French Authorities Must Ensure Safety of Chechen Man Wrongfully Deported to Russia

Photo: Andy Li / Unsplash 

Magomed Gadaev, a Chechen asylum seeker in France and key witness in a high-profile torture investigation against Chechnya’s authorities, was abducted on 11 April by Chechen police after being wrongfully deported from France to Russia. Civil Rights Defenders and eleven other human rights organisations now urge the French authorities to ensure Gadaev’s safety and to suspend all pending deportations of Chechens who face torture in Russia.  

Chechen police abducted Magomed Gadaev, an asylum seeker from Chechnya and key witness in a high-profile torture investigation against Chechnya’s authorities, two days after he was wrongfully deported from France to Russia on 9 April. Chechen police continue to hold him in custody. Twelve Russian and international human rights organisations said that Gadaev is at high risk of torture as a result of the actions by the French, Russian and Chechen authorities which violated international human rights law. 

French authorities outrageously proceeded with Gadaev’s expulsion, despite the decision by the national asylum court to prohibit his expulsion due to substantiated fears for his life and safety. French authorities’ actions have put him at immediate risk of torture and other ill-treatment and exposed him to a grave danger to his life. This is in flagrant violation of France’s international obligations prohibiting the return of any person, whatever the circumstances, to a territory where they are at risk of serious human rights violations. This prohibition is a non-derogable norm of international law and is affirmed by numerous human rights treaties ratified by France. 

On 13 April, Gadayev’s lawyer Semyon Tsevetkov finally located him at the Urus-Martan police department in Chechnya. Gadaev told Tsvetkov that he no longer needed his services and already had another lawyer representing him. Based on a conversation between police officers, which the lawyer overheard, he learnt that Gadaev was to be placed under arrest on charges of illegal possession and circulation of arms and would be jailed in Grozny pending trial. There are strong grounds for concern that Gadaev refused the services of his trusted lawyer under duress.  He remains at imminent risk of torture and other ill-treatment, and his life is in danger. Torture in Chechnya is widespread. Gadaev is also at risk of an unfair trial. 

In the months following last year’s murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher in a town on the outskirts of Paris, by 18-year-old Chechen refugee Abdullakh Anzorov, the number of Chechen asylum seekers being deported from France has been on the rise. According to Comité Tchétchénie, a French non-governmental group working to stop human rights abuses in Chechnya, between November 2020 and April 2021, the French authorities deported at least eight asylum seekers of Chechen origin, including Gadaev, to Russia. Two of them – Ilyas Sadulaev, deported from France on 12 March, and Lezi Artsuev, deported from Russia on 5 April – have disappeared upon return to Russia.   

What happened to Gadaev immediately after his return to Russia provides one more stark example of the lack of internal flight alternative elsewhere in the territory of the Russian Federation for asylum seekers from Chechnya. 

We urge the French authorities to do the following:

  • The French authorities should urgently liaise with the Russian authorities regarding Gadaev’s case to ensure that he does not suffer any violation of his rights, including his rights to life, to be free from torture, to liberty and security, to a remedy and protection of the law and, if he is facing charges, to a fair trial.  
  • As Gadaev’s deportation was conducted in violation of international law and contrary to the ruling of the national asylum court, the French authorities should also take immediate steps to enable Gadaev’s return to France.  The French authorities should suspend all pending deportations and extraditions to Russia of Chechens who face a well-founded risk of torture must and instead take meaningful steps to provide them with international protection.

Read the statement in full here.

Undersigned organisations

Amnesty International 
Civic Assistance Committee 
Civil Rights Defenders 
Committee Against Torture 
Comité Tchétchénie, France 
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) 
IPHR (International Partnership for Human Rights)  
Human Rights Watch 
Memorial Human Rights Center 
Norwegian Helsinki Committee 
OMCT (World Organization Against Torture) 
Stitching Justice Initiative 

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