Chechen Authorities Must Stop Attacks Against Committee Against Torture

The office of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) in Grozny, Chechnya, was destroyed by an arson attack on 13 December 2014. The following day Chechen police raided the apartment of JMG employees confiscating computers, cameras and briefly detaining two members of staff.

The Joint Mobile Group (JMG) was set up in 2009 by Civil Rights Defenders’ long-term partner the Committee Against Torture following the murder of renowned human rights defender Natalia Estemirova whose core mission is to investigate serious human rights abuses in Chechnya. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly established the involvement of the Chechen police in torture and enforced disappearances in those cases investigated by the JMG.

On 9 December, Igor Kalyapin, Head of the Committee Against Torture, filed an official complaint to Russia’s top law enforcement bodies to investigate Kadyrov’s statements.  In the following days Kadyrov publicly accused “a person with the surname Kalyapin” of funneling money from western intelligence agencies to the militants and two unidentified persons threw eggs at Kalyapin during a press conference in Moscow.

“The verbal and physical attacks on Kalyapin and the JMG are unacceptable attempts to silence an internationally renowned human rights organisation and one of the few remaining independent voices in Chechnya and the region. We expect the Russian authorities to undertake all necessary measures to ensure the safety of JMG’s staff and their premises in Grozny and that the perpetrators are identified and brought to immediate justice,” said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

Following a terrorist attack in Grozny on December 4, 2014 that killed 14 police officers, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, announced that if any militant kills a police officer the militant’s family will immediately be expelled from Chechnya and their houses demolished. In the days following the terrorist attack, unidentified state authorities torched approximately six homes across Chechnya.

On 13 December several thousand people staged a demonstration in Grozny. Demonstrators carried banners displaying the caption “Kalyapin go home $” In the afternoon three unidentified armed men attempted to enter the JMG’s office and the organisation’s car was followed on the streets of Grozny. In the evening the JMG office was destroyed by arson. No staff was present in the office at that time.

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