechanisms in Kyrgyzstan had been improving: Kyrgyzstan was a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Optional Protocol to it; the Kyrgyz Constitution guaranteed fair trial and proscribed capital punishment, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment; the Kyrgyz Criminal Code criminalised torture and was based on the principles of lawfulness and equality before the law; Kyrgyzstan was a vice-president of the UN Human Rights Council and rapporteur of its bureau; since June 2010 the country had undergone positive changes, including adopting a new Constitution, parliamentary and presidential elections, the setting up of domestic and international commissions to investigate the Jalal-Abad violence, reform of legislation in order to bring it into compliance with UN standards and on 7 June 2012 a law had been adopted with a view to creating a national anti-torture centre. The Government suggested that the overall human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan had not called for a total ban on extradition from the Council of Europe’s Member States.
- The Government further claimed that given that Kyrgyz authorities had not requested the applicant’s extradition there had been no grounds to assume that the applicant would be arrested and prosecuted if returned to the country of origin.
- The applicant
- The applicant emphasised that the domestic authorities had failed to properly examine his allegations of the risk of ill-treatment in Kyrgyzstan. He noted that the Code of Administrative Offences did not stipulate an obligation to assess a risk of ill-treatment in the course of expulsion proceedings. The Appeal Court had refused to examine in detail the allegations made in the appeal statement referring to territorial jurisdiction; thus, the applicant’s serious claims of risk of the proscribed treatment had been left unscrutinised. Nor had these claims been analysed in the course of the proceedings relating to the application for refugee status.
- Given that the supervisory review proceedings under Articles 30.12-14 of the CAO have no suspensive effect, they could not be considered an effective remedy to be exhausted.
- The applicant, an ethnic Uzbek charged by the Kyrgyz authorities in absentia in connection with the Jalal-Abad riots, belonged to a vulnerable group even in the absence of a formal extradition request. The fact that Kyrgyzstan had ratified international human rights instruments did not exclude the possibility that the applicant as a member of a vulnerable group would face a serious risk of ill-treatment if returned to the country owing to the fact that there was an administrative practice of ill-treatment of ethnic Uzbeks as reported, in particular, by Amnesty International and the UN Universal Periodic Review.
- The Court’s assessment
- The Court notes that the Government briefly stated that the applicant had not lodged any complaints under Articles 30.9-12 of the CAO (see paragraph 44 above). However, in the absence of any detailed submissions clarifying the issue it is not ready to treat the Government’s remark as a plea of non-exhaustion of effective domestic remedies that would require its assessment.
- The Court further notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention and it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
(a) General principles
- The Court will examine the merits of this part of the applicant’s complaint under Article 3 of the Convention in the light of the applicable general principles reiterated in, among other cases, Umirov v. Russia (no. 17455/11, §§ 92 – 100, 18 September 2012, with further references).
(b) Application of the general principles to the present case
- The Court observes that the Russian authorities ordered the applicant’s expulsion from Russian territory. Although the country of destination was not determined in the court decisions ordering the expulsion, given that the applicant holds Kyrgyzstani nationality it appears reasonable to assume that if removed from Russian territory he would find himself in Kyrgyzstan.
- The expulsion order has not been enforced as a result of an indication by the Court of an interim measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. The Court will therefore assess whether the applicant faces a risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention in the event of his removal from Russia to Kyrgyzstan – the material date for the assessment of that risk being that of the Court’s consideration of the case – taking into account the assessment made by the domestic courts (see Gayratbek Saliyev v. Russia, no. 39093/13, § 60, 17 April 2014).
- Turning to the general human rights climate in the presumed receiving country, the Court observes the following. In the case of Makhmudzhan Ergashev (cited above, § 72) concerning extradition to Kyrgyzstan the Court found that in 2012 the situation in the south of the country was characterised by torture and other ill-treatment of ethnic Uzbeks by law-enforcement officers, which had increased in the aftermath of the events of June 2010 and remained widespread and rampant, and was aggravated by the impunity of the law-enforcement officers involved. Moreover, the Court established that the issue ought to be seen in the context of the rise of ethno-nationalism in the politics of Kyrgyzstan, particularly in the south, the growing inter-ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, the continued discriminatory practices faced by Uzbeks at an institutional level and under-representation of Uzbeks in, amongst other areas, law-enforcement bodies and the judiciary. In its subsequent cases the Court observed that in 2012 – 13 the situation in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan had not improved. In particular, various reports had been consistently in agreement when describing biased attitudes based on ethnicity in investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sanctions imposed on ethnic Uzbeks charged and convicted in relation to the events in Jalal-Abad Region, as well as a lack of full and effective investigations into the numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment imputable to Kyrgyz law-enforcement agencies, arbitrary detention and excessive use of force against Uzbeks allegedly involved in the events of June 2010 (see Gayratbek Saliyev, cited above, § 61; Kadirzhanov and Mamashev, cited above, § 91; and Khamrakulov v. Russia, no. 68894/13, § 65, 16 April 2015). The Court observes that it follows from the reputable NGOs’ reports above that no significant progress has been made in the human rights field in Kyrgyzstan in the course of 2014 – 15 (see paragraphs 38 – 39 above). Accordingly, the Court concludes that the current overall human rights situation in that State remains highly problematic (see Gayratbek Saliyev, cited above, § 61).
