Italian government blocks Russian extradition. Last week, Repubblica reported that the Ministry of Justice exercised its rarely-used power of ordering a detainee’s immediate release – allowing her to leave the country and voiding her extradition to Russia in the process. It’s a historical first that still reflects Rome’s lack of trust in Moscow’s judicial system.
- Volha Atroshanka, a Belarusian-born woman who’s wanted by a Russian court for allegedly dealing cocaine as part of a narcotics gang, had cast herself as a political dissident in both Russia and Belarus in a preliminary hearing.
- The Italian ministry accepted her claim as being true and took it into account in their pre-trial decision, i.e. a stage where it usually waves the proceedings through (to allow for the gathering of evidence, among other things) and postpones further evaluations.
The official reasoning. As the Justice Ministry acknowledged in its official note, relations in matters of extradition between Italy and Russia are governed by the 1957 European Convention on Extradition. However, Moscow has been expelled from the Council of Europe, where that convention originated and was applied. Furthermore, “the situation created following the invasion of Ukraine cannot be disregarded. Human rights violations in Russia are “widespread” and “systemic,” argues the ministry, and Moscow’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights “aggravated” the matter.
It’s a trend. Beyond the acknowledgement of Russia’s inhuman detention conditions, the decision is in line with the March 2022 agreement between the European Union’s justice ministers to not follow up on extradition requests coming from Russia or Belarus. In that same period, which coincided with Moscow’s exit from the ECHR, then-Justice Minister Marta Cartabia began liberating a series of prisoners – including Ukrainian filmmaker Yevhen Lavrenchuck and businessman Gennadii Lisovichenko – citing the risk they’d incur in inhuman treatments within the Russian judicial system.
- As Il Fatto Quotidiano notes, the Italian judiciary stopped authorising the arrest of Russian and Belarusian fugitives (at least twelve) since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
- Current Justice Minister Carlo Nordio confirmed this line – and even took a step further by preventing Ms Atroshanka’s case from reaching trial altogether.