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Offices at Human Rights House in Voronezh Searched

19 December 2012 

Source: (info)
Article 20: On 19th December 2012, following the searches of the flats occupied by Voronezh-based activists, police officers entered the offices at Human Rights House Voronezh. They seized computer equipment, documents, disconnected telephones and shut off the electricity supply...

18:30. Viktoria Gromova reports: “Time for a short recap: in the end only one of the human rights activists’ rooms was searched. People were blocked in, and lawyers, journalists and police were not allowed to enter. A personal computer, a tablet computer, two hard drives, some USB sticks and some other small things were taken. Now we will gather our thoughts and describe everything that happened.

17:30 Five minutes ago all the people that conducted the search left the premises and went out in total darkness, as they had turned off the lights and internet on all floors. On their way out, the young people took several laptops, external hard drives and CDs. Witnesses are now giving evidence to the police officers that were summoned about the things that have gone on today.

17:01 Vlad Bespalov, coordinator of the Voronezh branch of [the NGO] GOLOS, said via telephone: “They have let me out - they took my tablet, e-book, USB sticks and SIM card. Like before, they’re not letting anyone in”.

16:53 Viktoria Gromova said via telephone: “I am currently standing by the office door with a lawyer, police officers and journalists. The door is closed; the young people carrying out the search will not open the door to me, nor to the police, nor to the lawyer. They are not letting anyone in, and they are not coming out”.

16:40 The police officers carrying out the search at Human Rights House would not let reporters from two television channels in. Neither would they allow Olga Gnezdilova, who has a warrant to represent the interests of Vladislav Bespalov, to enter the office where the search is being carried out.

The actions of the officers are clearly illegal, and the majority of them have still not introduced themselves. The searches are being led by Aleksey Alekseevich Shiryaev, an investigator with the 2nd Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs for Crimes Against the Authorities and in the Financial Sector, a sub-division within the Investigative Committee. Lawyers and journalists are not being allowed into the premises.

16:28 The investigative activities at the offices of human rights organisations at Human Rights House are based on an order that does not specify exactly where the search should take place. 43 Tsyurupy Street houses the headquarters of the international Youth Human Rights Movement, regional offices of Memorial and Transparency International Russia, the personal office of member of the Human Rights Council Andrei Yurov and the legal office of Olga Gnezdilova. The officers from Centre E [the Centre for Combating Extremism] will be well aware of this.

16:09 Police officers have seized the tablet computer belonging to Vlad Bespalov, the coordinator of the Voronezh branch of GOLOS. The policeman Alexander Ivanovich Niveshkin simply stole the keys for all the human rights organisations’ offices and hid in one of the rooms. He also tried once more to eject Viktoria Gromova, Director of the Youth Human Rights Movement charitable foundation from her office, employing physical force. People who want to offer support to the human rights activists and to observe proceedings have started to arrive at Human Rights House.

16:05 Police officers say that they have a warrant to search the whole of Human Rights House (apparently including the businesses and NGOs under the aegis of the Voronezh Regional Committee on Youth Policy). However, the main organisations based in the premises subject to the search have not seen the warrant. Viktoria Gromova, Director of the Youth Human Rights Movement charitable foundation has been forcibly removed from the office of the Inter-regional Human Rights Group - Black Earth and Transparency International Russia. The policemen then locked themselves in the office, along with Lyubov Zakharova, from the news agency Article20. The human rights defenders say that the police are rummaging through all the documents stored there.

It has also become apparent that the police officer using physical force is the same person that seized the photocopier at Human Rights House on 20th March.

15:32 Law enforcement officers, who refused to introduce themselves, have just come up to the third floor of Human Rights House. It is currently difficult to be sure what they are doing - they are either carrying out a search or interviewing the people there. Practically all telephones have been disconnected, and there is no internet connection.

The human rights activists inside are waiting for a suitable explanation from the police, and do not plan to comply with any illegal demands. There are around ten police officers on the floor in total - they are shouting “open up”, are not giving their names and are not offering any explanations for the search.

15:25 After searching the office of the Voronezh branch of [political group] Solidarnost, the police arrived at the offices of the Youth Human Rights Movement, the Inter-regional Human Rights Group, the EKOSOTSIS Foundation and the Green Alternative Civil Group (GROZA) Movement. One of the workers at Human Rights House reports: “It seems they arrived, knocked on the doors, and then silence”. You will recall that a warrant to search the premises is needed for a search to be carried out.

13:58 Natalia Zvyagina has been informed of her position - she will be a witness in the Razvozzhaev case etc. And she has not yet been released because the investigators need to carry out a “genetic analysis”.

13:48 An investigative officer, who did not give his name, has announced that searches will be carried out not only in the Voronezh office of Solidarnost, but throughout the whole building. The officers are refusing to introduce themselves. Something is currently going on in the corridor.

13:32 Two Centre E officers are standing guard over Natalia Zvyagina, and Roman Khabarov is being questioned. Gennady Pankov and Alexander Boldyrev are in another wing of the building, and it is difficult to find out what has happened to them. Khabarov wrote on Facebook: “They’re asking about Lebedev. About [the film] The Anatomy of Protest, and about Navalny”.

Source: Article 20