The Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings in relation to the attack against human rights defenders in Chechnya, Novaya Gazeta


15 February 2015

On 12 February the Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings based on the fact of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) Grozny office’s arson, as well as on facts of based on illegal actions of the Chechen police officers who detained human rights defenders Sergey Babinets and Dmitry Dmitriyev and expropriated all of their digital media with information on JMG activity.

Deputy Head of the Department of Major Cases of Chief Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Northern Caucasus Federal District investigator Igor Sobol conducted a check based on human rights defenders’ application. Based on the expert review which established the fact of JMG office arson, as well on the data on arsonists’ identities, the investigator submitted the order on institution of criminal proceedings to the General Prosecutor’s Office for approval. In his turn the head of the Joint Mobile Group human rights defender Igor Kalyapin applied to the Deputy General Prosecutor Ivan Sydorouk asking him to transfer the case examination to the Investigative Committee of Russia. The fact is that criminal cases under Article 167 of Russian Criminal Code «intentional destruction or damage of property» are normally to be investigated by the police. But in this case the police will have to investigate the criminal case in which the Chechen police officers can become suspects. And only the General Prosecutor’s Office can eliminate this evident conflict of interest and contribute to effective investigation of this high-profile crime by changing the investigative jurisdiction and transferring this case to the Chief Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Northern Caucasus Federal District.

In his application Igor Kalyapin reminded the background of human rights defenders office arson. 

After the attack on Grozny in December the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov publicly stated on the collective responsibility of the militants’ relatives. During the next two weeks 16 houses were demolished in Chechnya. Some militants’ relatives, including those who had nothing to do with the attack on Grozny, were beaten up and tortured with electricity. After the interview of the head of the Republic to NTV channel these people were deprived of pensions and social allowances. Underage members of the militants’ relatives families were expelled from the Chechen educational institutions. Adults were fired from their work. About 100 Russian citizens, half of them being old people and kids, were forced to leave not only Chechnya, but Russia as well, since the federal authorities did not adequately respond to this situation. Even President Putin’s statement on inadmissibility of prosecution of the individuals whose blame is not established by the court did not help. On 26 December answering the questions of journalists Ramzan Kadyrov stated: «We are going to demolish houses, dislodge families, and I’m not denying this. And I will take responsibility for my words before the law and before everyone…»

Russian human rights defenders and journalists responded to Kadyrov’s statements. About two dozens of applications demanding to check and provide legal assessment of the actions of the head of Chechnya were submitted to the Investigative Committee and the General Prosecutor’s Office. Igor Kalyapin was the first to address these applications to Bastrykin and Chaika, and that caused a backlash. In four days’ time a mass rally was conducted in Grozny, during which demands to Russian human rights defenders to stop their work in Chechnya were voiced. In the evening of the same day the Joint Mobile Group office located in an apartment building in the center of Grozny was arsoned. Witnesses (which were plenty, since the arsonists did not try to hide but acted in an organized and insolent manner) tell that this was a targeted action and not an impulse of a crowd heated up at the rally. During several next days Chechen human rights defenders suffered reprisals as well. Armed masked men broke into Memorial office in Gudermes and threw eggs in Memorial office staff. The attackers claimed this to be a reprisal for support of Igor Kalyapin and the Joint Mobile Group. 

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Presidential Council for Human Rights and international human rights groups responded to ferocious attempts of regional authorities to put an end to human rights violations monitoring in Chechnya. 

Source: Novaya Gazeta

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