Statement of the Danish Institute Against Torture on unacceptability of intimidation of its staff by Russian authorities:
22.05.2015. DIGNITY staff has been fined and expelled from Russia. During the hearing false evidence and false documents were presented and used. The intimidation our staff experienced throughout the process proves that working conditions for organizations like DIGNITY in Russia have become much tougher.
This week, DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture was invited to Russia by the Russian human rights organization Committee Against Torture (CAT). DIGNITY provides technical assistance to many organizations around the world on issues of trauma rehabilitation and prevention of torture. This was also the purpose of the visit to CAT in Nizhny Novogorod.
Wednesday morning 20 May, the Federal Migration Service in Nizhny Novogorod, detained three employees of DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture. The Migration Service informed our staff that they were in violation of Russian visa regulations.
Wednesday evening, one employee was fined 2000 (40 USD) Rubles and ordered to leave Russia. The following day, the two other employees received the same sentences. They have now all left Russia.
It’s important to stress, that DIGNITY staff had employed Russian consular services when applying for visas. At no time, even at the point of entry into Russia were DIGNITY staff informed of any violation of immigration regulation. All relevant information about the journey had been clearly marked on the visa applications.
The employees have been assisted by Petr Ivandvich Zaikin, a lawyer for CAT, and have cooperated with the authorities the entire time in order to solve any issues. The Danish ambassador and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs have continuously assisted in the matter.
Karin Verland, General Director of DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture states:
“DIGNITY’s first priority was to make sure that our employees were treated well and that they were safe. That’s why we have been collaborating with Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
“DIGNITY was invited to Russia in order to offer technical assistance on trauma rehabilitation and prevention of torture. Throughout the past 30 years, DIGNITY has established itself as an expert in rehabilitation and prevention and it’s in this capacity that we were invited to Russia. The intimidation our staff experienced throughout the process proves that working conditions for organizations like DIGNITY in Russia have become much tougher. It’s important that the world acknowledges this very unfortunate development.”
“It’s important for me to underline, that our employees had obtained visas to Russia and that their mission to Russia had been publicly announced. Still, our employees saw how witnesses gave false evidence, that false documents were presented and that the judge did not dismiss these but rather used the material actively in the case against our staff. At no time were our staff provided with charges in a language they could understand. These methods do not belong in a democracy or a rule of law.”