Arbi Zarmaev: Letter to the King of Belgians

April 23, 2011

Letter dated April 20, 2011 Yelena Maglevannaya to His Royal Highness Albert II, King of the Belgians

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.


6 Responses to “Arbi Zarmaev: Letter to the King of Belgians”

  1. kruitvat Says:

    Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe

    Ms. Heidi Hautala, Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, European Parliament
    Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
    Mr. Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities of the OSCE

    Dear Mr. Hammarberg,

    I would like to urgently appeal to You to help us organize a S.O.S. group of human rights activists, investigative journalists, lawyers, doctors, politiciens and other voluntaries. This group is urgently needed because of the shocking experiences of some political refugees in Europe. We cannot stay indifferent, stand by and only watch!
    On the specific cases in the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Belgium, I will demonstrate the practices in treatment of the refugees in almost all Europe where the refugees are denied basic human rights stated in the Geneva Conventions.
    What is even more shocking is finding that also work of most of the so called humanitarian organizations, which are supposed to be helping refugees, are in fact either absolutely ignoring these people, or just trying to trick them into giving them information useful for the ministries of interior and the secret services.
    Despite the fact that for example the Czech asylum law (§ 10) says that every refugee has the right to ask for help at the UNHCR, they either get no answer or are brushed off with one sentence from the Czech representative of the UHNCR, Ms. Marta Miklušáková: “We do not help individuals…” (see enclosure).
    UNHCR with the highest status in protecting the rights of the refugees is ignoring calls of individuals and groups of refugees and is doing absolutely nothing to help people under the wheels of the state machinery which is often cooperating with the cruel regimes surching for these people.
    Recently UNHCR was noticed for a bizarre patronage of a beneficial ball in the Prague State Opera. Among invited was also Ivana Trampová who was provided with a hotel room for 5000 euro. But earning from the ball did not reach the refugees – it was donated to the State Opera and the foundation of Tereza Maxová, which is not involved in helping refugees in any way.
    Also other organizations having huge grants in disposition from the state, EU and other international donors are doing literally nothing to help refugees. This approach of the so called humanitarian organizations is creating a lawless vacuum for the refugees who find themselves in an absolutely helpless situation.
    Ms. Števulová from the Slovak organization Human Rights League advised a refugee from the North Caucasus Aslan Yandiev who was seeking asylum in Slovakia under a different name with false documents, because he was worried about his life, to uncover his identity to the Slovak authorities, knowing his name was on the list of Interpol. Regarding bad experiences of asylum seekers in Slovakia (because of loyalty of the Slovak authorities to the Russian Federation) she must have known that he will be imprisoned. According to the human rights organization Memorial, the Russian Federation likely fabricated a case against him as in many other cases against refugees from the North Caucasus. The lawyer must have known that the refugee after uncovering his identity will be in danger of being turned over to the Russian authorities, but did nothing. Now the refugee is in prison facing possible deportation to the country where he can be tortured or even killed.
    As an investigative journalist, I have been following not only mentioned case of a political refugee, but also many others who turned for help to the Czech civic association Help a Man organization. I would like to introduce you some of these cases.
    Probably, there are the most alarming cases of Ali Ibragimov and Anzor Chentiev, who have been in prison in Slovakia for more then five years without investigation and a trial, without granting asylum.
    Ali Ibragimov and Anzor Chentiev from Chechnya are in a prison because a Russian prosecutor accused them of participation in killing two soldiers in Chechnya in 2001, and wants them to be extradited to RF.
    But in December 2010, in a case of a Chechen asylum seeker accused by the Russian prosecutor to have participated in killing eight soldiers in 2002 in Chechnya, the Supreme Court in Finland decided, that the accused was not guilty of any terrorist act as RF procurator says, because the war operations were still continuing in 2002, therefore this act cannot be considered as an attack against civilians.
    WHY is there such “refugee policy” practicing by absolutely another way in every member´s country of the European Union?
    Even inhuman Dublin agreement doesn´t solve such cases.
    During those five years in prison Mr. Ibragimov is mostly alone in a cell. And he was more than two years held in a cell inside which he was locked in a “cage” (cca 2,5m x 3m) so he could not even go to a window.
    It has been well documented by human rights organizations like Memorial, Human Rights Watch, or Amnesty International, that the pro-Russian regime of president Kadyrov in Chechnya is a dictatorship hunting for all who were ever in any way involved in the Chechen resistance or disagree with the Kadyrov´s regime. To arrest these people who run away from Chechnya to Europe the Russian secret service (FSB) is known to fabricate cases accusing refugees of criminal acts. According to all the documents gathered in the cases of Mr. Ibragimov and Mr. Chentiev they are not guilty, but – I have to repeat – they have been in prison for more than 5 years!

  2. kruitvat Says:

    Despite these known cases of political persecutions in the Russian Federation, the ECHR did not accept their appelation in September 2010, and agreed with the decisions of the Slovakian courts, that a Russian guarantee of a fare trail is sufficient and the refugees can be turned over to the RF.
    This decision of the ECHR was supported by the fact that a colleague of hereinbefore mentioned lawyer Ms. Števulová, Mr. Martin Škamla from the same organization (Human Rights League), did not send the ECHR an important testimonial and documents in favor of his clients, which he had in disposal.
    All those years, too, Mr. Škamla did not mentioned the facts in any document as that Anzor Chentiev lost his eye when his village Katyr-Yurt was bombed in 2000, his wife died while he has been in the Slovak prison and he has a six year´s (today) daughter. Or that Ali Ibragimov has a gastric ulcers for fifteen years and was coughing blood, but was refused medical treatment. In August 2010, Mr. Ibragimov was beaten up by the prison guards and had broken jawbone. Only after a number of our urgencies (since November 2010), Mr. Ibragimov was sent to a hospital for a treatment (in March 2011), where they confirmed he had a gastric ulcers (old and new ones) and had his jawbone previously broken, which was before denied by the prison.
    When the Slovakian authorities were preparing to extradite Mr. Ibragimov and Chentiev to the RF in November 2010, Help a Man organization turned to the ECHR drawing attention to low quality of Mr. Škamla’s work, attaching documentation which Help a Man already sent to Mr. Škamla in March 2010 already, but the lawyer did not sent the documentation to the ECHR. After the ECHR considered the new evidence, the court unprecedentedly ruled for interim measures and stopped already planned extraction.
    Mr. Chentiev and Mr. Ibragimov then again asked for asylum and were refused again in February 2011. Their cases are now again going through the legal proceeding of the ECHR. However, the ECHR is overloaded with cases to solve, but these people are losing a big part of their lives.
    We also asked the UNHCR in Slovakia for help, they did not even answer.
    We got also involved in another case of a Chechen refugee Ali Atsaev, 17 months in a prison in the Czech Republic (see enclosure – the letter of human rights activist and Europarliamentaries to the Czech Minister of Interior).
    Ali Atsaev, one of the former Chechen commanders during the first Chechen war, was accused by the Russian prosecutor of organizing a murder in 2002 and the RF is asking for his extradition. Regarding statements of the Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, there are many reasons to think that also this case has been fabricated (see enclosure).
    Among others who were contacted on behalf of Mr. Atsaev´s case was the Czech office of UNHCR. We got no answer.
    If Ali Atsaev was turned over to the RF, he would most likely face torture possibly death, but it seems that nobody cares here.
    The Czech Ministry of Interior refused to give Mr. Atsaev asylum in first, but courts of two instances ruled that Mr. Atsaev cannot be extradited. Then the procurator introduced a “new evidence” – the letter from the last Czech ambassador in Moscow Miroslav Kostelka, dating in February 2010 and stating that the RF declared amnesties for those involved in the Chechen resistance in last. And because of this reason, there is no danger for Mr. Atsaev in the RF. Despite this was a false information, a new court decision allowed extradition of Mr. Atsaev.
    In the meantime, the Czech Municipal Court in Prague ruled in the asylum case of Mr. Atsaev that the decision of Ministry of Interior was unlawful, because Mr. Atsaev was without any doubt involved in the Chechen resistance as a commander and therefore he could be threatened in the RF, but the Ministry of Interior did not mentioned it. The Ministry of Interior appealed to the High Administrative Court which, in August 2010, confirmed the decision of lower instance about an incorrect decision regarding asylum refusal of Mr. Atsaev, and ruled on the basis of non-refoulement principle that a decision on extradiction of Mr. Atsaev to the RF cannot be made before a new decision in his asylum case.
