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European court orders Russia not to extradite Yair Klein
Former IDF Lt.-Col. wanted in Colombia charges of aiding traffickers, militias.
The European Court of Human Rights has forbidden Russia from extraditing Yair Klein, a former lieutenant-colonel in the IDF, to Colombia, where he is wanted on charges of assisting drug traffickers and right-wing militias.

Klein has been held in a Russian jail since August 27, 2007, awaiting extradition to Colombia.

His Israeli lawyer, Mordechai Tzivin, who has represented him since his detention, said on Friday, “This is a correct and life-saving decision... that calls for ignoring the Colombia verdict [against Klein], which was taken illegally and in Klein’s absence. The European court ruling, which is based on reports by the UN, Amnesty International and the European Union that were submitted by us to the court in Strasbourg, accepted all our arguments that Klein faced the possibility of torture and death, both in general terms because of the very poor state of human rights in Colombia, and also personally.”

On June 22, 2001, the Supreme Tribunal of the Manizales district of Colombia sentenced Klein to 10 years and eight months in prison after convicting him of participating in the training and doctrine of illegal paramilitary groups. Soon afterward, the court issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Klein was detained by Russian authorities in August 2007. After several court cases, the Russian Supreme Court rejected his final appeal on May 22, 2008, and ordered Klein to be extradited to Colombia.

Klein’s lawyers then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that Russia had breached the European Convention of Human Rights by failing to examine his claims that he would be seriously mistreated if sent to Colombia. The European Court immediately ordered Russia to suspend the extradition until it investigated the case.

The ruling handed down on March 16 was primarily an indictment of the conditions of the rule of law, human rights and the state of the prisons in Colombia. Five of the seven judges on the panel wrote that reports provided by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and the US State Department “alerted that many human rights violations had taken place in Colombia in the recent past, such as extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of which representatives of the state had been suspected. The court also noted that the United Nations Committee against Torture had expressed concerns that people suspected of terrorism and illegal armed activities risked torture in Colombia. Consequently, in view of the findings of those reliable sources, the overall human rights situation in Colombia was far from perfect.”

The court also agreed that a statement by the Colombian vice-president to have Klein “rot in jail” could be regarded as an indication that he “ran a serious risk of being ill-treated in jail. In addition, the Colombian government’s assurances had been rather vague and, in any event, insufficient to ensure adequate protection against the risk of Mr. Klein’s ill-treatment when contrasted with the different reports by international sources.”

The Klein saga is still not over. According to the Convention of Human Rights, any party to the case may ask that the decision be referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. In that case, a panel of five members of the Grand Chamber will examine the ruling to determine if it raises a serious question involving the application or interpretation of the convention. If the panel decides that it does, it will reconsider the case and hand down the final and binding ruling.
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