Statement of Russian NGOs About Chechnya
Over 80 non-profit organizations and a few individual signed a letter, saying that “the presence of human rights workers in Chechnya is essential and they are calling on Memorial Human Rights Center to resume its work in Chechnya and express their willingness to support the work of independent human rights organizations in Chechnya.
The statement of Russian NGOs:
We are deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Chechnya. Our concern is intensified by the fact that the authorities – both regional and federal – not only do not investigate in a proper manner many flagrant violations of human rights, but often hinder independent investigation and disclosure of such facts.
Independent human rights organizations – above all, the Memorial Human Rights Centre that has worked in the region since 1994 – have actively opposed the crimes committed by all parties to the armed conflict. Independent human rights defenders have conducted searches for kidnapped persons and have fought against the organized system of impunity for criminals, against torture and against the fabrication of criminal cases. By the beginning of this year, by these efforts it had seemed that some improvements in the human rights situation had been achieved.
Unfortunately, the reduction in the number of kidnappings and murders, observed during 2007-2008, proved short-lived. In 2009, the number of such crimes again increased significantly, and in many cases there are reasons to believe that the security forces of (pro-Moscow) Chechen authorities were themselves involved in the abductions and summary executions, responding to terror with terror.
However, the (pro-Moscow) Chechen government, instead of investigating allegations of violations of human rights, criticizes human rights defenders, makes political accusations against them, and calls them “enemies of Russia“. Any criticism of the regional leadership is interpreted as a hostile act and abetting terrorists.
The abduction and murder on 15 July 2009 of Natalya Estemirova, a staff member of Memorial, became possible only in this intolerable situation created by the (pro-Moscow) authorities of Chechnya. Less than one month later, on 10 August 2009, Zarema Sadulaeva head of the local humanitarian NGO “Let’s Save the Generation” and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were abducted and killed in Grozny.
The hostile attitude of the (pro-Moscow) authorities in Chechnya and the direct threat to the life of human rights defenders drastically complicated their work in Chechnya. Memorial was forced to suspend its work in Chechnya.
We realize the degree of danger involved in working in Chechnya – in the first place for those human rights defenders who are permanently in Chechnya. And yet, to leave Chechnya without any public scrutiny would not only mean to recognize that in Russia there is a region which in practice lies outside the realm of law. It would also mean to leave people whose rights have been violated without any assistance or defence. Many local NGOs speak about crimes committed in the past by federal security forces, but for understandable reasons remain silent about crimes committed “here and now”.
In this regard, we believe the initiative of ten Russian human rights organizations, who on 23 November 2009 created a Public Commission on Chechnya and have already begun providing concrete assistance to victims of human rights violations in Chechnya, to be very timely. The sharply negative reaction to this initiative witnessed in the remarks made by the (pro-Moscow) Ombudsman for Human Rights in Chechnya, seems to us extremely strange and incomprehensible.
At the same time we continue to believe that the work of Memorial’s offices in Chechnya is very important for the protection of human rights in Chechnya. The work of other Russian and international human rights organizations with experience in conflict zones is of course also important. And we hope that such organizations will find it possible to strengthen their presence in the region.
Pressure from the authorities and arbitrary actions by the security forces must be met by the solidarity of civil society and the joint efforts of many human rights organizations.
We call on the Russian authorities to ensure security, and the possibility to work effectively, for human rights defenders in Chechnya. We demand impartial and effective investigations into the killings of Natalya Estemirova, Zarema Sadulaeva and Alik Dzhabrailov, bringing to justice the organizers and perpetrators of these crimes. Only by putting an end to impunity can the inhabitants of Chechnya be protected from arbitrary rule, and can further killings of ordinary citizens, civil society activists and independent journalists be prevented.
Lyudmila Alekseeva, chair, Moscow Helsinki Group
Valery Borshchev, chair, Social Partnership foundation
Aleksander Verkhovsky, director, Sova Centre
Yury Dzhibladze, president, Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
Valentina Melnikova, chair, Russian Human Rights Research Centre
Lev Ponomarev, director, For Human Rights
Alexei Simonov, president, Glasnost Defence Foundation
Lilia Shibanova, director, Voice
Pavel Chikov, chair, AGORA
Veronika Katkova, deputy director, United Europe Institute of Public Affairs
Dmitry Kraiukhin, editor, Centre Russian Human Rights Information Agency
Victor Kurenkov, chair, Tula Human Rights Centre
Anna Karetnikova, coordinator, Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners
Galina Arapova, director, Media Rights Centre
Vyacheslav Igrunov, director, International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Studies
Maxim Efimov, chair, Karelian branch of Youth Human Rights Group
Denis Shadrin, director, Kirov Centre for Civic Initiatives
Mikhail Kriger, Coordinator, Anti-War Club
Nadezhda Donovskaya, administrator, Pskov Veche
Basil Guslyannikov, chair, Mordovan Human Rights Center
Svyatoslav Zabelin, co-chair, International Social and Ecological Union
Nina Ponomareva, chair, Volgograd Mothers’Right
Vladimir Schnitke, chair, St. Petersburg Public Supervisory Commission
Vadim Karastelev, expert, Novorossiisk Committee for Human Rights
Tatyana Mikhailova, chair, Orel Committee of Soldiers’Mothers
Maria Safronova, Vorotynsk Migrant
Liubov Moseeva-Ele, chair, Kaluga Public Supervisory Commission
Tatyana Kotlyar, chair, For Human Rights (Kaluga)
Liudmila Lvova, chair, Dilapidated Housing; member, Kaluga Public Supervisory Commission
Viktor Kogan-Bright, chair, Regional Civic Initiative for the Right to Life and Civic Worth
Vladimir Sliviak, co-chair,”Ecodefence!
