Alert: The UN Human Rights Council is ongoing. Check our updates here & on social media
Russia
06.06.12
Urgent Interventions

Human rights defenders threatened and intimidated

URGENT APPEAL -THE OBSERVATORY

RUS007 / 0612 / OBS 054

Threats / Intimidation

RussianFederation

June 6, 2012

The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in the RussianFederation.

Description of the situation:

TheObservatory has been informed by the Committee Against Torture (CAT) aboutthreats and intimidation against the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) of Russianorganisations[1], and in particular against its head, Mr. Dmitry Utukin, andagainst CAT international law expert, Mr. Roemer Lemaitre.

Accordingto the information received, a picket organised bythe human rights NGO “Materinskaya Trevoga” (Mother’s Anxiety) to denounce theenforced disappearances in Chechnya took place on June 1, 2012 in Grozny, thecapital of the Chechen Republic. Human rights defenders, relatives of thedisappeared and JMG lawyers attended the picket. The head of the ChechenPresident’s Office, Mr. Magomed Daudov, as well as the Mayor of Grozny, Mr.Muslim Khuchiyev, were also present.

Mr. Daudov requested Mr. Lemaitre to state the reasonsfor his presence in Chechnya. After explaining that he wasinvestigating cases of abductions by state agents, he was advised by Mr. Daudovto “return to Belgium to set apart men kissing each others right in thestreets”. Several human rights defenders attending the picket were subsequentlyinvited by Mr. Khuchiyev and Mr. Daudov to an impromptu meeting at the Mayor’sOffice, where they were joined by Mr. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen President,Mr. Viktor Ledenyov, Head of the Chechen Investigative Administration, Mr.Mikhail Savchin, Chechen Prosecutor, Mr. Ruslan Alkhanov, Chechen InteriorMinister, and other high-ranking officials.

During the meeting, Mr. Kadyrov strongly criticisedhuman rights organisations in general, and the Committee Against Torture inparticular. Referring to Mr. Lemaitre, the Chechen President accused “them” ofhaving “unleashed the war” and lashed out at the JMG members for “hating” theChechens and for “not want[ing] to put an end to lawlessness”. He asked thehuman rights defenders present in the meeting if they were going to “help [him]or only (…) shaitans [i.e. devils] and their aides who must be destroyed?”.

Attempting to discredit human rights organisations infront of the mothers of the disappeared, Mr. Kadyrov voiced strong criticism ofJMG members. “Human rights defenders are not interested in you, human rightsorganisations are not working”, he said referring to the relatives of thedisappeared. Mr. Daudov, for his part, accused JMG of bribing Chechens inexchange for false allegations of torture, and criticised CAT for havingrepresented a defendant in a case of alleged attempt on his life in August2009. For Mr. ViktorLedenyov, there was “no good from JMG’s activities, it just [makes] thingsworse. The JMG [is] interfering with the investigations, making variousdepartments quarrel.” As for Mr. RuslanAlkhanov, he stated that the JMG was lacking the required jurisdiction toengage in investigations.

The Observatory recalls that JMG lawyers haverepeatedly faced procedural violations committed by officials at differentlevel.

Moregenerally, the Observatory emphasises that these incidents of intimidation andveiled threats are not isolated but fall into a very worrying pattern of continuingand threatening rhetoric that paves the way for acts of violence against humanrights defenders in the whole country.

TheObservatory expresses its deep concerns about the total lack of recognition demonstratedby the authorities, both at the level of the Republic and the Federation, forthe fundamental role played by human rights defenders in the Chechen Republicin promoting and protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and the rule oflaw. The Observatory is extremely worried that far from fulfilling their dutyto protect human rights organisations and their staff, the authorities have onthe contrary intimidated, harassed and threatened them in an attempt todiscredit and discourage them from carrying out their work.

Actionsrequested:

Please write to the authorities of the RussianFederation, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrityof Messrs. Dmitry Utukin and Roemer Lemaitre, as well as other JMG and CAT staff members, and of all human rightsdefenders in the Russian Federation, particularly in the Chechen Republic;

ii.Put an end to any threat and harassment against Messrs. Dmitry Utukinand Roemer Lemaitre, as well as JMG and CAT staff members, and all human rights defenders,and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities withoutany hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on HumanRights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998,especially:

- its Article 1, whichstates that “everyone has the right, individually and in association withothers, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of humanrights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

- and Article 12.2, whichprovides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure theprotection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and inassociation with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de factoor de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as aconsequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in thepresent Declaration”;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the Declaration of the Committee ofMinisters of the Council of Europe on the protection of human rights defendersand the promotion of their activities, and in particular with Article 2.i), inwhich the Committee calls on member States to “create an environment conduciveto the work of human rights defenders, enabling individuals, groups andassociations to freely carry out activities, on a legal basis, consistent withinternational standards, to promote and strive for the protection of humanrights and fundamental freedoms without any restrictions other than thoseauthorised by the European Convention on Human Rights;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for humanrights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights and with international and regional human rights instrumentsratified by the Russian Federation.

Addresses:

· Mr. Vladimir Putin,President of the Russian Federation, Ilinka Str, 23, Moscow, 103132, Moscow,Russian Federation, Faxes:+ 7 495 606 5173 / 6302408

· Mr. Vladimir Kolokoltsev,Minister of the Interior, Ulitsa Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow, RussianFederation, Telegram: Rossiia, 117049, Moskva, Fax: + 7 495 637 49 25

· Minister of ForeignAffairs, Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200 Moscow,Russian Federation, Telegram: Fax:+ 7 495 644 2203

· Mr. AlexanderGennadievich Khloponin, Representative of the President in North Caucasusfederal region, Tel: +7793) 97-34-67

· Mr. Vladimir Lukin,Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Tel: +7 495 607-19-22/ 607-34-67, E-mail:press-sl@ropnet.ru

· Mr. Michail Fedotov,Head of the Council under the President for development of civil society andhuman rights, Tel: +7 495 606-41-84,Fax: +7 495 606-48-55; E-mail: president-sovet@mail.ru; fedotov_MA@gov.ru

· Mr. Alexander IvanovichBastrykin, Chairman of the Investigations Committee of the Russian Federation,Building 28, house 15, Naberezhnaya Akademika Tupoleva, Moscow, 105005, Russia,Tel: + 7 495 640 10 48

· H.E. Mr. AlexeyBorodavkin, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to theUnited Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 15, CH-1211, Geneva 20,Switzerland, E-mail : mission.russian@vtxnet.ch, Fax: +41 22 734 40 44

· Ambassador Mr. AlexandraRomanov, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, 66, avenue de Fre, Brussels, 1180 Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 2613. E-mail: amrusbel@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomaticmission or embassy of the Russian Federation in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, June 6, 2012

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax FIDH + 33(0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] JMG, a group of representatives of various Russian human rights organisations,has been working in Chechnya since 2009. Its mandate is to conductinvestigations of cases of torture and abductions that have taken place in theRepublic, and to represent the interests of individuals recognised as victimsin criminal proceedings.

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts