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Human rights defenders say they will continue their work in Chechnya, 10/02/10

· Human rights defenders

· Ministry of Internal Affairs

· Chechnya

Official statement by the Chief of Staff of the Joint Mobile Group of the Public Commission on the Republic of Chechnya, Igor Aleksandrovich Kaliapin, about the unlawful detention of three members of the Group on 7 February 2010 by police officers in Shali district.

Photo: Committee Against Torture

On 7 February 2010 three members of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) of the Public Commission of Russian NGOs on the Republic of Chechnya were taken by Chechen Republic police officers to the police department in Shali where they were unlawfully detained for 15 hours.

On 8 February 2010 officials of the Interior Ministry and the government of the Chechen Republic made public statements about this incident.

These events have forced me to make an official statement, given that I am directly responsible for the activities of the JMG in the Chechen Republic.

1. The Joint Mobile Groups have been set up to investigate complaints made by members of the public in the Chechen Republic about gross human rights violations such as torture, extrajudicial killings and abductions. The JMGs are made up of human rights defenders who have extensive experience in legal work related to the investigation of crimes committed by officials – by representatives of the authorities.

At present in the Chechen Republic, lawyers of the JMG represent the interests of several victims of human rights violations. These cases are under investigation by the Department for Specially Important Cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation for the Chechen Republic.

The work of the JMG lawyers in representing the interests of the victims is directed towards enabling the realization of the constitutional rights of citizens living on the territory of the Chechen Republic. The work of the JMG lawyers in gathering evidence, in identifying and questioning witnesses, is conducted in strict accordance with the current law of the Russian Federation. In particular, as laid down in Article 86 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The use in this work of technical equipment (laptops, voice recorders and cameras) is legitimate and necessary, as repeatedly confirmed by decisions of courts in various regions of Russia. In connection with this, the statement of the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Republic of Chechnya, N. Nukhazhiev, about "the espionage-type methods of work of the JMG" seems to me at the very least uninformed and foolish.

2. The incident that occurred on 7 February, with the unlawful detention of lawyers from the JMG, shows convincingly that the principles that guide the work of the JMG lawyers – namely the principles of legality, the presumption of innocence and security of the person – are not used in practice in the work of some leaders of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Chechnya.

A spokesperson for the Chechen Ministry of the Interior officially stated that the taking of the human rights defenders to the police department and their forced detention there for the whole night was allegedly the result of a statement made by a certain woman, received by the Chechen Interior Ministry, that lawyers from the JMG asked her to "write a defamatory statement about a representative of the local authorities.” Despite the absurdity of this accusation, nonetheless, every statement by a member of the public should be investigated by the law enforcement agencies. However, such an investigation should be conducted within the framework of existing federal law, which in this case was grossly violated by officers from the Shali police department.

3. In the course of their work, beginning in November 2009, lawyers of the JMG have repeatedly met with incidences of unlawful pressure on members of the public who have turned to us for help. Such pressure has been applied both by unidentified agents of the security agencies, as well as by individual unscrupulous investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office. In some cases, investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office have actually sabotaged investigations, failing to take the investigative steps necessary to identify the perpetrators of serious abuses by officials.

In particular:

a) After Adnan Ibragimov appealed to JMG lawyers about the abduction of his nephew, Said-Saleh Ibragimov, by Chechen Republic law enforcement officers on 29 December 2009, his house was raided by about a dozen unidentified, masked persons who were carrying weapons characteristic of special police units. These persons, who did not identify themselves and did not show any documents by which they could be identified, searched the house of Adnan Ibragimov, and then, having said that it was a "routine check", went away. An appeal issued on this subject to the Prosecutor’s Office did not lead to any results.

b) On 10 December 2009 during questioning, Raisa Turlueva, mother of Said-Saleh Ibragimov (who had been abducted), was subjected to pressure by Arbi Abdulkhadzhiev, investigator of Achkhoi-Martan Inter-District Investigative Department of the Prosecutor’s Office. The investigator explained to Raisa Turlueva that, in giving such testimony, she was exposing herself to danger and might become a target for revenge by senior Chechen Republic law enforcement officials. No adequate response was received to the complaint filed about this matter with the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic.

c) On 14 January 2010 investigator Nasrutdin Batalov unlawfully denied JMG lawyers satisfaction of a petition that a series of investigative actions be conducted to enable the identification of those who perpetrated the abduction of Apti Zaynalova. We were forced to file such a petition as a result of the fact that the investigator himself did not take the necessary investigative steps. The illegality of the actions of the investigator was established by Staropromyslovsky district court in Grozny, to which court the lawyers of the JMG had been forced to turn.

The above examples illustrate the problem of improper investigation of crimes committed by individuals from the official agencies of the Chechen Republic, and, as a consequence, the impunity of these officials.

4. In each case where we find a breach of the law in the investigation of criminal cases involving a human rights violation, we file a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office against the specific violation and we work to achieve the restoration of legality. At the same time, we do not allow ourselves to publicly accuse officials in the absence of evidence of their guilt.

The procedures to which we adhere are fundamentally different. All reports we receive from residents of the Chechen Republic are the subject of painstaking work, in conjunction with investigators from the Investigative Committee and other law enforcement agencies. At the same time, we receive a large volume of complaints in which members of the public allege heinous crimes committed by senior officials in the Chechen Republic. But accusations of specific individuals are only made in the event that sufficient evidence of their guilt has been gathered.

5. The lack of interaction between the lawyers of the JMG and local human rights organizations working in Chechnya, about which the Chechen Republic Ombudsman for Human Rights, N. Nukhazhiev, spoke, does not correspond to reality. It is precisely from local human rights defenders that we learn about human rights violations in the Republic: about incidences of torture, abductions, illegal detentions, the forcing of detainees to testify against themselves, and the falsifying of the materials of criminal cases. In each case, local human rights defenders tell us about their own powerlessness to bring the perpetrators to justice. The fact that Chechen human rights defenders do not bring to the attention of N. Nukhazhiev information about their collaboration with the JMG, and moreover in some cases ask us not to publicize the fact of such collaboration, speaks not about the absence of interaction between the human rights defenders from the Chechen Republic and the lawyers of the JMG. It speaks about the absence of trust between local human rights defenders and the Ombudsman for Human Rights of the Chechen Republic.

I consider it necessary to declare that the Joint Mobile Team will continue its work in the Republic of Chechnya. The illegal actions of officers from the Shali police department will receive an appropriate assessment and response in accordance with the law.

Chief of Staff of the Joint Mobile Group
of the Public Commission on the Chechen Republic
I. A. Kaliapin
10 February 10, 2010