North Caucasus: Violence Against Human Rights Group and Journalists
In response to attacks on March 9, 2016, by masked men against the staff, journalists and the office of the Joint Mobile Group located in Ingushetia, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The repeated attacks against members of the Joint Mobile Group highlights the precariousness of human rights organizations and all of civil society in Chechnya, where use of violence against critics is now regular practice,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “Freedom House urges the international community and the governments of Sweden and Norway, whose journalists were also assaulted, to demand that Russian authorities bring to justice in a meaningful way the perpetrators of violence against human rights defenders and critics of the government and ensure safety for human rights group to work in Chechnya.”
The Committee Against Torture, based in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, provides legal assistance and medical care to victims of torture and represents their interests in Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights. In 2009, after the murder of a human rights defender in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, the organization created a Joint Mobile Group in Grozny to assist victims of human rights abuses by government agencies there.
The attack on March 9, 2016 was the third since tensions grew between the head of the NGO, Igor Kalyapin and president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, in 2014. In December 2014, a mob torched the group’s Grozny office, and Chechen police detained the NGO’s staff. In June 2015, a mob destroyed the office, equipment, and the vehicle and took away documents related to cases the Committee was investigating in Chechnya.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.