- The Court will now examine whether there are any individual circumstances substantiating the applicant’s fears of ill-treatment (see Mamatkulov and Askarov v. Turkey [GC], nos. 46827/99 and 46951/99, § 73, ECHR 2005-I). It reiterates in this respect that where an applicant alleges that he or she is a member of a group systematically exposed to a practice of ill-treatment, the protection of Article 3 of the Convention enters into play when the applicant establishes, where necessary on the basis of information contained in recent reports by independent international human rights protection bodies or non-governmental organisations, that there are serious reasons to believe in the existence of the practice in question and his or her membership of the group concerned. In those circumstances the Court will not then insist that the applicant show the existence of further special distinguishing features (see Saadi v. Italy [GC], no. 37201/06, § 132, ECHR 2008, and NA. v. the United Kingdom, no. 25904/07, § 116, 17 July 2008). The Court considers that this reasoning is of particular relevance in the present case, where the applicant, an ethnic Uzbek, is charged in Kyrgyzstan with a number of serious offences allegedly committed in the course of the violence of June 2010 (see Kadirzhanov and Mamashev, cited above, § 92). Given the widespread use by the Kyrgyz authorities of torture and ill-treatment in order to obtain confessions from ethnic Uzbeks charged with involvement in the inter-ethnic riots in the Jalal-Abad Region, which has been reported by both UN bodies and reputable NGOs (see paragraphs 37 – 39 above), the Court is satisfied that the applicant belongs to a particularly vulnerable group, the members of which are routinely subjected in Kyrgyzstan to treatment proscribed by Article 3 of the Convention.
- The Court further observes that the above circumstances were brought to the attention of the Russian authorities in two sets of proceedings: the administrative removal proceedings and those ensuing from the applicant’s application for refugee status (see paragraphs 13 and 18 above).
- The information available to the Court regarding the refugee status proceedings is scarce. It is clear that the applicant’s refugee application was rejected as inadmissible by the Moscow FMS and that the applicant’s appeal against the rejection is currently pending at the national level. However, given that no copy of the decision of 12 March 2015 has been provided by the parties (see paragraph 19 above), the Court is unable to assess its contents and reasoning.
- As for the administrative removal proceedings, the Court notes the summary reasoning put forward by the Appeal Court when dismissing the applicant’s allegations of the risk of ill-treatment, in particular, by the finding that the documents submitted by the applicant had not demonstrated “a breach of rights and freedoms of the person in question” (see paragraph 16 above). It reiterates in this connection that requesting an applicant to produce “indisputable” evidence of a risk of ill-treatment in a third country would be tantamount to asking him to prove the existence of a future event, which is impossible, and would place a clearly disproportionate burden on him. Any such allegation always concerns an eventuality, something which may or may not occur in the future. Consequently, such allegations cannot be proven in the same way as past events. The applicant must only be required to show, with reference to specific facts relevant to him and to the class of people he belongs to, that there is a high likelihood that he would be ill-treated (see, with further references, Rakhimov v. Russia, no. 50552/13, § 93, 10 July 2014). In such circumstances, the Court is not convinced that the issue of the risk of ill-treatment was subjected to rigorous scrutiny in the refugee status or expulsion proceedings (see Abdulkhakov v. Russia, no. 14743/11, § 148, 2 October 2012, and Kadirzhanov and Mamashev, cited above, § 94).
- The Court takes note of the Government’s submissions regarding recent developments in Kyrgyzstan in the field of human rights (see paragraph 45 above). It cannot, however, agree with their assumption that the advances mentioned, such as ratification of international human rights instruments or parliamentary and presidential elections, albeit welcome, would suffice to drastically ameliorate the general human rights situation in a country.
- Nor is the Court convinced by the Government’s argument that in the absence of an extradition request there are no grounds to suggest that the applicant would face criminal charges in Kyrgyzstan (see paragraph 46 above). There are no elements in the present case that would enable the Court to conclude that the charges brought against the applicant on account of his alleged involvement in the Jalal-Abad violence (see paragraph 10 above) have been dropped or have become time-barred. Accordingly, it is highly probable that, once in Kyrgyzstan, the applicant would be arrested and charged on the basis of the warrant of 26 June 2012.
- Considering the attested widespread and routine use of torture and other ill-treatment by law-enforcement agencies in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan in respect of members of the Uzbek community, to which the applicant belongs, the impunity of law-enforcement officers and the absence of sufficient safeguards for the applicant in the requesting country, the Court finds it substantiated that the applicant would face a real risk of treatment proscribed by Article 3 of the Convention if returned to Kyrgyzstan.
63. Accordingly, the Court finds that the applicant’s forced return to Kyrgyzstan, in the form of expulsion or otherwise, would be in violation of Article 3 of the Convention.