Joint Mobile Group is Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2013

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09 October 2013

On 8 October 2013 the Martin Ennals Foundation and the authorities of Geneva announced the 2013 laureate Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. It is the Joint Mobile Group of human rights defenders working in the Chechen Republic under the lidership of Igor Kalyapin.

The Award is given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment to human rights work and face great personal risk due to this activity. The aim of the award is to provide protection through international recognition.

Joint Mobile Group, Russia: After the murder of several human rights activists working in Chechnya, Igor Kalyapin started the Joint Mobile Group. To reduce the risk they send professional human rights defenders on short missions to Chechnya to investigate and collect evidence of human rights violations. This information is then used to publicise these violations to seek legal redress. Igor Kalyapin speaking of the effect of international publicity said «… when the international community is watching us it is more difficult for the authorities to take steps against us…»

(Patrick Gilliéron Lopreno, Photographe RP)

Micheline Calmy-Rey, Chair, Martin Ennals Foundation said «The choice of the Jury has again shown that human rights defenders are the most crucial actors and can make a difference on the ground».http://player.vimeo.com/video/76222503

The Jury also selected two recipients of the New Martin Ennals Prizes

Mona Seif, Egypt: Core founder of the «No To Military Trials for Civilians», Mona has brought together activists, lawyers, victims’ families, local stakeholders and started a nationwide movement against military trials.

Mario Joseph, referred to as Haiti’s most important Human Rights lawyer, he has worked on some of the most important cases in Haiti, including the current case against the former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

The main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs:

• Amnesty International,
• Human Rights Watch,
• Human Rights First,
• Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
• World Organisation Against Torture,
• Front Line Defenders
• International Commission of Jurists,
• German Diakonie,
• International Service for Human Rights
• HURIDOCS.

The Joint Mobile Group. Background Information

In 2009, after Natalia Estemirova, Zarema Saydulaeva and Alik Dzhabrailov, who were investigating human rights violations in Chechnya, had been murdered, it became more dangerous to work in the region. Human rights organizations operating in Chechnya had to stop working there. Then the Chairman of the INGO “Committee Against Torture” Igor Kalyapin came up with a new approach.

The Joint Mobile Group (JMG) team coordinated by the CAT consists of human rights lawyers who volunteer to investigate human rights violations in Chechnya, and go there for short rotation shifts. Now, the JMG has become one of the main sources of information on human rights violations in the Chechen Republic. The Joint Mobile Group seeks accountability for human rights violations in Chechnya, notably enforced disappearances, torture and extra-judicial executions.

Despite the almost complete impunity for human rights violations committed by the authorities, there have been isolated successes. For example, Islam Umarpashaev was abducted from his home in December 2009 and for several months was kept under detention and tortured. Due to the relentless efforts of the JMG and its leader Igor Kalyapin, there has been unprecedented progress into this case. JMG helped Umarpashev’s relatives file an application with the European Court of Human Rights in January 2010, and Umarpashev was released in April 2010. In January 2011, after an intense public campaign, the official investigation into the case was transferred to the federal level, although there has been little progress till now.

JMG has been instrumental in revealing the systematic violation of human rights in Chechnya as well as the lack of political will to address this issue. The JMG uses domestic legal system and international mechanisms ratified by Russia to obtain remedy for its applicants.

JMG members feel constant pressure on the part of the authorities. In June 2012, Chechnya’s president, Ramzan Kadyrov, personally threatened three JMG lawyers at a meeting, which was broadcast by local channels,  sending a clear warning to victims to avoid the organization. A month later, federal investigators interrogated Igor Kalyapin within a criminal inquiry into alleged disclosure of secret information regarding the case of Islam Umarpashaev. This is the authorities’ third attempt in two years to open criminal proceedings against Kalyapin. Despite this harassment, JMG lawyers continue their work, knowing that if they stop, victims to appalling human rights violations and their families will have no one else to turn to for assistance in seeking justice.

While the idea of establishing the JMG belongs to Igor Kalyapin, the meticulous work done to attain accountability for those representatives of the authority who are implicated in criminal acts would have been impossible without everyday efforts and professionalism of all the human rights activist who despite everything come to Chechnya to collect and support evidence of human rights violations in the region.

Based on information by www.martinennalsaward.org