- Hans Weber
- December 4, 2023
Ukraine’s Attempt to Extradite Draft Dodging Refugees from Czech Republic Faces Legal Hurdles
In a move that has garnered international attention, Ukraine is attempting to extradite its citizens who sought refuge in the Czech Republic to avoid conscription amid the ongoing conflict with Russia. However, this endeavor is expected to face significant legal hurdles within official channels, as it may contravene Czech law.
The Ukrainian military is currently engaged in a counter-offensive to regain territories occupied by Russian forces, requiring a substantial increase in manpower. Yet, amidst widespread corruption and a shortage of recruits, some Ukrainian men have managed to evade military service by leaving the country, often with the aid of bribes, potentially numbering in the tens of thousands.
Remarkably, Ukrainian prosecutors have not previously sought extradition from Czech authorities for these draft dodgers. This absence of extradition requests raised questions that warranted investigation. Avoiding conscription is a criminal offense in Ukraine, carrying a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison. However, Ukrainian authorities have primarily focused on prosecuting those who refused the draft but remained within Ukraine, as they are easily accessible to law enforcement.
Some Ukrainians have successfully evaded mobilization and sought refuge abroad by bribing conscription officials or obtaining fraudulent medical reports. While the exact number remains uncertain, it is believed that Ukrainian intelligence services and the Czech Security Information Service have the most accurate estimates.
Recently, Ukraine’s prominent parliamentary party announced its intention to seek extradition from partner states for men who deliberately avoided mobilization and left Ukraine with a forged certificate of unfitness for service. However, this endeavor faces a significant obstacle due to conflicting laws in the Czech Republic and certain other nations.
Extradition treaties, particularly mutual extradition treaties, do not apply under Czech law to crimes of a military or political nature. Furthermore, extraditing war refugees is problematic in itself, irrespective of the nature of the crime committed. Consequently, the Czech Republic cannot extradite refugees who fled before conscription or deserters to Ukraine or any other state.
Vladimír Řepka, a spokesperson for the Czech Justice Ministry, clarified that crimes of a military nature do not fall into the category of extradition crimes under Czech law. In each individual case, a court would have to decide on extradition, and the competent court would likely declare extradition inadmissible for exclusively military crimes, rendering the justice minister unable to authorize the extradition.
Under the law on international judicial cooperation, the justice minister is the final decision-maker in the extradition process but can only grant authorization if a court issues a final decision in favor of extradition. If the court rules against extradition, stating it is inadmissible, the minister cannot make a decision. This is the likely scenario for the extradition of Ukrainian refugees who fled before conscription or even for deserters. In case the minister doubts the correctness of the court’s decision, he can file a petition with the Supreme Court within three months to review the decision.
In conclusion, Ukraine’s attempt to extradite draft dodging refugees from the Czech Republic faces significant legal challenges, including conflicting laws and the nature of the crimes involved. It remains to be seen how this complex and politically charged situation will ultimately be resolved within the legal framework of both countries.
Article by Prague Forum