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French Interior Minister under investigation over deportation of Chechen refugee

10 April 2023
Magomed Gadaev. Image via the BBC.

A court in Paris has begun investigating a complaint by the League for Human Rights against French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin over the deportation of Magomed Gadayev to Russia in 2021.

Gadayev had sought asylum in France after fleeing Russia in 2010, claiming to have been tortured and illegally imprisoned. 

Court proceedings began on Friday, two years after a complaint alleging Darmanin and two others were complicit in enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, acts of torture and barbarity, and intentional endangerment of the lives of others.

The complaint also named the former prefect of the Haute-Vienne Region, Seymour Morsy, and the former police prefect of Paris, Didier Lallemand. 

The complaint was lodged with the Department of Crimes Against Humanity of the Parisian Court. 

Darmanin signed an order to deport Gadayev in 2021, despite France’s national refugee court prohibiting his expulsion.

Le Parisien reports that the judicial investigation began on Friday after a civil lawsuit was filed by the League for Human Rights and Gadayev’s wife and children.

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Shamil Albakov, a representative of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in France, told OC Media that human rights defenders suspected the interior minister of collaborating with the Russian authorities. 

‘The League of Human Rights filed a lawsuit against the minister and two prefects who made the decision and are subordinates of this minister, they accused them of illegally ordering the deportation of Gadayev’, said Albakov. ‘In this, they see cooperation and loyalty to the Russian authorities. This is a serious accusation and for us this is a very important process. We hope that the justice of France will establish the guilt of the minister and convict him’.

Twelve human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, declared at the time that the actions of the French authorities put Gadayev at risk of torture and ill-treatment and endangered his life, in ‘a flagrant violation of France’s international obligations’. 

Albakov claimed that despite rulings that Gadayev’s deportation would be illegal, the political and social climate following the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty by a Chechen teenager in October 2021 led to a wave of deportations.

‘There was a mass action against all Chechens who had such a fragile administrative situation; they were all deported because of the [murder]’, Albakov said. ‘Gadayev was also deported, despite legal obstacles.’

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Photo: Gérald Darmanin/Facebook.

Magomed Gadayev was taken to a deportation prison in France on 8 April 2021, and deported to Moscow the following day. Gadayev cut his stomach with a knife while at the French airport in a sign of protest and attempt to block his deportation, but resulting only in his flight being delayed by 36 minutes.

Two days after his return to Russia, Gadayev was arrested in Chechnya on weapons charges. 

According to the Committee Against Torture, Gadayev was released in August 2022. However, Albakov told OC Media that Chechen rights activists had yet been able to get in touch with him.

‘Regarding his position now, we know that he received an illegal sentence for allegedly possessing a weapon in a house that he had not lived in for many years. And upon his arrival in Chechnya, the security forces allegedly found a weapon in the house where his mother lives’, said Albakov.

‘He was nevertheless released, but we have no connection with him, neither I nor my friends’, added Albakov. ‘He's probably under heavy surveillance and has no right to get in touch.'

Last week, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin made comments noting the League for Human Rights’ funding from state bodies, seen by many as a threat to withdraw funding. 

‘The minister hinted that supposedly it is necessary to check what subsidies this organisation receives from the state and put this in doubt’, said Albakov. ‘In response to this statement, dozens and hundreds of intellectuals signed a petition asking the President of France to condemn the words of the Minister of the Interior because it would be contrary to freedom of speech and the rule of law, a free society’. 

The head of the League for Human Rights additionally told Liberation that the organisation had received €30,000 ($32,500) in donations following the minister’s comments.