Two years was not enough to find out the people guilty of the arson of the office of the Joint Mobile Group in Grozny


13 December 2016

Today is two years since the day when a group of unknown people set fire to the office of the Joint Mobile Group of human rights defenders working in the Chechen Republic (JMG). A criminal case was initiated upon the fact of the arson; now the first department of Principle Investigation Division of the Russian Federation Investigative Committee in the North Caucasian Federal District is dealing with it. Two years have passed and there is no progress on the case.

Let us remind you that on 13 December 2014 there was a large meeting in the capital of Chechnya. According to the information of RIA News human rights defenders and public organizations from Chechnya took part in this meeting, as well as students and relatives of the policemen who died on December 4 in the course of rebuffing the terroristic attack on Grozny city. According to the data of the police, up to 50 thousand people participated in the meeting. The participants of the action were holding the posters with slogans: “No repeating of the 4th of December!”, “There is no place for bandits in our land!”, “We say “No” to terrorism and extremism”, «Kаlyapin go Home», «Ramzan!!! Protect us from “dollar” human rights defenders!”, «V.V. Putin! Send Kalyapin followers back to their masters!”, “Chechen human rights defenders, protect your people from the traitors who sold out themselves to the West!”

When the meeting was over three unknown people with an object that looked like a pistol tried to get into the office of JMG in the center of Grozny. Two hours later some unknown people on “Priora” vehicle started to chase the employees of the office. Around 21.20 the office of JMG was set on fire.

Member of JMG Sergey Babinets described the events of that evening in the following way: “We knew that journalists from “Al-Jazeera were there (in hotel “Grozny-City” – the author’s note)”, so we decided to go to them as soon as possible. At the same time we tried to call Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Chechnya to the hotel. On our way we found that we were being followed. It was a silver “Priora”.

After getting rid of the chase and reaching the “Grozny-City” the JMG members met with the first Deputy of Minister of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic Apti Alaudinov. According to them he said that he could no longer provide safe stay of JMG members in Grozny.

The next day members of JMG who tried to take the remaining property and documents from the burned office were apprehended by the policemen, their cell phones, laptops and a dashboard camera from the company car were seized. Later on the equipment that had been taken away was returned to the human rights defenders.

Only on 12 February 2015 a criminal case was initiated based on the fact of the arson at the JMG office. The conducted expertise of this criminal case confirmed that there was arson with three fire sources.

Due to the fact that according to the applicable legislation studying the materials of criminal cases is allowed only in case of suspension or termination of the preliminary investigation, lawyers of JMG have no access to the materials of the criminal case and do not know what work was done by the investigators. However, at the moment it is known for sure that there are no suspects in this criminal case.

“In the very center of Grozny, three hundred meters from the Republic’s Ministry of Internal Affairs some people break into the apartment and set fire. And that’s considering that the center of the city is crowded with law-enforcement officers maintaining the order. For several years the Head of the Republic has been saying in public that Chechnya is the safest  region in Russia. But the arson of JMG office and investigation of this crime do not agree with this rosy picture, – lawyer of Joint Mobile Group Oleg Khabibrakhmanov says. – The investigation has been going on for about two years but there is no significant progress in the case. What is that? Impossibility to define the guilty party due to the complexity of the case? Or just the lack of intention to look for the guilty people? Maybe, the thing is that the attack was aimed at the office of human rights defenders? Could the absence of any investigation results be explained by this fact? We would not like the answer to this question to be positive.”

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