History of the Committee against Torture’s Harassment Due to Its Work in the Chechen Republic

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09 October 2012

On January 17, 2012, it became known that the superiors of the Chechen Special Police Force (OMON) had filed an application with the investigative authorities in regard to state secret disclosure by Mr. Kalyapin. According to the OMON superiors, some information comprising state secrets was contained in Igor Kalyapin’s public utterances regarding threats by Chechen OMON officers to shoot dead the investigative group if the latter enter the OMON base premises. Kalyapin It was Igor SOBOL, Head of the territorial subdivision for the investigation of particularly important cases in the Main Investigative Office of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who notified Kalyapin of the foregoing. Any question to the said application was carried out. Let us recall that the investigative group lead by Igor SOBOL, in cooperation with human rights activists, are investigating the case of Islam UMARPASHAYEV’s abduction and subsequent ill treatment by OMON officers. The NTV Channel shot a video about this case for the programme “Tsentralnoye Televideniye” [“Central Television”]; however, the video was broadcast only in the Far East and then excluded from the programme following an operational order from the Channel’s management.

On January 21, 2012, Anton RYZHOV, a lawyer at the Committee against Torture Inter-Regional NGO, was arrested at the exit from a train in Nizhny Novgorod when he was coming back from a mission in the Chechen Republic related to his regular work in the Joint Mobile Group of human rights activists. Ryzhov was forcefully brought to the department on duty of the Nizhny Novgorod Transport Police, where his laptop and electronic data carriers were seized. Video records were taken during Ryzhov’s personal search and the examination and seizure of his belongings, and Ryzhov himself was also forcefully photographed, allegedly “to add his photo to the database”. From the moment of Ryzhov’s actual arrest to the moment when the respective protocol was filed, he was not allowed to call his parents or colleagues. He was let to make a call only after his belongings had been seized. Thereafter, judicial authorities found unlawful ALL the actions by the police: Ryzhov’s arrest, personal search, laptop seizure, forced photographing, and obstructing his right to a telephone call. The judicial authorities also established the fact of an intrusion into Ryzhov’s private life. It should be noted that it was no earlier than half a year later that Ryzhov could get his seized belongings back. As his laptop was sent for expert examination to ascertain if there were any classified materials of criminal investigations on it, it can be reasonably supposed that the true reason for Ryzhov’s arrest was the intention to find, in his belongings, any documents relating to “the investigative secrets” of Umarpashayev’s case.
 
In late January 2012, unknown malefactors broke the Committee against Torture Interregional NGO’s website abducted deleted a considerable amount of information therefrom. Also, they inserted a piece of news into the information section of the website, as if it were placed there by the Committee’s employees. The anonymous authors expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that at that moment the Committee was paying unreasonably close attention to the work of the Joint Mobile Group in the Chechen Republic.
 
On June 1, 2012, three Committee employees, then working in the Joint Mobile Group in the Chechen Republic, was summoned to meet with the Republic’s superiors. In the course of the meeting, Ramzan KADYROV accused the Committee employees inter alia of “hatred to the Chechen people” and of encouraging confrontation between Chechen law-enforcement agencies. The Republic’s head made exactly the following statement: “I know your activities, I’ve studied you, you don’t even know yet what we know about you, and we’ll know everything about you and your organization”.

(Photo: Joint Mobile Group members, Ramzan KADYROV with officers from law-enforcement agencies)
 
On July 7, 2012, Igor KALYAPIN, the Committee’s Chairman, was summoned to the town of Yessentuki for interrogation by an investigator in connection with a number of materials published on the web and in mass media and related to the topic of forced disappearances and other types of human rights violations in the Chechen Republic. Implied were: a few publications by Elena MILASHINA in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (Kadyrov’s Bashful GuestsA Failed ConfrontationVertical Powerlessness, and Chechnya Is Worth Protection); the article The Caucasian Greyhounds by Svetlana REITER published in the Esquire magazine and recognized the 2011 best publication by the Independent Media Publishing House; and Igor KALIAPIN’s Chechen Diaries published first in the blogosphere an then, on the Committee against Torture’s website.
 
An inquest against Kalyapin is underway in connection with a suspicion that he disclosed in public an investigative secret of the criminal case related to Islam UMARPASHAYEV’s abduction by Chechen OMON officers. Igor KALYAPIN participates in the investigation of the said case as the affected person’s representative. However, in the course of all his public appearances and interviews allegedly disclosing the preliminary investigation data he did not disclose any contents of the case file materials, but cited facts of unprecedented obstruction of investigation by officials of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs. Amnesty International expressed concern with the systematic attempts to initiate criminal proceedings against the Committee against Torture’s Chairman. In connection with this, Amnesty International launched an Urgent Action of help.

Source: Civil Television
 
On August 15, 2012, an unscheduled joint inspection was carried out by officers of the Ministry of Justice, Federal Security Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the prosecutor’s office  in the Nizhny Novgorod office of the Committee against Torture following an order from the regional prosecutor. The voiced aim of the inspection was to ascertain if the actual Committees activities complied with its statute. The inspectors requested a number of documents and questioned several of the Committee’s employees.
 
In early September 2012, the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ department for combating organized crime informed Igor KALYAPIN that the prosecutor’s office had quashed the ruling to initiate criminal proceedings against him, which had been delivered two years before in connection with a complaint lodged by a former Committee’s employee about his allegedly unlawful sacking. In the framework of the recommenced inquest, officers of the department for combating organized crime following a direct order from the prosecutor’s office requested the Committee submit ALL the documentation regarding the organization for the three previous years, as well as handwriting and signature samples and bank accounts of all the Committee’s employees. Later, an investigator from the said department stated that he was acting on the grounds of a direct order from the prosecutor’s office and that it was some “other people” who would study the documents and materials submitted by the Committee.


 
In September 2012, a number of Amnesty International activists from different regions of Russia who had sent their petitions to the Russian authorities to protect Kalyapin were summoned by officers of the Investigative Committee’s regional departments for explanation. Furthermore, a few Russian journalists who had published articles containing information provided by Igor KALYAPIN about human rights violations in the Chechen Republic and the insufficient effectiveness of investigation into such cases were also summoned for questioning to the Investigative Committee and Federal Security Service. The journalists were asked practically the same questions as the ones put to the Amnesty International activists.