Общественное расследование

Irish on front line of Russian human rights battle, Independent, December 10 2011

The ongoing struggle against the authoritarian regime in Russia is being supported by an organisation established in Ireland.

Front Line Defenders, the international foundation based in Dublin, will today celebrate International Human Rights Day by continuing to offer a vital lifeline to human rights defenders in Russia, such as the Committee Against Torture, in their battle for a more open and democratic state.

"We started focusing on torture when the response from the authorities was 'there is no torture'," says Olga Sadovskaya of the Committee Against Torture.

"It was funny because if you asked anyone on the street if the police torture people, the answer would be yes."

Based in Nizny Nogorod in Russia, Sadovskaya and her colleagues not only investigate specific cases, but also provide professional legal and medical aid to torture victims.

It is activists such as this Mary Lawlor envisaged helping when the former Amnesty International Irish Section director established Front Line Defenders in 2001. She had realised the struggle for human rights is often thwarted by repressive governments by specifically targeting campaigners. Now, a decade later, organisations in Russia are benefiting as they fight for justice.

"We came across Front Line a few years ago and, to my knowledge, it is the only organisation in the world that supports human rights in such an active way," says Sadovskaya.

"After we were established, it took us three years to get the first perpetrator prosecuted. But now there is a possibility of getting a conviction if you have qualified legal assistance. But if you made a complaint by yourself as a victim of torture, you would have no chance."

The focus of Front Line Defenders has always been on the people working on the ground and helping them deal with the threats and dangers they encounter on a daily basis.

When The Committee Against Torture helped establish the Joint Mobile Group initiative in Chechnya to investigate torture, killings and disappearances, the support from Ireland was critical.

"They supported us in Chechnya by helping us buy a car and flat and equipping them both with security features, such as audio and video equipment," says Sadovskaya. "This is vital for our members and lawyers."

In May, Mary Robinson presented The Joint Mobile Group the 2011 Front Line Defenders Award, established to highlight the work of outstanding individuals who on a daily basis put their security and lives at risk defending the human rights of others.

However, despite the success of their work in Russia and Chechnya, the struggle goes on.

"The feeling is Russia is dramatically growing against the ruling forces," says Sadovskaya. "We hope the ruling authorities will notice it is time to change without people going out on the streets. Hopefully things can also move towards a more democratic society too."

Sourсe: Independent