Natalia Tagiltseva, director, Legal Protection (Sverdlovsk)
Sergei Smirnov, Human Rights Network (HRO.org)
Evgeny Gaidash, Good Deed (Krasnodar)
Anastasia Maltseva, director, Information and Human Rights Centre (Ekaterinburg)
Tatiana Tagieva, president, Ekaterinburg Open Society Centre for the Support of Civil Initiatives
Elena Makei, chair, Carousel
Gabdulla Isakaev, chair, For Fair Elections (Kurgan)
Mark Kuperman, chair, Sakhalin Human Rights Centre
Evgeny Kislov, chair, Chechnya Human Rights Centre
Alexei Petrov, president, Alliance Club of Young Scientists (Irkutsk)
Nina Efremova, president, Torch (Penza)
Natalia Karavaeva, director, International Standard (Bashkortostan)
Maria Kanevskaya, director, St Petersburg Human Rights Resource Centre
Ivan Belkov, first secretary, Union of Youth of Russia
Boris Altshuler, director, Child’s Right
Valentina Starovoitova, chair, Orel Committee of Soldiers’Mothers
Elena Popova, press secretary, St. Petersburg Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers”
Sofia Ivanova, director, Ryazan School of Human Rights
Alexander Bekhtold, director, For Human Rights (Ryazan)
Andrei Kalikh, program coordinator, Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
Anastasia Nikitina, chair, System of Coordinates Youth Human Rights Group (Vladimir)
Natalia Evdokimova, responsible secretary, St Petersburg Human Rights Council
Marina Dubrovina, director, Generation (Novorossiisk)
Vakha Chapanov, director, Maximum News Agency (Ingushetia)
Iolanta Agababovyan, director, Human Rights Defender (Borisoglebsk)
Anatoly Tsygankov, president, Civil Society Center for Political and Social Research (Karelia)
Yury Vdovin, Civic Control (St. Petersburg)
Tatyana Dorutina, chair, League of Women Voters (St Petersburg)
Oksana Chelysheva, Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
Vadim Postnikov, director, Tyumen Human Rights Centre
Anastasia Denisova, president, ETHnICS – Krasnodar Regional Youth Group for Tolerance
Nadia Egorova, chair, Council of Citizens (St. Petersburg)
Ella Polyakova, chair, Soldiers’ mothers of Saint-Petersburg
Nikolay Polyakov, head-lawyer, Bryansk regional human rights organization
Sergey Val’kov, coordinator, Society of human rights (Ivanovo)
Aleksander Grachev, director, Central-chernozem research Center (Kursk)
Lidia Grafova, chair, Forum of resettlement organizations
Irina Paykacheva, president, Kolsk association of women-lawyers
Olga Burankova, director, lawyer, Informational and Human Rights Center ARKAIM (Chelyabinsk)
Svetlana Dubinina, head, Don Association of migrants
Magomed Mutsolgov, head, Human Rights organization MASHR (Ingushetia)
Sergey Pavlov, club Radio-connection
Natalia Shikova, Diving-center
Elena Vilenskaya, chair of the board, regional civil human rights organization House of peace and non-violence (Saint-Petersburg)
Valentina Cherevatenko, head-coordinator, Union Women of Don
Alena Trofimova, co-chair, Center of human rights (Taganrog)
Sergey Tabakov, chair, regional organization Human Rights Union of Chechnya of Karelia
Aleksey Suslikov, deputy chair, regional civil organization Center of Consumer Protection
Rita Abdurakhmanova, chair, Large Families of Russia (Murmansk)
Denis Gavrikov, non-commercial partnership Center of the Development of Civil Initiatives (Astrakhan)
Irina Demchenko, director, non-commercial partnership Institute of Social Perspectives (Stavropol)
Andrey Yurov, honorary president, International Youth Human Rights Movement
Elena Dudukina, executive director, Center of Public Education, Arts and Cinema Youth
The following people express their personal support:
Arbi Sadulayev, brother of Zarema Sadulayeva
Mikhail Afanasiev, journalist (Abakan, Chechnya of Khakasia)
Nina Katerli, writer, member of Moscow Union of writers, member of international PEN club
Victoria Fomina, deputy head editor, Golden Ring (Yaroslavl)
Victor Sokirko, organizator of a weekly anti-war picket (Moscow)