Per Anger Prize to Sapiyat Magomedova

The human rights lawyer Sapiyat Magomedova has been awarded the Swedish Government’s Per Anger Prize. In the violent Dagestan, she defends victims of grave human rights violations.

Sapiyat Magomedova has taken on cases that many lawyers would reject due to security reasons. And she has won legal cases in a context where it is almost impossible to do so. For people in the region she has become a symbol of courage.

Sapiyat Magomedova possesses the best qualities that define a true human rights defender. She also faces gender specific risks in addition to the risks faced by all human rights defenders. This is specifically relevant in the region of the North Caucasus where women’s rights are constantly questioned and gender-based violence occur on a daily basis.

Russian law enforcement bodies are reluctant to investigate cases of human rights abuses. Even though the European Court of Human Rights has convicted Russia approximately 210 times for violations linked to the North Caucasus not even one perpetrator has been brought to justice.

Sapiyat Magomedova represents cases of enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture. Some of the cases have been brought before the European Court of Human Rights. Sapiyat Magamedova has managed to get prosecutors instigate criminal cases into torture, which is very rare in the legal system.

By officially documenting violations and fighting impunity, 33-year old Sapiyat Magomedova contributes to raising awareness of human rights abuses in the region and in that way fostering democracy and rule of law. This, in turn, is a significant step towards improving the situation in the long run.

Normally, cases of sexual- and gender based violence go unreported in Dagestan. Sexual violence is a taboo subject in a region where honour killings, bride kidnapping, and child marriage occur. In 2011, Sapiyat Magomedova defended a 13-year-old girl who had been kidnapped and raped for three days by five young men. Two of the suspects were sons of police officers. After strong pressure on the victim and her family she withdrew the allegations of rape. However, the case got great resonance in society and has made other victims consider the possibility to seek justice.

Another example is the case of the brothers Magomedaliev. They had been accused of theft and subjected to torture and pressure to confess during the preliminary investigation. For over a year Sapiyat Magomedova fought for her defendants and managed to prove that the brothers were innocent and that the police, aware of the lack of proof, had fabricated evidence against them as well as detained them illegally. Both brothers were released and a criminal case was instigated against the policemen.

For the first time in 2009, Sapiyat Magomedova was subjected to an unfounded criminal case for allegedly offending an investigator from the prosecutor’s office. She believes that the case was a form of retaliation for her standing up to law enforcement agencies and fighting impunity.

The Swedish Government’s Prize in remembrance of Per Anger

The Per Anger Prize is an international prize, established in 2004 by the Swedish Government to promote initiatives supporting human rights and democracy. The Government has commissioned the Living History Forum to manage the nominations, appoint a jury and organise all the various aspects of the prize. The official award ceremony will be held in Gothenburg on 12 November. The prize is named after Per Anger who, as secretary of the Swedish legation in Budapest, initiated Sweden’s work to save as many people as possible from persecution and death during the Second World War in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Civil Rights Defenders has twice before nominated two human rights defenders who have been awarded the Per Anger Prize: Ales Bialiatski, Belarus, in 2006 and Arsen Sakalov, Chechnya, 2005.

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