Press release

Russia: Raid and Abduction at Women’s Shelter Violates Fundamental Rights

The Russian government must provide transparency on the case and protect its own citizens from abuse.

In response to the recent police raid on a women’s shelter in the Russian Federation’s Dagestan Republic, the detention of several people there, and the forced return of one woman—Khalimat Taramova—to her family in Chechnya, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The police raid on a shelter where women seek refuge from violence represents a betrayal of trust between the Russian authorities and the country’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “This assault, which came even after the local authorities had assured the safety of the women, shows the corrupting influence that the complete collapse of human rights protections in the Chechen Republic has had on the rest of the Russian Federation. Khalimat Taramova’s life remains in grave danger due to her forceable return to the control of her family in Chechnya, from which she had fled in the first place. Officials must respond to the requests of the European Court of Human Rights and disclose Taramova’s location as well as the reasons for her detention in Dagestan and removal to Chechnya.”

Background

Late at night on June 10, a shelter for domestic violence survivors in Makhachkala, Dagestan, was raided by Dagestani and Chechen police officers. The officers detained everyone at the shelter, including Khalimat Taramova, the daughter of a Chechen official, who was later transferred to the custody of her relatives in Chechnya. Five other women were also detained during the raid on charges of “disobeying police orders” and were kept in custody overnight before being released the next day due to lack of evidence.

Svetlana Anokhina, the head of the shelter who was also detained during the raid, said that Taramova fled Chechnya on June 6 to escape violence inflicted by her family due to her sexual orientation. Her family then reported her missing. While at the shelter, Taramova recorded a video, asking the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs not to declare a federal search and not to reveal her location, as doing so could pose a threat to her life. When police first arrived at the shelter earlier in the night on June 10 to investigate the missing-person case, Taramova told them she was there on her own decision, and they said that no more police would be coming to the facility. Hours later, the shelter was raided. After her abduction and return to Chechnya, Taramova appeared on the state-run station Grozny TV, stating that she was suffering from mental health issues and came to the shelter “as if in a fog.”

On June 13, lawyers representing the Russian LGBT Network filed a report with the Chechen Republic Investigation Committee, asking it to investigate the kidnapping of Khalimat Taramova. The organization also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to inquire about Taramova’s well-being. On June 14, the court requested that Russian authorities provide the whereabouts of Taramova and explain the grounds for her detention in Makhachkala and transfer to Chechnya.

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, and it is assessed as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2021.