    Despite this court decision, there has been no act in the asylum case until now. And in March 2011, the Czech Minister of Justice Jiří Pospíšil decided not to respect the ruling of the High Administrative Court and allowed extradition of Mr. Atsaev to the RF. Mr. Atsaev’s lawyer turned to the ECHR which within few hours ruled interim measures and stopped the Czech government in deporting Mr. Atsaev to the RF.
    Trying to stop the extradition I sent the local media an open letter of Help a Man organization to the Czech Ministers of Justice and Interior. The letter was signed by the Czech ex-Minister of Human Rights Michael Kocáb, Ms. Svetlana Gannushkina, Prof. Bill Bowring, Bart Staes, Frieda Brepoels, Viktor Fainberg, Vladimir Bukovsky and others.
    After publishing the open letter the Czech media publicized documents which we previously provided the Ministry of Interior, and which included an important information about Mr. Atsaev’s involvement in the Chechen resistance. These documents were only for the use of the ministry, but were obviously leaked on purpose, and seriously threatened Mr. Atsaev’s safety.
    Among leaked documents was, for example, a personal letter of Ahmed Zakaev.
    The minister of justice Mr. Pospíšil replied to the open letter arguing that principle of non-refoulement does not have to be respected, if an asylum seeker is considered as dangerous to the state. But then the ECHR and the Czech Constitutional Court exceptionally decided on interim measures not allowing extradition until next legal procedure. No court ever decided, that Mr. Atsaev is dangerous for our country.
    While being involved with the case of previously named and other refugees, for example from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Somalia, Palestine or Georgia we came in contact with many European organizations and lawyers. Their socking ignorance made us investigate more about these so called humanitarian organizations which are receiving huge financial support from the state, EU and through the media are also manipulating the public opinion.
    For example, Jana Hradílková – a cofounder of the Czech organization Berkat, which overtook some of the activities of the other Czech organization People in Need in the North Caucus, and claims that it was established to help the Chechen people, said in one interview that Berkat is gathering information for the ministry of interior to inform them about a political climate in Chechnya. And the same person is speaking highly of the Chechen dictator. Ms. Hradílková calls pro-Russian dictator in Chechnya a hard working man who is trying to make his people understand that he is doing all he can for them (see enclosure).
    And Ms. Hradílková adds (June 9th 2009): “And to be honest, according to those I had a chance to talk to, they all agree, that he (Kadyrov) is simply successful. In past two three years I often heard people say: no matter what, this man did more for us then any other among our rulers. The borders of life are tight, but there is space to live…”
    And Ms. Hradílková continues: “When I compare my previous short visits of Caucasus, something has changed in my view. I sence a big change in the mood of the people. As if there is less fear, stress and unsecurity,” said Ms. Hradílková adding that she even knows of families which family members are coming back from emigration.
    In the same time, Berkat is receiving money for its project in Grozny directly from the Czech Ministry of Interior and on its web they are declaring how the presidential administration of the Chechen dictator , municipal administration of Grozny and ministries are pleased with their work in Chechnya. And in the same time they say they are helping the Chechen refugees in the Czech Republic!

