Return to Russia
On March 1, 2004, just after the detainees landed in Russia, the US State Department released a brief statement, which read in part,
Asked whether he had heard that the US government received a diplomatic assurance that he would not be mistreated after he returned to Russia, Ravil Gumarov told Human Rights Watch, I didnt exactly know [about the assurance]; I understood the opposite, that they gave a guarantee to put us away in Russia.39
Also on March 1, the Procuracy General of the Russian Federation released a similarly terse statement, which read in part,
After their return to Russia the seven detainees were transferred to a jail in Pyatigorsk, in southern Russia, and charged with participation in a criminal conspiracy (article 210.2 of the criminal code) and unlawful crossing of the national frontier (article 322.2). However, they were released on June 22, 2004, because of lack of evidence. According to the Russian daily Kommersant, Russian prosecutors had no proof that the seven men had actually participated in the fighting in Afghanistan.41 Vakhitov told Human Rights Watch that during nearly four months in the detention facility in Pyatigorsk, he was visited only once by an investigator, who appeared to be making little effort to build a case against him. Instead, the investigator told him that we have obligations [to the Americans] to keep you.42 Ravil Gumarov told Human Rights Watch that Russian officials made it clear that the detainees were in Pyatigorsk only to satisfy the Americans, and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was intent on releasing them to defy the United States: They said, Were letting you out to spite the Americans.43
While (as has been noted above) the actual substance of agreements between the US and Russian governments, written or unwritten, could not be ascertained, Human Rights Watchs research has confirmed that the Russian authorities indeed mistreated the ex-Guantanamo detainees.
38Transfer of Russian Nationals From Guantanamo, US Department of State press statement, 2004/219, March 1, 2004, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2004/30017.htm (accessed September 9, 2006).
39 Human Rights Watch interview with Ravil Gumarov, date and place withheld.
40 Charges brought against seven Russian citizens detained at the US military base in Guantanamo and turned over to the Russian side (Semerym grazhdanam Rossii, soderzhavshimsya na voennoi basye SShA v Guantanamo i peredannym rossiiskoi storone, predyavleno obvinyeniye), Procuracy General of the Russian Federation press release, March 1, 2004, http://www.genproc.gov.ru/ru/news/index.shtml?id=207 (accessed March 26, 2007).
41 The story of the Russian Talibs (Istorii russkikh talibov) Kommersant (Moscow), June 25, 2004, http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.html?DocID=485408&IssueId=18324 (accessed September 9, 2006).
42 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Airat Vakhitov, September 21, 2004.
43 Human Rights Watch interview with Ravil Gumarov, date and place withheld.