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HFHR comments on Ignatenko’s extradition to Russia

In February 2012, the Circuit Court in Nowy Sącz ruled that former Moscow prosecutor Alexander Ignatenko may be extradited to Russia. A month later, the Appellate Court in Cracow upheld the first-instance court decision. The case files were sent to the Minister of Justice who is to finally decide on Mr Ignatenko’s extradition. The HFHR issued an opinion in this case.

In Russia, Alexander Ignatenko faces criminal charges of corruption and fraud. Both courts dismissed an argument of Mr Ignatenko’s counsel who claimed that the prosecution of the former official was a part of the power play between the Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office and the Investigative Committee, the country’s federal law enforcement agency. The courts also ruled that the case posed no risk that Mr Ignatenko’s human rights would be violated after he is extradited.

“The political aspect in this case involves the motives behind the Russian authorities’ decision to prosecute Mr Ignatenko as well as the issues of corruption and high level political conflicts”, says Jacek Białas, a lawyer working for the HFHR. “However, under Polish law such non-legal circumstances are not considered by the court ruling on the admissibility of extradition. Still, they may be taken into account by the Minister of Justice”, adds Mr Białas.

In the opinion, the Foundation refers to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer famous for unveiling one of the largest corruption scandals in Russia who was subsequently arrested and died in detention. According to the HFHR, the Magnitsky’s case revealed what may happen to a person implicated in corruption among top-ranking Russian officials.

The Foundation further argues that there is a justified concern that Mr Ignatenko’s extradition may result in a violation of his rights. In resolving the issue of the extradition, the Minister of Justice should take into consideration international standards of human rights protection. “Although the courts held that Ignatenko was not in danger, the Minister of Justice may refuse to extradite him on the basis of the Polish Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights”, says Dr. Adam Bodnar,  HFHR Deputy President.

The HFHR also asked the Minister to request additional safety guarantees for the prosecutor from Russian authorities, in the event the extradition is ordered.

The Foundation further reminds that if Mr Ignatenko is not extradited to Russia he can be indicted for his alleged offences in Poland and stand trial also before Polish courts.

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