Russian authorities must protect human rights defenders

Three human rights lawyers from our partner the Joint Mobile Group were verbally abused by the Chechen authorities on June 1. In a letter sent to the Acting Minister of Interior and Prosecutor General in Russia, Civil Rights Defenders and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, express serious concern over the safety of human rights defenders in Chechnya who are working in a culture of fear.

While attending a picket on June 1, addressing the problem of enforced disappearances of Chechen residents, three members from the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) were asked to come to Mayor’s Office in Groznyj by Mayor Muslim Khuchiyev, in order ”to get to know each other better and have a more specific talk”.

Several high-ranking officials, including the Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, were present and delivered unfounded accusations discrediting the work of the three human rights lawyers (representing the human rights organisation Committee Against Torture): Dmitry Utukin, Sergey Babinets and Roemer Lemaitre.

Since 2009 the JMG, comprised by lawyers from different human rights organisations, has investigated allegations of torture, abductions and enforced disappearances in Chechnya. The project was founded when the security situation seriously deteriorated and it became too dangerous for other local Chechen organisations to perform this kind of investigations. Today their work is internationally well-known and respected.

Shortly before the murder of the most prominent human rights defender in Chechnya – Natalia Estemirova, President Kadyrov had delivered similar accusations to her.

Civil Rights Defenders and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee are concerned for the safety of the human rights defenders in Chechnya and call on the Russian authorities to do their outmost to protect those defending people’s rights, in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Any threats or attacks against human rights defenders in Russia must be publicly condemned and investigated.

Read the letter sent to Acting Minister of Interior and Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation

Categories: Statements.
Tags: Committee Against Torture, Disappearances, Joint Mobile Group, Natalia Estemirova, and Ramzan Kadyrov.
Regions: The North Caucasus.