The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention, illegal removal of refugee status, and risk of imminent deportation to Uzbekistan of Valentina Chupik, migrants’ rights defender and the head of the human rights organisation ‘Tong Jahoni’, a center providing free legal assistance to migrant individuals in Russia.
On September 25, 2021, Valentina Chupik was arbitrarily detained by the Russian border police at the Sheremetyevo International Airport, in Moscow, upon her return from a trip to Armenia. The authorities seized her documents and informed her that she was banned from entering Russia for 30 years (until 2051) and that her refugee status had been cancelled on September 17, 2021 on Article 9, subparagraph 2 of the Law On Refugees of Russia (“submission of false information or forged documents for obtaining a refugee status”). According to the defender, police officers at the airport told Valentina Chupik that her refugee status had been removed due to her “bad behaviour”, in relation to her public denouncement of cases of corruption within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and numerous complaints.
Valentina Chupik fled her country of origin, Uzbekistan, following the massacre in the city of Andijan on May 13, 2005, and the acts of torture the security services of Uzbekistan perpetrated against her. She has resided in Russia since then, where she was granted a refugee status in 2008. Since arriving in Moscow, Chupik has established an NGO that provides assistance to migrants from Central Asian countries. Among other things, the human rights activist has criticised the Russian authorities’ migration legislation, including the latest version of a draft migration law, which is currently being prepared by the Russian government. Independent media sources claim that Chupik’s arbitrary detention is related to her criticism of Russian migration policy and the above-mentioned bill in particular.
There are strong reasons to believe that the attacks of the Russian authorities against the human rights defender are politically motivated: first, the human rights activist was deprived of her refugee status when she was not in the country, and therefore she could not challenge the authorities’ decision (although the law gives her one month to do so). Second, her refugee status was extended in March of this year, and was subsequently withdrawn when she began actively criticising the Russian authorities.
At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Valentina remains detained at the deportation centre of the airport of Sheremetyevo, where there is a lack of ventilation, natural light and windows. She has not been provided with a towel and soap and has been denied access to her lawyers. She can be deported at any time to Uzbekistan, where she faces a serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and imminent deportation of Valentina Chupik and urges the authorities of Russia to immediately and unconditionally release her, reinstate her refugee status and immediately stop the deportation proceedings. The Observatory further urges the Russian authorities to respect the principle of non-refoulement as provided for under international refugee and human rights law, and to take all necessary measures to protect Valentina Chupik against the return to Uzbekistan.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Valentina Chupik and all other human rights defenders in the Russian Federation;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Valentina Chupik, reinstate her refugee status and put an end to the deportation proceedings to Uzbekistan in respect of the principle of non-refoulement as provided for under international refugee and human rights law;
iii. Guarantee Valentina Chupik’s unhindered access to her family members and to a lawyer of her own or her family’s choosing;
iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Valentina Chupik and all other human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities and exercise their rights without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.
· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
· Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
· Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: email@example.com
· Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), email@example.com
· Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: email@example.com
· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.