Open Letter in Support of the Gataev Family
A group of human rights activists, journalists and artists wrote an open letter to protest further denial of free communication between Khadizhat and Malik Gataev and their foster children.
To: Mrs. Dalia Gribauskaite,
President of the Lithuanian Republic
To: Mr. Arminas Lydeka,
Chair of the Human Rights Committee at the Seimas of Lithuania
To: Mrs. Edita Žiobienė,
Children’s Rights Ombudsman
We, a group of human rights defenders, journalists and artists from different countries, are writing to draw your attention to the violations of human rights amounting to persecution of a Chechen family, Malik and Khadizhat Gataev, already after the ruling made by the Supreme Court of Lithuania from March 23, 2010 which has pointed to numerous breaches of law in the course of the pre-trial investigation and court case hearing against Khadizhat and Malik Gataev in Kaunas and ordered a repeated impartial and comprehensive hearing of the Gataev case at the appeals court.
Our concerns are shared by Leonidas Donskis, one of the Lithuanian representatives at the European Parliament, who has recently expressed his opinion about the alarming developments in the Gataev case to Lithuanian officials.
Once again we have to turn to you in order to ensure unhindered communication between Khadizhat and Malik Gataev and their six foster children who have been placed under temporary custody of the Vilnius-based SOS village.
We have appealed to the relevant Lithuanian authorities on numerous occasions with regard to unjustifiable obstacles in communication between children in the SOS village and their foster family, including the three children who are now living in Kaunas with the family of Yulia Gataeva, Malik and Khadizhat’s sister-in-law, and Zaur Gataev, Malik’s brother.
Furthermore, Yulia Gataeva has had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to obtain temporary guardianship over the three children of Khadizhat and Malik Gataev. There were no legal grounds for the initial denial of guardianship to the person next in kin who had satisfied all legal requirements, including Lithuanian citizenship and a steady job as a nurse in hospital. Nevertheless, even the children’s wish to stay with Yulia was ignored.
As it has emerged from official documents obtained from the Vilnius psychiatric hospital, one of the Gataevs’ own children was subjected to serious psychiatric treatment after the 11-year-old boy had developed symptoms of profound stress due to being removed from the Gataev family and denied contact with other members of the family. Instead of alleviating the boy’s grief, the SOS village administration made an arbitrary decision to subject him to serious medical treatment.
Yulia Gataeva and the three children under her custody were allowed to meet with the children at the SOS village only once during a period of one year. It became possible thanks to strong public support for the Gataev family from citizens of Finland, Lithuania, Russia, Latvia, the USA, and the United Kingdom.
Later the SOS village administration told Yulia Gataeva that they regarded as “traumatizing” further meetings between the children living in the family and those six unfortunate ones who had to stay in the SOS village. They explained that most of the children were crying for the whole week after the visit. They admitted, however, that the children’s tears were caused by a simple fact that they missed their family. At that, the management of the SOS village did nothing to make the situation of the children under their protection less “traumatizing”.
On the contrary, we have learned that the administration of the SOS village treats the children who are in their temporary custody as if those children belong to Lithuania. We have to remind you that all those children are citizens of the Russian Federation whose foster parents have to seek protection from both Lithuania and Russia.
Talking to the children after the visit to the SOS village, we were appalled to learn that the six minors have nearly forgotten both Chechen and Russian as they are encouraged to communicate only in Lithuanian. We have been appalled to learn that the SOS village administration is trying desperately to create conditions under which the children might forget their foster parents and other members of the family.
Right now Khadizhat and Malik Gataev are at liberty, waiting for the decision on their asylum request in Finland. Malik Gataev remains the custodian over all the minors living in his foster family. His custody over the children has never been legally questioned or annulled.
On April 19, 2010, Malik Gataev undertook another attempt to communicate with his foster children in the SOS village. He called the director of the SOS village Danius Miezys with a request to provide him with an opportunity to have a video session with the children on Skype. Danius Meizys tried to condition communication between the children and their foster parents by allowing it to take place only in his presence and in the Russian language. Danius Meizys also stated in the phone conversation with Malik Gataev that he would allow communication with the children in the language they feel like using only if Malik Gataev obtains a written permit from those on whose orders the children were transferred to the SOS village.
It makes us assume that it is once again the SSD influence that prevents the SOS village director, Danius Meizys, from serving the interests of the children, which is supposed to be his main duty.
We do not see any legal or moral grounds for such restrictions. The Gataev family has already been affected by continuous harassment from various law enforcement bodies in Lithuania. The situation is aggravated further with the foster parents and their children being deprived of possibilities to communicate freely.
We urge you to ensure that these violations are redressed and that any further violations are prevented, in compliance with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
Oksana Chelysheva, a journalist, Finnish PEN Centre writer-in-exile
Ieva Raubisko, anthropologist, Oxford University
Teemu Matinpuro, the General Secretary of the Finnish Peace Committee
Iida Simes, the Rosebud publishing house, Finnish PEN Centre
Anu Harju, Zhima Ditt NGO
Kerkko Paananen, Finnish – Russian Civic Forum
Mantas Kvedaravicius, anthropologist, Cambridge University
Andrey Nekrasov, film director
Jeremy Putley, accountant, England
Aki Kaurismaki, film director
Rimantas Iniakovas, friend of the family
Vladimir Linderman, journalist, leader of the Movement of 13th of January, Latvia
Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy, the chair of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
Elena Maglevannaya, journalist and human rights defender
Burak Oztas, Lawyer, Istanbul, Turkey
Anu Lönnqvist, translator, Finland
Jarkko Tontti, writer, lawyer, columnist, Finnish PEN Centre
Asya Umarova, journalist
Anzor Maskhadov, journalist, Norway
Mayrbek Vatchagaev, historian, France
Aleksandra Wagner, Academic teacher, Krakow-Poland
Nadezhda Banchik, Journalist, USA
Edita Murauskaitė, translator
Sister Daiva Renata Vanagaitė (Pažaislis)
Sister Edita Ona Čibiraitė (Pažaislis)
Katarina Nilsson, day-nursery teacher
Gintautas Bukauskas, human rights defender
Fredrik Therman, Svenska fredsvänner i Helsingfors/Swedish Peace Friends in Helsinki
*It is still open for signing up. If you would like to join the action, then you can send your signatures to Oksana Chelysheva’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org