RUSSIAN FEDERATION : Stop aggression against human rights defenders in Chechnya

05/06/2015
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Paris-Geneva, 5 June 2015. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint FIDH and OMCT programme, is deeply concerned by the June-3, 2015 attack on the Grozny office of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG). JMG, final nominee for the Martin Ennals Award 2013, is a human rights defenders’ platform led by the Committee Against Torture (CAT), member organisation of the OMCT and one of the few human rights organisations providing legal aid to the victims of torture in Chechnya.

On June 3, 2015, the office of the JMG was violently attacked and destroyed by an organised mob. None of the group members was hurt as the staff managed to escape through a window. The equipment of the JMG, including a vehicle and a security camera, were savagely crushed, incurring important material damage. Unknown masked men raided the office during more than one hour. The law enforcement authorities reportedly took no action to prevent the criminal acts despite multiple attempts to reach them by phone.

The Observatory recalls that in the morning of June 3, 2015, about two hundred protesters gathered in Grozny to attend a demonstration denouncing "the information war against Russia and the Republic of Chechnya". The initial protest was swiftly cancelled and the crowd was led to the JMG office. Some persons in the crowd suddenly started chanting slogans accusing the JMG of not having defended the rights a Chechen businessman killed by state security officers in April 2015. The mother of the killed entrepreneur was also present in the crowd that was later joined by roughly a dozen of masked men with sledgehammers and sticks. All these facts lead to the impression that the attack against the JMG was planned in advance.

According to the Human Rights Centre "Memorial", civil servants - mostly teachers and hospital staff - were made to gather in a morning protest they knew little about. According to the information received, around 40 of them were arrested after the incident, and accused of participation in an "unsanctioned meeting", while no action is known to have been taken to bring the perpetrators of the above-mentioned acts of violence to justice.

Grozny TV covered the attack, portraying the assault on the human rights group as a spontaneous civil society protest, while the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov publicly claimed the responsibility of the JMG in deliberately provoking the attack.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first attack against the JMG in Grozny. In December last year, the JMG premises were set on fire, causing significant damage while members of the JMG were сhased by armed assaulters. Those responsible for the attack have not yet been brought to justice, further contributing to the atmosphere of impunity that prevails in Chechnya for aggressions against human rights defenders.

The Observatory urges the highest local law enforcement authorities to carry out investigations in both cases as a matter of priority, given the systematic character of attacks on human rights defenders in Chechnya. The Observatory also urges the local authorities to publicly condemn these attacks and recognise the legitimate role played by human rights defenders, to take urgent measures to protect their physical security, and to preserve their integrity.

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