23 November 2009

We, representatives of non-governmental human rights organizations from different Russian regions,

taking into account that reports about grave and systematic violations of the fundamental human rights norms, including the right to life, liberty and personal security, prohibition of torture and other forms of cruel treatment, are still coming from Chechnya;

taking into account that there is no effective investigation into alleged human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law in Chechnya;

having strong grounds to believe that the abduction and murder of Natalia Estemirova, worker of the Memorial Human Rights Сentre, Zarema Saydullayeva and Alik Djabrailov, workers of humanitarian organization “Spasyom Pokoleniye”, were caused by their activity in the sphere of human rights protection;

at the same time expressing utmost concern about instigation of criminal proceedings against Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, for his public statement claiming that the Chechnya authorities are responsible for Natalia Estemirova’s abduction and murder;  

being aware that our colleagues in Chechnya engaged in human rights protection in such conditions risk their own security and the lives of their family members and friends;

understanding and supporting the decision of the Memorial Human Rights Centre leadership to suspend the Centre’s operation in Chechnya since it is impossible to ensure the minimum safety level for the staff and their families;  

at the same time regretting that in such circumstances victims of human rights violations are exposed to an even greater threat;

rendering homage to the cherished memory of Natalia Estemirova, Zarema Saydullayeva, Anna Politkovskaya and other human rights defenders, journalists and public activists who became victims of the armed conflict in the North Caucasus;

and being sure that real peace and stability are not possible in the Chechen Republic unless there is the rule of law and human rights activity is continued;

announce that the Public Commission  on Chechnya has been created and started working.  

The Commission is established to:

·        ensure constant monitoring of the situation with human rights observance in Chechnya,

·        make the facts of human rights violations in Chechnya public,

·        protect and redress the rights of certain people, victims of human rights violations in Chechnya,

·       prepare recommendations on improving the situation in Chechnya for the Russian authorities and international bodies.

The main tasks of the Commission are to protect victims of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and ensure prosecution of those responsible for grave human rights violations or people who contrary to their official duties under Russian and International law fail to take reasonable steps to prevent such violations and punish those responsible.   

The Commission has formed a Joint Mobile Group to work in the Chechen Republic. The Joint Mobile Group is composed of workers and representatives of human rights organizations from different Russian regions.  Taking turns, members of the Joint Mobile Group will be constantly present in Chechnya. Most members of the Joint Mobile Group are professional lawyers having huge experience in protecting victims of grave human rights violations and representing their interests in front of domestic and international tribunals.

We are sure that in the present circumstances when there is almost no way to continue human rights activity in Chechnya,  inaction and refraining from our obligations to protect victims of human rights violations would amount to waiver of the principles and ideals that we have volunteered to protect as human rights defenders.

We urge our colleagues from Russian human rights and non-governmental organizations to join our initiative and contribute to the work of the Commission.

We call upon the international community, structures and people in charge in the United Nations Organization, Council of Europe, European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other intergovernmental organizations to pay close attention to the situation in Chechnya and take all possible steps to put an end to the grave violations of the international humanitarian law and human rights in the North Caucasus.

Interregional NGO “Committee Against Torture” (Nizhny Novgorod)

Regional NGO “Man and Law” (Yoshkar-Ola)

NGO “Public Verdict Foundation” (Moscow)

Komi Human Rights Commission “Memorial” (Syktyvkar)

Human Rights NGO “Committee 29” (Abakan)

Independent Information and Analysis Agency “Objective” (Grozny)

South-Siberian Human Rights Centre (Novokuznetsk)

Human Rights Institute (Moscow)

Siberian Human Rights Centre (Abakan)

Youth Human Rights Movement (Voronezh)

The declaration is open for signature.

For more information, please, contact:

Joint Mobile Group +7-928-088-57-43

INGO “Committee Against Torture” +7 (831) 433-14-04

Public Verdict Foundation  +7-495-916-11-99

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