PUBLIC AI Index: EUR 46/05/98
UA 88/98 Fear of forcible repatriation/Fear for safety 18 March 1998
RUSSIAN FEDERATION/GEORGIAGuram ABSANDZE (_____ ________)
Nemo BURCHULADZE (____ __________)
Guram Absandze, the minister of finance in former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s
government and Vice-President of the “Georgian Government in Exile”, and Nemo
Burchuladze, deputy speaker of the Georgian Supreme Soviet during the presidency
of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, are apparently facing imminent and forcible repatriation
to Georgia after being arrested in Russia, allegedly at the request of the Georgian
authorities. If returned to Georgia, Amnesty International fears that Guram Absandze
and Nemo Burchuladze would be at risk of grave violations of their human rights,
specifically torture or ill-treatment.
Guram Absandze has been living in Russia since late 1993 and apparently acquired
Russian nationality in 1996. Earlier attempts by the Georgian authorities to
extradite him reportedly failed because of his Russian citizenship, which the
Procurator General of the Russian Federation is now understood to have revoked.
Guram Absandze is reportedly now applying for political asylum while in detention.
He was reportedly arrested on 17 March by the Russian police in Smolensk Oblast,
where he was living. The Russian Procurator General is reported to have authorized
his extradition the same day, scheduling his extradition for the morning of 18 March.
Guram Absandze was apparently accused of embezzling US$180 million, a charge dating
back to the time of his emigration, as well as treason and “banditism”. He may also
have been accused of helping to organize the most recent assassination attempt against
the Georgian President, Eduard Shevardnadze, in February 1998.
Nemo Burchuladze, who recently travelled to Georgia to take part in negotiations
over the release of UN military observers taken hostage in February by an armed
opposition group, was arrested on 18 March by Bibirevo Regional Police Department
in Moscow. It is believed that he will soon be transferred to the temporary detention
isolator (IVS) of the Moscow Department of Internal Affairs (GUVD). He has reportedly
applied for political asylum.
Amnesty International is calling on the Russian authorities not to extradite Guram
Absandze and Nemo Burchuladze to Georgia, on the grounds that they would be at risk
of serious violations of their fundamental rights, specifically torture or
ill-treatment. In recent years the organization has reported on similar human rights
violations against alleged opposition supporters charged with anti-state crimes,
and in April 1997 the UN Human Rights Committee expressed deep concern about reports
of torture in Georgia.
Amnesty International believes that the forcible repatriation of Guram Absandze
and Nemo Burchuladze to Georgia by the Russian authorities would be contrary to
the Russian Federation’s obligation under international law, in particular the
principle of non-refoulement. One fundamental principle of customary international
law states that: “No one shall be returned to a country where his life and freedom
might be endangered”. The principle is enshrined in Article 33 of the 1951 Geneva
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to which the Russian Federation acceded
in March 1993.
The Russian Constitution also provides in Article 63 for the right of a person to
be granted political asylum in the Russian Federation in order to avoid further
persecution at home. Refoulement where there are substantial grounds for believing
the person(s) may be in danger of torture is also a clear violation of Article 3
of the Convention against Torture; and of the norms enshrined in the European