  3. kruitvat Says:

    The position of the Czech Ministry of Interior from 2009 was that “there is stabilization in Chechnya”, and therefore there is no reason to grant Chechen refugees asylum”. This only changed in February 2011, after the common affords of last Czech Government Commissioner for Human Rights Michael Kocáb, Help a Man and Svetlana Gannushkina, who came to Prague on a special invitation of Help a Man to urgently appeal to Michael Kocáb in the cases of refugees from the North Caucasus who were refused asylum in the Czech Republic.
    Then, Michael Kocáb called The Government Council on Human Rights which appealed to the Government of the Czech Republic to stop forcing these people to leave the Czech Republic.
    Breakthrough was a decision of the Ministry of Interior on an asylum for one Chechen refugee in February 2011, which states that all the Caucasians are persecuted by the Russian officials and police in the RF, and they are victims of brutal attacks of the Russian skinheads.
    But these are just small victories against the state machinery which is allowing a lot of the organization in the Czech Republic, for example Organization for Helping Refugees (OPU) or SOZE, spent its funds working against the interests of the refugees.
    In another example, an asylum advisor of the Czech Consulting Center for Refugees (PPU), Jitka Pechová, who was supposed to be helping refugees, was making so many serious mistakes in the asylum procedures which cost a lot of damage in many asylum cases. Help a Man organization appealed to the Czech authorities criticizing her and her colleague’s work. After these protests criticizing her work Ms. Pechová left the organization and went to work directly for the Ministry of Interior, department of asylum and migration policy.
    While Ms. Pechová was working in the Consulting Center for Refugees she was also studying at the police academy (which was not known to the refugees), and the title of her final work was: “The Chechen Question and its Relationship to Terrorism”.
    Another refugee from Kyrgyzstan recorded Martin Rozumek, the head of an organization directly cooperating with the UNHCR, the Czech Organization for Helping Refugees (OPU), admitting that he was taking money from her to deal with her papers while this organization is getting a big financial support from the state, the EU, and the UNHCR and others to provide the refugees with free legal help. Mr. Rozumek argued that he was accepting the money as a private lawyer. But he was taking these money in the office of the Organization for Helping Refugees, and never gave this woman any receipt. The woman also said she has many friends who have the same experience with the head of the Center.
    The last prove of a systemic rot came from SOZE Brno in March 2011, an organization also established to help emigrants, supported by big state funds, is also supposed to provide legal help to refugees who turn to them.
    In a case of another Chechen refugees, the Czech police turned to the Russian embassy to confirm his identity, in February 2011. This was a serious infringement of the asylum law, but the lawyer from SOZE representing the refugee “did not think it is important enough” to bother himself with protesting an unlawful practice of the police.
    And in the center of the EU, Belgium, city of Hasselt:
    “The tape recorded the hearing of the State Council on March 16, 2011 is clear: the delegate of the Minister of Justice De Clerck pleads contacts with the Russian embassy and the threat of not being able to recover Belgian citizens, probably convicted for espionage in Russia, to maintain the extradition of the commander Arbi Zarmaev. The deal was enough to sentence a 37-years-old political refugee to a dehydration regime, which in 21 months, has reduced to 48 kilos, 1,85 m tall. He was, as from the eve of this hearing, left without water for 4 days, hand shackled behind his back, with dry bread dropped from the door hole of the prison of Hasselt, until he fell into coma.”

  4. kruitvat Says:

    In despite of interim measures ruled by ECHR in April 2011, Arbi is in very serious health state in the prison yet, he looks like a skeleton, but he is refused by treatment!
    As final words I would like to quote Mr. Victor Fainberg and Mr. Michael Kocáb during our visit to Ali Ibragimov when speaking to the director of Košice prison in Slovakia in February 2011:
    Michael Kocáb
    “This is a total collapse of democracy, what we saw here today!”
    Viktor Fainberg
    “Thank you for making me feel like at home. Like in the Soviet Union.”
    In the light of this experience with the situation of the refugees in Europe, I appeal to You Mr. Hammarberg, to demand high level cooperation of European UNHCR offices and URGENTLY dealing with such cases of the refugees.
    Because often to save a refugee means taking action within days or even hours, I believe it is neccesary to establish a S.O.S team which would intervene when needed.
    Jana Ridvanová
    Czech independent journalist
    tel.+420 736 242 320
    Supporters of the letter:
    Michael Kocáb, Czech ex-Minister on Human Rights
    Viktor Fainberg, Paris
    Hana Demeterová, Help a man, Prague
    Imran Ezheev, advicer of Bart Staes, Dusseldorf

    Prague 10.4.2011

  5. kruitvat Says:


    Arbi Zarmaev is again arrested. He is again isolated in Bruges prison where he was isolated, tortured and treated with neuroleptics to make him crazy. He was arrested on the moment he was going to the police station in Ostende. His family can not contact him. This is again a violation of the Belgian prison act (2004) which never has been applicated. The European Union has a big problem with the respect of human rights. Irish political prisoners are mistreated and tortured on the same way as in Belgium.

    We are all talking about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ in the Middle East but since 2006, Marcel Vervloesem, member of our association and researcher in the childporn case Zandvoort (88.539 victims), has an interdiction to talk with the press. During 2 years he was tortured in Bruges prison. One year ago he was freed (and still alive) but his health was totally broken by the mistreatment in prison. He has again an interdiction to talk with the press; he can not work with organisations fighting child abuse; Belgian Justice has forbidden him to contact the members of his association who were visiting him during 2 years (every week) in prison.

  6. kruitvat Says:

    5 days ago Arbi was jailed again in Bruges prison where he was tortured, isolated, treated with neuroleptics and beaten (broken ribs) before. He was again isolated and the Belgian prison act was not respected. If all goes well, then Arbi will released a second time today. Let us hope that everything is better organized and that certain individuals who were not happy with the release of Arbi, keep calm now.

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