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UAE: UN experts condemn forced return of ex-Guantanamo inmate to Russia despite torture risk

GENEVA (2 July 2021) – UN human rights experts* today expressed serious concerns about the imminent forced repatriation of former Guantanamo detainee Rival Mingazov from the United Arab Emirates to Russia, saying he faced substantial risk of torture and ill-treatment upon his return.

“We are seriously concerned that instead of releasing him in accordance with the alleged resettlement agreement between the US and the UAE, Mr. Mingazov has been subjected to continuous arbitrary detention at an undisclosed location in the UAE, which amounts to enforced disappearance,” the experts said. “Now, he risks being forcibly repatriated to Russia despite the reported risk of torture and arbitrary detention based on his religious beliefs.”

Mr. Mingazov, of Muslim Tartar origin, fled Russia over fears of religious persecution. He was detained at Guantanamo without trial or charge from October 2002 until January 2017. In 2010, a US court had ordered his immediate release, and in 2016 he was cleared for transfer to the UAE. He accepted resettlement in the UAE based on informal assurances guaranteeing his release into Emirati society after undergoing a short-term rehabilitation programme.

The Russian authorities have reportedly visited the house of Mr. Mingazov’s family to validate his photographic identity in preparation for his repatriation. “Any repatriation process happening without full respect for procedural guarantees, including an individualized risk assessment, would violate the absolute prohibition of refoulement,” the experts said. No official information has been shared with Mr. Mingazov or his family regarding the planned repatriation.

The experts reiterated concerns expressed in an earlier communication to the Emirati Government about the treatment and conditions of detention of former Guantanamo detainees resettled in the UAE, and the secrecy surrounding the implementation of the agreed resettlement programme. The Government has not responded to their letter.

In a statement on 15 October 2020, the experts urged the UAE to stop any plans to repatriate 18 former Guantanamo detainees to Yemen. “While we welcome the Government’s decision not to repatriate these Yemeni nationals we continue to be gravely concerned at their indefinite detention at an undisclosed location, without charge or trial, with extremely restricted family contact, no legal representation and recurrent periods of prolonged solitary confinement,” the experts said.

“We urge the UAE Government to review its policy of repatriating former Guantanamo detainees despite substantial risks of torture or ill-treatment in the States of destination,” the experts said. The UAE concluded an agreement with the United States under which 23 Guantanamo detainees were resettled to the UAE. Three have since been forcibly returned to their home countries.

“It is not acceptable that detainees who did not return home, after years of arbitrary detention at Guantanamo Bay, from fear of persecution are now being repatriated with no judicial oversight or possibility to challenge this decision,” the experts said.

“We repeat our call to the Emirati Government, to observe its international human rights obligations and refrain from forcibly repatriating detainees to their countries of origin where they may incur a risk of torture and ill-treatment,” the experts said. “The Government should also stop violating the rights of detainees resettled in the UAE and order their immediate release and reunification with their families.”

ENDS

* The experts: Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary DisappearancesMr. Tae-Ung Baik (Chair), Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius, (Vice Chair), Ms. Aua Balde, Mr. Bernard Duhaim and Mr. Luciano Hazan

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Yasmine Ashraf (yashraf@ohchr.org/+41 22 917 2059)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org), Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / jlaurence@ohchr.org) and Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org)

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