Presence of human rights defenders in Chechnya is of utmost necessity. Statement of Russian NGOs

Событие | Пресс центр

01 December 2009

We are deeply concerned about the situation with human rights observance in Chechnya. Our anxiety is aggravated by the fact that both regional and federal authorities do not only fail to investigate blatant human rights violations, but also inhibit independent investigations and prefer to hush everything up.

Independent human rights organizations – in the first place, Memorial Human Rights Centre that has been working in the region since 1994 – were up against the crimes committed by both parties to the armed conflict.  Those were human rights defenders who were searching for missing people, fought against the system of impunity for crimes, against tortures and setting-up evidence. It seemed that at the beginning of this year there was some improvement in terms of human rights observance.

Unfortunately, the decrease in the number of kidnaps and murders in 2007-2008 was short-lived. In 2009 the amount of such crimes grew significantly again, and there are grounds to believe that in the majority of cases Chechen law enforcement agents repaying terrorism in kind are in charge of abductions and capital punishment without trial.    

However, instead of investigating into the allegations of human rights abuse, the Chechen authorities attack human rights defenders, charge them with political crimes, call them “the enemies of Russia”. Any criticism in respect of local Chechen authorities is interpreted as a hostile act and aiding and abetting terrorism.

Only in such an intolerant environment created by the republican authorities it became possible to kidnap and kill Memorial staff Natalia Estemirova on 15 July 2009. Less than a month later, on 10 August 2009, head of humanitarian NGO “Spasyom Pokoleniye” Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Jabrailov were abducted and killed.

Hostility of the authorities and a direct threat to life greatly complicated the work of human rights defenders in Chechnya. Memorial had to stop its operation in the Republic.

We understand that it is dangerous to work in Chechnya – especially, for those human rights defenders who live their permanently. But still, if we leave Chechnya without public control, we will admit that in Russia there is a region that is almost outside the legal framework and deprive the local population whose rights have been violated of legal aid. Many local NGOs speak about crimes committed by former law enforcement agents, but they keep silent about crimes being committed at the present moment.

Therefore, we believe the initiative of ten Russian human rights organizations to be rather timely. On 23 November 2009 they created a Public Commission on Chechnya and have already started helping victims of human rights violations in the Republic. The negative reaction of the Chechen Human Rights Commissioner towards this initiative seems very strange and obscure to us.

We also think that it is highly important for Memorial to be present in Chechnya in order to protect the rights of the local population. Operation of other Russian NGOs experienced in working in conflict zones is also of utmost importance. And we hope that such organizations will have a chance to expand their presence in the region.

We should counter the pressure of the authorities and abuse of office on behalf of law enforcement agents with solidarity of the public and joint efforts of human rights NGOs.

We urge the federal authorities to ensure safety of human rights defenders in Chechnya and give them a chance to work freely. We insist on an impartial and effective investigation into the murders of Natalia Estemirova, Zarema Sadulayeva and Alik Jabrailov, prosecution of those responsible for these crimes. Only if we put an end to impunity, the population of the Republic will be safe and it will be possible to prevent new murders of citizens, independent civil activists and journalists.

  • Lyudmila Alexeyeva, chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group
  • Valery Borschev, Executive Board chairman, Social Partnership Foundation
  • Alexander Verhovsky, director of Sova Information and Analysis Centre
  • Yury Dzhibladze, president of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Development
  • Valentina Melnikova, Executive Board chairperson of the Russian Human Rights Research Centre
  • Lev Ponomaryov, executive director of the All-Russian Human Rights Movement
  • Alexey Simonov, resident of the Foundation for Protection of Publicity 
  • Lilia Shibanova, executive director of the GOLOS Association
  • Pavel Chikov, president of the AGORA Association
  • Veronika Katkova, deputy director of the Social Problems Institute “Europe United”
  • Dmitry Krayukhin, editor in chief of the TsentrRus Information and Analysis Human Rights Agency 
  • Viktor Kurenkov, chairman of the Tula Human Rights Centre
  • Anna Karetnikova, coordinator of the Union for Solidarity with Political Prisoner
  • Galina Arapova, director of the Centre for Protection of the Rights of Mass Media
  • Vyacheslav Igrunov, director of the International Humanitarian and Political Research Institute
  • Maxim Yefimov, chairman of the Karelian office of the Youth Human Rights Group
  • Denis Shadrin, director of the Public Initiative Centre (Kirov)
  • Mikhail Kriger, coordinator of the Anti-war Club  
  • Nadezhda Donovskaya, administrator of the “Veche” Pskov Regional Public Movement
  • Vasily Guslyannikov, Executive Board chairperson of NGO “Mordovian Republican Human Rights Centre”
  • Svyatoslav Zabelin, co-chairman of the International Social and Ecological Union
  • Nina Ponomaryova, Executive Board chairperson of the Volgograd Regional Human Rights Organization for Servicemen’s Parents “Mother’s Right”
  • Vladimir Shnitke, chairman of the Saint-Petersburg Monitoring Commission
  • Vadim Karastelyov, expert of the Novorossiysk Human Rights Committee
  • Tatiana Mikhailova, chairman of the Oryol Regional Servicemen’s Mothers’ Committee
  • Maria Safronova, Vorotynsk NGO in Support of Migrants “Vorotynsk-Pereselenets”
  • Lyubov Moseyeva-Elye, chairman of the Kaluga Regional Monitoring Commission
  • Tatiana Kotlyar, chairperson of the Kaluga Regional Public Human Rights Movement  
  • Lyudmila Lvova, chairperson of the Vetkhoye Zhilyo Initiative, member of the Kaluga Regional Monitoring Commission
  • Viktor Kogan-Yasny, Executive Board chairperson of NGO “Regional Civil Initiative – Right to Life and Human Dignity”
  • Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the Ecological protection Group
  • Natalia Taguiltseva, head of the Sverdlovsk Regional Legal Protection Union
  • Sergey Smirnov, Interregional Group “Human Rights Network” (HRO.org)
  • Evgeny Gaydash, Krasnodar Regional Public Human Rights Institution “Dobroye Delo”
  • Anastasia Maltseva, executive director of INGO “Human Rights Information Centre” (Yekaterinburg)
  • Tatiana Taguiyeva, president of RNGO “Yekaterinburg Centre for  Support of Civil Initiatives – Open Society”
  • Elena Makey, chairman of the Free Creative Association “Karusel”
  • Gabdulla Iskayeva, chairperson of the Kurgan Regional Public Movement “For Just Elections”
  • Mark Kuperman, chairman of the Board of the Sakhalin Human Rights Centre
  • Evgeny Kislov, chairmsn of NGO “Republican Human Rights Centre”
  • Alexey Petrov, president of Irkutsk City NGO “Young Scientists Club “Alyans””
  • Nina Yefremova, president of Svetoch Association (Penza)
  • Natalia Karavayeva, director of the International Standard Public Foundation (Bashkiria)
  • Maria Kanevskaya, director of the Human Rights Resource Centre (Saint-Petersburg)
  • Ivan Belkov, first secretary of the City Committee of the All-Russian NGO “Russian Youth Union”
  • Boris Altshuler, head of RNGO “Child’s Right”

The statement is open for signature to Russian NGOs. Dear colleagues, if your organization wants to support this statement, please, mail us your signature to chechnya.back@gmail.com. Make sure you mention your organization and your position there.