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No Shelter: Conclusion and Recommendations

Article by Adam Hug

November 21, 2016

This publication has shown in significant detail how repressive regimes from the former Soviet Union, most notably Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan operate outside their borders to challenge dissenting voices. The security services from the former Soviet Union are adept at using the language of terrorism and state security to restrict the activities of their political opponents, triggering both formal cooperation agreements within the region and the longstanding personal networks between security service leaders, ‘the RepressIntern’ as Galeotti puts it, to put pressure on the opponents of fellow repressive regimes. They are particularly adept at operating within diaspora communities in Russia, Turkey and across Europe.

 

International policy makers should be clear that the targeting of exiles by their home regimes is a regular occurrence and an issue that needs specific attention. While both the migrant crisis and increased backlash against immigration create challenges for Western policy makers, more needs to be done to provide the protection that many exiles require. This involves Western security services playing a more active role in monitoring the activities of former Soviet security services on their soil, particularly within diaspora communities. Where possible this should include being aware of and responding to attempts by foreign security services to hack into the emails, telecommunications and social media of exiles from the former Soviet Union in order to help protect activists’ personal data and thereby help protect them, their families and associates from harm.

 

Western courts and immigration systems need to continue to be vigilant to resist extradition attempts that would expose individuals from the former Soviet Union to the risk of torture, unfair trial and imprisonment or worse upon their return. This clearly applies to overtly political cases but also to cases where allegations of radicalisation are involved, given the propensity of Central Asian and other regimes to use this issue as cover for targeting political opponents. Based on the information provided by Nadejda Atayeva in this collection, there would seem to be a case to look at halting deportations to Uzbekistan, even in cases where there is no direct link to political activity, given the risk that those returning may be harassed or forced into giving false evidence. The case for reform of INTERPOL to stop Red Notices being used as a tool to target regime opponents abroad remains an important concern, despite recent progress, noting in particular the recent case of Tajik opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri.

 

There is little sign that post-Soviet regimes who are exporting repression through the use of their security services abroad are paying a political or economic price for their actions. The approval in November 2016 of the long-delayed Uzbekistan Textiles deal by the European Parliament Trade Committee does not seem to show that any penalties are being levied on Uzbekistan for the behaviour described in this publication or elsewhere. The full European Parliament still has the opportunity to hold Uzbekistan to account by rejecting the current deal when it meets in December 2016[1]. Similarly, EU member states seem so far to be ratifying the planned EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement while talks continue for a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Azerbaijan. From this author’s perspective it makes little sense to approve trade enhancements with regimes who are actively harassing their political opponents on European soil, in addition to their repression at home[2].

 

Recommendations for Western policy makers

  • Continue to reform the Interpol Red Notice system to avoid the system being used to harass exiled dissidents
  • Remain vigilant to politicised extradition attempts and the need to preserve the principle of non-refoulement
  • Consider halting deportations of Uzbek nationals given reports of the persecution of non-political exiles upon their return
  • Further investigate, through Western security services, the networks of informants and agents that operate on behalf of the security services of the former Soviet Union in European countries with sizeable Central Asian diasporas, such as Poland and Germany.
  • Support exiles who are facing hacking and attempts to steal personal information
  • Ensure that surveillance equipment, software and technical support are subject to export controls and are not provided by Western firms to repressive regimes in the former Soviet Union
  • Suspend plans to upgrade trade and diplomatic arrangements with those states known to target activists in exile

 

[1] Reuters, EU lawmakers back Uzbekistan trade deal opposed by anti-slavery activists, November 2016,

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-uzbekistan-forced-labour-idUSKBN1351M7

[2] For more please see Institutionally Blind: International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, February 2016, http://fpc.org.uk/publications/institutionallyblind

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