Len Homeniuk’s Detention in Bulgaria Brings into Focus International Policy Issues
By Marina Stephens, Attorney at Law, and David Hampson, PhD
Тhe extradition hearings surrounding the detention in Bulgaria of Leonard Homeniuk bring into focus three primary areas of international policy discussion connected to Interpol Red Notice.
Homeniuk, 68, a dual United States and Canadian citizen has been accused by the Kyrgyz authorities of collusion with a previous Kyrgyz government. They claim that the former CEO of Toronto-based Centerra Gold, one of the world's leading gold mining companies, has been allegedly involved in shady deals with Kyrgyz officials during a restructuring process at Kumtor, the largest gold mine in Kyrgyzstan, in 2003-2004.
Scheduled for September 23 in Warsaw, Poland and for November 2015 in Washington D.C., U.S.A. two major conferences will seek to examine and question vital weaknesses and ways to prevent possible abuses of Interpol Red Notice by countries with the agenda of pursuing political and economic goals.
The first is the use of the Interpol Red Notice - a vital international instrument - as the basis for detention, which often raises serious questions about its potential for abuse.
The second is the decision by a government (in this case the Kyrgyz Republic) to convert a commercial negotiation into a political and criminal event, which culminates in a request for extradition.
The third addresses the important issue of human rights and extradition. This issue directly focuses a spotlight on the international ramifications of allowing extradition of any person to a country such as the Kyrgyz Republic when the European Court of Human Rights has consistently rejected all such requests.
The Red Notice as an instrument of criminal detention has come increasingly under scrutiny as certain countries are accused of posting such notices without any objective evidence for purposes other than legitimate criminal prosecution. A weak point in the administration of the Red Notice is that no background information in support of such a request is required.
Any country is allowed to protect its economic interests through good faith negotiations and proper arbitration or judicial resolution of its commercial disputes. However, the countries which misuse their own criminal justice system as well as that of international institutions set up to combat international criminal activities, make the world a less safer place for all.
The Vidin District Court has postponed Homeniuk’s extradition hearing until October 7 because the Kyrgyz authorities failed to submit all the information previously requested by the Court. At the same time, the Court lifted Homeniuk’s house arrest and replaced it with bail, noting that no further delays by the Kyrgyz Republic will be allowed.
The Bulgarian judiciary has handled cases like this before and has acted with wisdom and balance in reaching their decision. Hopefully, the Vidin court will approach Mr. Homeniuk’s case in the same deliberate manner on October 7. The eyes of the European Union, as those of the United States, Canada and many other legal advocates of proper due process will be focused on that city on the Danube River.
As Homeniuk’s case moves towards its conclusion in Bulgaria, it forces us to examine how any country, much less a full member of the European Union, can ascertain any possibility of extradition of any person to the Kyrgyz Republic in light of the latter’s track record on human rights.
In fact, if for example a Bulgarian court, for any hypothetical reason, decides to support such an extradition, then Bulgaria will have to face the likely injunction by the European Court of Human Rights. Suffice it to say that in the last two years, no European country was allowed to extradite anyone to the Kyrgyz Republic.
The reason is that country’s exceptionally poor track record and the negative view of its judicial system when it comes to human rights.
Serious claims by international observers and human rights groups include denial of a free and fair trial, physical abuse, arbitrary arrests with many cases going unreported, life threatening prison conditions, including high incidence of diseases, and finally punishment and torture.
Leonard Hominiuk’s case highlights all three of international policy issues mentioned above.
The accused is being criminally persecuted by the Kyrgyz Republic for signing and executing commercial agreements in a transparent and public manner on behalf of a Canadian corporation traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, with the participation of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank's private-sector investment arm.
Teams of international lawyers and economic advisors on both sides oversaw the transaction. The entire cabinet of ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic and their experts approved the agreements.
However, in 2014 - more than 10 years later - the current Kyrgyz authorities unhappy with the economic parameters of their agreement and seeking more beneficial terms from Centerra Gold - from which Len Homeniuk has retired in 2008 - decided to use their criminal and judicial authority to lay completely unsubstantiated charges against him and place him on the Interpol Red Notice Board.
Ironically, it should be noted, the Kyrgyz government has released all past Kyrgyz officials involved in the same transaction from any criminal or civil liability on the basis of expiration of the statute of time limitations.
Such discriminatory approach once again underlines serious international policy issues associated with actual and potential abuse of Interpol Red Notice, misuse of criminal and judicial process by countries pursuing political and economic benefits by abusing their own and international criminal and judicial institutions with complete disregard for basic human rights advocated by the European Union.
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