December 26, 2017

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The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) hereby informs the public that late last night, on 25 December 2017, the Serbian authorities extradited Kurdish political activist Cevdet Ayaz to his country of origin, Turkey, where he faces the risk of persecution because of his political opinions. Mr. Ayaz, who faces a 15-year-long prison sentence handed down pursuant to a judgment based on a confession he had apparently given under torture, was returned pursuant to an extradition request the Turkish authorities had sent their Serbian counterparts.

The Serbian authorities decided to extradite Ayaz despite all the arguments put forward by his legal counsel, and, importantly, the interim measure issued by the UN Committee against Torture requiring of Serbia to temporarily refrain from refouling Ayaz to Turkey due to the real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment he might face there.

The Serbian authorities’ decision to openly act in contravention of the decision of one of the most professional and important UN bodies dealing with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms had been preceded by several contradictory statements made by the Serbian Ministry of Justice, which first said that Mr. Ayaz had already been returned to Turkey, and then that the extradition decision had been signed before the indication by the UN Committee against Torture arrived. By extraditing Mr. Ayaz, Serbia thus acted in contravention of not only Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture, prohibiting refoulement of any person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture, but also Articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which include an equivalent prohibition. In the view of the BCHR, the domestic asylum authorities did not even take into consideration that. Ayaz qualified for refugee status under international law because he risked persecution because of his political opinion, wherefore the Republic of Serbia has also violated Article 33 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as its own laws, the Asylum Act (Article 6) and the Aliens Act (Article 47).

The BCHR would like to remind the Serbian authorities and all the relevant institutions that the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute and non-derogable under international law and that there are no political, security or other reasons that justify the violation of this prohibition. The same applies to the prohibition of refoulement of persons to countries where they are at real risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment, as well as persecution, which Mr. Ayaz already suffered during the rigged trial ending with his conviction and a 15-year-long prison sentence

It is simply incomprehensible that the Serbian extradition authorities failed to adequately translate the Turkish court records clearly demonstrating that the entire conviction is based on the statements Ms. Ayaz had given to the police in the absence of his lawyer and in circumstances indicating he had given them under torture. In other words, by failing to rigorously review the content of the judgment, the Šabac Higher Court and the Novi Sad Appeals Court trampled on the principle that is also an integral part of the Serbian Criminal Code; under Article 16 of this Code, court decisions may not be based on evidence which is, directly or indirectly, in itself or by the manner in which it was obtained, in contravention of national or international law.

The BCHR is also of the view that Mr. Ayaz will not enjoy the right to a fair trial in Turkey in the criminal proceedings that will probably be launched against him, and that the Serbian authorities’ decision to extradite him to that country may give rise to a gross miscarriage of justice, which means that Serbia may also be found in violation of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The BCHR will continue extending legal aid to Mr. Ayaz. It is deeply apprehensive about the treatment he may be subjected to in Turkey, and revolted by the actions of the Serbian authorities, who have made such treatment possible. The Republic of Serbia has thus not shown that it is guided by the rule of law; quite the contrary, it openly flaunted the decisions of UN bodies it claims it complies with. In view of the numerous mistakes made by the national judicial and executive authorities, notably the Šabac Higher Court, the Novi Sad Appeals Court and the Ministry of Justice, the BCHR will make use of all available legal means to establish the liability of the decision makers, who violated one of the chief values of civilisation – the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment – by their unlawful and unacceptable actions.