Общественное расследование

In Chechnya, Human Rights Group’s Offices Are Vandalized, June 3, 2015, The New York Times

Photo
The apartment building that houses the offices of the Committee Against Torture, a human rights advocacy group in Grozny, Chechnya, on Wednesday after men vandalized the building.
Credit Musa Sadulayev/Associated Press


MOSCOW — Cheered on by a small crowd, masked men vandalized the offices of a human rights advocacy group in Grozny, the capital of the Russian region of Chechnya, on Wednesday.

Employees of the Committee Against Torture, some of whom fled through windows as the vandals smashed into the office with crowbars, said the local authorities had ignored calls pleading for help. They suggested that the attack was officially sanctioned by the government of Chechnya, which is led by Ramzan A. Kadyrov, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

It was not the first attack on the Committee Against Torture, which seeks to draw attention to human rights abuses in Chechnya and throughout Russia. In December, the group’s offices were firebombed.

The firebombing occurred shortly after the group criticized Mr. Kadyrov for engaging in “collective punishment” by destroying the homes of family members of men accused in a shooting attack blamed on Islamic insurgents.

There were no injuries reported after Wednesday’s attack, but computers, other equipment and records in the office were destroyed, and a car belonging to the organization was damaged.

Video of the attack showed the small crowd cheering and applauding as one of the vandals smashed a security camera on a balcony of the group’s offices, in an apartment building in central Grozny.

Because of the inherent dangers of operating in Chechnya, a region where Russia fought two brutal wars to suppress Muslim separatists, the Committee Against Torture regularly rotates its staff members, who live in the same building as their office.

Mr. Kadyrov and his regional government have long been accused of persistent rights abuses. However, he is credited by Mr. Putin with imposing order and stability in the region, and with suppressing Islamic extremists.

The Committee Against Torture was featured in a documentary film released last week by Open Russia, a civil society group, that seeks to draw attention to abuses in Chechnya under Mr. Kadyrov and also to his relationship with Mr. Putin.

One of Open Russia’s Moscow-based leaders, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was suddenly stricken with a mysterious illness last week, a day after the film’s release, and remains hospitalized. Doctors said that Mr. Kara-Murza had suffered from some kind of poisoning and has been treated for renal failure.

Mr. Kadyrov, posting on Instagram, his preferred means of public communication, wrote that there had been a “sanctioned rally” related to a shooting in April, in which police officers from the neighboring Russian region of Stavropol killed a Chechen man they were trying to arrest in Grozny.

That shooting led Mr. Kadyrov to issue an order authorizing the Chechen security forces to “shoot to kill” any law enforcement agents from other regions of Russia operating in Chechnya without his authorization.

Mr. Kadyrov said that after the rally demonstrators marched to the offices of the Committee Against Torture, where he said the group’s employees had instigated the attack on their offices themselves.

“Analysis of the events gives us basis to conclude that the employees of the committee deliberately provoked the incident, having the aim of once again gaining fame in the world press, and obtaining new American grants,” Mr. Kadyrov wrote in the post.

He said that local law enforcement authorities had dispersed the crowd and that the vandalism would be investigated because “no one is allowed to break the law.”

Source: The New York Times

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