Russia: Death sentence fear leads to court backing for Chinese crime suspect in expulsion row

Judges today ruled that Russia’s bid to expel a crime suspect to China could lead to his death sentence, in violation of European human rights law.

In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of A.L. (X.W.) v. Russia (application no. 44095/14) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously:

that the applicant’s forcible return to China would give rise to a violation of Article 2 (right to life)


Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights;


that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the convention on account of the conditions of the applicant’s detention in a detention centre for aliens and on account of the conditions of his detention at a police station.

The case concerned, in particular, the complaint by a man residing in Russia and wanted as a criminal suspect in China that if forcibly returned to China, he would be at risk of being convicted
and sentenced to death.

The applicant, A.L. (or X.W.), lives in Elista (Russia). He was arrested in St Petersburg in March 2014 on suspicion of having murdered a Chinese policeman in 1996. He had been placed on Interpol’s list of wanted persons as a criminal suspect following an arrest warrant issued in his respect by the Chinese authorities.

The European court considered that, given that the exclusion order against the applicant mentioned explicitly that he would be deported if he did no leave Russia before the stated deadline and that his Russian passport had been seized, he was at imminent risk of deportation to China where he might be sentenced to death. Russia was bound by an obligation, under the convention, not to expose him to such risk.

As Just Satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Russia was to pay the applicant 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,100 in respect of costs and expenses.

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