In one of my recent cases, I was the lawyer of an Uzbek citizen. Uzbek authorities accused him of fraud and filed an extradition request to Hungary. According to the prosecution, a company founded by the defendant signed a contract with the aggrieved party, which bound the company to deliver products worth 12 billion sum (Uzbek currency) to them. The aggrieved party transferred 7 billion to the company, however the latter did not meet their obligation to fulfil the contract. The money was transferred to and spent by the defendant.
The Metropolitan Court of Budapest found that the conditions of extradition were met, therefore I submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal. In my submission I pointed out that even though the extradition request has to be made in accordance with strict rules regarding its content and structure, the request made by the Uzbek party was incomprehensible and contained irreparable deficiencies. Additionally, I argued that one condition of extradition, namely double criminality was missing in the case: the actions of the defendant did not qualify for the offence of fraud in Hungarian Criminal Law. Instead, they fall under the territory of civil law. Besides this, I argued that in case of his extradition the human rights of my client would be in severe danger, since such violations are common in Uzbekistan. The detention conditions are far from satisfactory, and there is ground for concern that my client would be subject to torture or inhumane treatment.
The court dismissed my appeal, therefore the Hungarian Minister of Justice had to make a decision in the question of extradition. The minister – based upon my human rights concerns asked questions regarding the possibility of human rights violations in case of my client’s extradition, and requested the Uzbek authorities to supply sufficient guarantees.
The minister’s first question was: what kinds of corrections were made in regard of protection of human rights? In their reply, the Uzbek party mentioned the office of the ombudsman. I argued that we do not know the exact powers of the ombudsman. If the office is similar to the one in Hungary, they only have the ability to issue non-binding recommendations, therefore the person of the ombudsman does not guarantee the necessary levels of human rights protection in itself. Another problem is that the statutes on lawyers and courts fail to explain how the independence and impartiality of judiciary is ensured. The presidential decree on the rights of the detained lays general, vague tasks on the authorities: for example, „the close surveillance of rights”, however, it does not explain how and by which body it is done. In my view therefore there has not been a sufficient change in Uzbekistan in the last few years to ensure the protection of human rights.
Besides this, I reasoned that Uzbek statutes only provide for a minimum of 2 and 2,5 square meters of space for the detained – compared to this, the minimum specified by the European Court of Human Rights is 6 and 4 square meters. Uzbek authorities mention beds, food and medical assistance as guarantees to the detained – this is an alarming development, since these are natural needs which would not even have to be specified. Moreover, no efficient monitoring system exists in Uzbekistan to inspect detention conditions.
The answer letter of the Uzbek party contained only vague or no answer whatsoever to a number of questions posed by the Ministry of Justice. According to my reasoning, therefore, in case of the extradition of my client, it is not guaranteed that his basic human rights would remain intact.
The Hungarian Minister of Justice in the end denied the extradition of my client to Uzbekistan.