Update: 01.07.2008

Extradition with 'diplomatic assurances' of Russian businessman

After Russia guaranteed to lead a trial in respect of human rights, Switzerland has extradited a Russian businessman accused of fraud and money laundering on 30 June 2008. During 18 months, the Russian fought a legal battle that ended with his appeal against extradition being dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights on 19 June 2008. This extradition was made possible by the controversial ‘diplomatic assurances’ given to Switzerland by a State known for his human rights violations. This Swiss specificity is criticized by several human rights organisations.

Swiss Federal Court backs extraditions with ‘diplomatic assurances’ 

Already on 21 January 2008 the Swiss Federal Court upheld a decision that the extradition of a Russian businessman to Russia may be carried out with diplomatic guarantees from the Russian government that they will grant the man his basic human rights. Russian authorities have been trying to extradite the businessman since his arrest in Zurich in December 2006. They would have to wait some more, as the businessman made an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

NGOs and UN against such guarantees 

The Swiss section of Amnesty International insists, however, that these so-called ‘diplomatic assurances’  are not enough to guarantee the man's safety. «Amnesty is very much opposed to the use of diplomatic assurances as they undermine safeguards in international agreements», Denise Graf from the Swiss section of Amnesty International told Swissinfo. She added that the conditions of detention in Russia are poor and that a number of trials in that country have not been held which did not accord with international standards. The US-based human rights organisation Human Rights Watch alleges that six former Guantanamo detainees had been tortured after being sent back to Russia, despite guarantees given to the US government that they would be treated according to international human rights standards. The organisation also claims that extraditing individuals to countries with a known record of torture or ill-treatment would breach the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights. The UN torture treaty, which Switzerland ratified in 1986, states clearly that signatories should not expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another state where they run the risk of torture. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, says the court ruling sets a dangerous precedent because such promises are made to be broken. «Even states with a very strong record of practicing torture give you this diplomatic assurance. And we have many cases where persons have been expelled—in particular from the United States of America—on the basis of diplomatic assurance where we know that afterwards they have been tortured,» he said in an interview with World Radio Switzerland.

Further information

© humanrights.ch / MERS - Hallerstr. 23 - CH-3012 Bern - Tel. +41 31 302 01 61