UN condemns UAE’s forced deportation of a former Guantanamo detainee to Russia despite the risk of torture
Translated and Edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 12 July 2021
UN experts have expressed serious concerns about the imminent forcible return of former Guantanamo detainee Revel Mengazov from the United Arab Emirates to Russia, stating that he faces a significant risk of torture and ill-treatment upon return.
Abuse and enforced disappearance:
In a statement published by the Human Rights Council’s media center, the experts said: “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.
“Now, he risks being forcibly repatriated to Russia despite the reported risk of torture and arbitrary detention based on his religious beliefs.”
Mengazov, a Tatar Muslim who fled Russia due to fears of religious persecution, was held at Guantanamo without trial or charge from October 2002 until January 2017.
In 2010, a US court ordered his immediate release, and in 2016 he was acquitted and transferred to the UAE, before being resettled in the UAE based on unofficial assurances that included his release into the UAE community after undergoing a short-term rehabilitation program.
According to the experts, the Russian authorities reportedly visited the Mingazov family’s home to verify 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. They noted that neither Mengazov nor his family were informed of any official information about the scheduled repatriation.
The ambiguity of the Emirati resettlement program:
The experts reiterated the concerns expressed in previous communications to the UAE government regarding the treatment and conditions of detention of former Guantanamo detainees who have been resettled in the UAE, and the secrecy surrounding the implementation of the agreed resettlement programme. The government did not respond to their letter.
In a statement issued on October 15, 2020, the experts urged the UAE to halt any plans to return 18 former Guantanamo detainees to Yemen.
“We urge the UAE government to review its policy of repatriating former Guantanamo detainees despite the high risk of torture or ill-treatment in destination countries,” the experts said.
The UAE had concluded an agreement with the United States, according to which 23 Guantanamo detainees were resettled in the UAE, and three of them have since been forcibly returned to their countries of origin.
The experts said: “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.”
They added: “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 Government should also stop violating the rights of detainees resettled in the UAE and order their immediate release and reunification with their families.”