Joint Mobile Group win 2011 Front Line Award
Mary Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, presented the annual Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk to the Joint Mobile Group from the Russian Federation for their outstanding work investigating torture and disappearances in Chechnya despite the serious risks.
The Award was presented to Mr Igor Kalyapin founder and President of the Joint Mobile Group at the Award ceremony in Dublin’s City Hall. Presenting the Award Mrs Robinson said “The work of the Joint Mobile Group is an inspirational example of how committed individuals, despite all the pressures that are brought to bear on them, can hold the line in defence of justice, truth and the rule of law. It is the denial of access to justice that enables tyrants to prevail. This is why the work of human rights defenders like the Joint Mobile Group is so important”.
Accepting the Award Mr Kalyapin said “For many people the war in Chechnya has been consigned to history. Sadly for the people of Chechnya the torture and disappearances remain a regular if more targeted occurrence – while those who dare to speak our face threats and attacks from the security forces. The Front Line Award sends a message to the authorities that we are not alone and in our hour of need there are people who will stand by us. It is also a message of solidarity and support to the human rights community in Chechnya”.
The Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk is awarded annually to one human rights defender who has made an outstanding contribution to the cause of human rights. This year’s winner was selected from a short list of 6 nominees by a jury of Irish and EU parliamentarians: Minister of Education and Skills, Mr Ruairi Quinn TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Mr Simon Coveney TD, Ms Noeline Blackwell, Director of FLAC, Mr Proinsias de Rossa MEP and Ms Mary Lawlor Executive Director, Front Line.
The nominees for this year’s Award were: Mr. Jean Marc Bikoko – Cameroon – Executive President of the Confederation of Public Sector Workers; Mr. José Antonio Zambrano – Honduras works to defend and promote the rights of the LGBTI community in Honduras which is effectively under siege due to the climate of violent homophobia; Ms. Reyhan Yalcindag of Turkey works as a lawyer and human rights defender with the Diyarbakir Branch of the Human Rights Association in southeast Turkey (in the Kurdish region); The Joint Mobile Group of the Russian Federation is a group of human rights defenders who document and investigate human rights abuses in the extremely difficult and dangerous environment of Chechnya; Mr. Yasre Abdul-Wahab Al-Wazeer – Yemen – is a member of the Yemeni Organisation for the Defence of Rights and Democratic Freedoms which campaigns for the protection of the rights of detainees; Ms. Parveena Ahangar – India’s disputed northern Kashmir Province – Founder and President of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Srinagar, Kashmir.
Speaking at the launch in Dublin’s City Hall, Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line said “the struggle for human rights is rooted in the dedication and courage of these brave people each of whom has put aside the demands of their own lives to defend the rights of others. Each of the nominees for the Front Line Award faces hostility and violence from those whose interests they challenge – the rich and the powerful – those who wish to maintain the status quo – those for whom the promise of human rights for all is a danger to their power and privileges”.
The 2011 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was presented to the Joint Mobile Group from the Russian Federation because of their outstanding work investigating political killings and disappearances in Chechnya – killings which are believed to be carried out with the complicity of forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov.
Following the killing of Natalya Estemirova in 2009 local human rights organisations such as Memorial had to temporarily suspend their investigations because of the extreme levels of danger. The Joint Mobile Group joined the struggle for human rights in Chechnya at a time when the human rights community were at their most demoralised and vulnerable following the killings of Natalya and a number of other high profile human rights defenders.
The Joint Mobile Group consists of legal and communications experts from different parts of the Russian Federation who travel to Chechnya whenever there is an incident of human rights abuse. They travel with CCTV cameras which enable them to collect evidence and interview survivors and witnesses for use in subsequent prosecutions.
The CCTV and radio equipment is also for their own security in the event of an attack.
They have already received numerous threats and recently were held over night by the police, had their film footage confiscated and their cameras destroyed. In the climate of total impunity currently prevailing in Chechnya the Joint Mobile Group plays a crucial role in collecting evidence before it is either contaminated or destroyed by the local police and security forces who have in the past tried to block investigations by either destroying or forging evidence. For many of the family members who have lost loved ones the Joint Mobile Group is their last hope of achieving justice.
A video about the Joint Mobile Group: