Russia: Grozny Office of Joint Mobile Group, Russian MEA Laureate 2013, burnt and staff threatened

December 14, 2014

Igor Kalyapin at Press ConferenceAFP, Front Line, Human Rights Watch’  Moscow office report that the office of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) in Grozny, Chechnya, was torched after they criticised the Kremlin-supported Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who had called for collective punishment against families of Islamist insurgents (such as burning their houses). It is only the latest chapter in years of harassment and murder of human rights defenders investigating torture, kidnapping and war crimes in Chechnya.

On 9 December 2014, Igor Kalyapin – head of the JMG –  filed a complaint to investigate the statements of Ramzan Kadyrov. Igor Kalyapin stated in his complaint that the collective punishment of insurgents’ relatives is in contradiction with Russian legislation. The law only allows the authorities to seize the property of insurgents’ relatives as a potential compensation for a terrorist attack, but only in the case that it is proved that the property was earned by the insurgent activities, and then only after the court’s verdict.

On 10 December 2014, in response to the complaint of Igor Kalyapin, Kadyrov  stated in his Instagram account that “[Somebody named] Kalyapin defends criminals [i.e. insurgents] and their relatives. In Chechnya I defend human rights… The law enforcement has information that funding from the western secret services… was transferred to the bandits by the person with a surname Kalyapin. It is needed to be checked [if it is the same person]. I will not allow anybody… assist criminals”.

Next day, on 11 December 2014, human rights defenders held a press-conference in Moscow, speaking of the burning of insurgents’ relatives’ houses and the recent statements of the head of Chechnya. During the intervention of Kalyapin, two unidentified men stood up, stated that “Ramzan Kadyrov is a hero of Russia” and threw eggs towards Igor Kalyapin, accusing human rights defenders of “defending the criminals”. Then both assailants left the premises, and the press-conference’s organisers called the police. The police arrived about forty minutes after the call and the human rights defenders filed a complaint.

In the morning of 13 December 2014, a demonstration calling for the ban of the JMG from Chechnya took place in Grozny, it was allegedly organised with active support of the authorities (protesters held placards with slogans about the group and its leader such as “Kalyapin go home” and “Kadyrov, defend us from rights activists paid with dollars”). The same day, three armed men in plain clothes tried to get into the office of JMG on two occasion and the car of members of the JMG has been followed by unidentified people. In the evening, the head of police of Chechnya, Mr Apti Alaudinov, went to the hotel where members of the JMG were staying. He started to accuse them of spreading false information about them being threatened. At approximately 8.30 pm, the fire was set to the office of the JMG.

[Igor Kalyapin is the chairperson of the Interregional Committee Against Torture, and founder and President of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), which was established in November 2009 following the murder of human rights defender Ms Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya. The JMG received the 2011 Front Line Defenders Award and the 2013 Martin Ennals Award. Igor Kalyapin is also a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in Russia. –]

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One Response to “Russia: Grozny Office of Joint Mobile Group, Russian MEA Laureate 2013, burnt and staff threatened”

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