That’s how the First Deputy Mayor of Grozny Ismail Khusainov explained his refusal to conduct a previously approved action of human rights defenders from the Joint Mobile Group, working in Chechnya (JMG). In five other Russian cities the actions, organized by INGO «The Committee Against Torture» and dedicated to the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, were approved with no obstacles.
Lawyers working with Mari El regional branch of the INGO «Committee Against Torture» started picket in support of victims of torture earlier than their colleagues from other regions. At 10 a.m. in Lenin Square together with their partners from NGO «Man and Law» and the representative of regional Ombudsman they reminded once again to all the citizens of Yoshkar-Ola about the oath that the law enforcement officers take, and about the necessity to observe it. After the picketing the participants of the action lay flowers to the monument of the victims of political repressions.
In the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan the members of the Committee Against Torture and regional activists gathered near the local Palace of Sports.
In Moscow this action, organized by the Committee Against Torture together with the representative office of Amnesty International in Russia, was conducted for the first time. Apart from the representatives of these organizations, the colleagues from «Public verdict» and «Civil assistance» were present at the picket. As a part of the action everyone had a chance to sign letters of support to victims of torture and to express their absolute resentment of torture by taking a photograph against the background of a banner depicting a person, protecting a victim of police battery.
About thirty participants gathered for the action in Nizhny Novgorod. Apart from the human rights defenders some concerned citizens of Nizhny Novgorod took part in it, as well as our claimants who at various times suffered from police torture – Aleksey Mikheyev and Aleksey Yakimov. «Every Fifth» booklets were distributed, they featured the results of sociological survey stating that every fifth Russian was subjected to unlawful violence by law enforcement authorities, as well as annual report on the organization’s activity for 2013.
Orenburg, that met the participants of the action with hot weather, completed the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in Russia. As our Orenburg colleagues told us, the reaction of the passers-by was absolutely different: from bewilderment and sincere astonishment that the people are tortured to complete understanding what it was about. Representatives of law enforcement agencies who had their eyes glued on the picket participants received a copy of Russian Constitution along with a spoken reminder that torture is a tool of falsifiers.
In addition, per order of the Committee Against Torture with state financial support a video named «No one should be subjected to torture» was produced. It could be viewed at all Moscow railroad stations, in Nizhny Novgorod underground railway, on big screens in the streets of Ufa and Yoshkar-Ola, and also in city buses of Orenburg.
Unfortunately, the garden square of journalists in Grozny remained deserted on that day – previously approved action of human rights defenders was banned at the very last moment.
At first the Grozny officials were not convinced by notification signed by the head of the Joint Mobile Group Timur Rakhmatulin. A similar notification attested by a member of the President’s Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights and the Chairman of the Committee Against Torture Igor’ Kalyapin was agreed. However, the officials of the city administration required some notarized documentation which was impossible to put together within one day that was left before the action. The last negotiations that took place on June 26 between Timur Rakhmatulin and the First Deputy Mayor of Grozny Ismail Khusainov ended with a flat refusal of the latter: «Picketing in the Chechen Republic in any case will be inappropriate and counterproductive». Verbal notification of Rakhmatulin about his intention to have one-person pickets in this case triggered an unmistakable reaction: «If you need to aggravate your relations with the city administration you can surely perform this action…»
Probably in order to sweeten the pill (Chechnya became the only place in Russia where the authorities refused to have a picket dedicated to International Day in Support of Victims of Torture) the First Deputy Mayor of Grozny Ismail Khusainov assured the human rights defenders that in a different time they will be definitely permitted to have their picket, and even supported, for that matter, but it will happen no sooner than in one or two months time.
Eventually the members of PMC decided to ride along the streets of Grozny and distribute the copies of the Constitution of RF to members of the public: students, shop assistants and even road patrol service policemen who were standing along the Putin avenue…
«Reluctance of power authorities in Chechen Republic to acknowledge the existence of problem of torture and resistance to public discussion of this subject do not contribute to sorting out of this issue which is really pressing in the region, – Timur Rakhmatulin comments. – Dozens of applications to human rights defenders from local community concerning tortures which they or their relatives were subjected to confirm that this problem is as relevant as ever. The problem is there. And the veil of silence over it is only making the matters worse. Of course I’m nowhere hear the thought that torture is specifically «Chechen problem», but in other regions the authorities at least are ready to discuss it, whereas in Chechen Republic we have not been able to come to understanding as yet».