The federal authorities should respond to Ramzan Kadyrov

Jan 23 2016

Free Russia Foundation supports the statement of Amnesty International regarding the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Prominent international rights groups Amnesty International and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to take action following “threats” and “menacing” language deployed by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his inner circle against journalists and activists.

Russian Federation: The federal authorities must respond immediately and decisively to latest threats against human rights defenders, journalists and political activists

The federal Russian authorities must respond to a string of thinly veiled threats against several prominent human rights defenders, media workers and political activists, which originated from the political leadership of Chechnya. Such threats should not be taken lightly. The assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 and the abduction and murder of Chechen human rights defender Natalia Estemirova in 2009 were preceded by similar threats. This time, those threatened and intimidated include human rights defenders Igor Kalyapin, known for his human rights work in Chechnya and Lev Ponomarev, the Editor-in-Chief of Echo Moskvy Aleksei Venediktov, and political activist Ilya Yashin, among others.

These threats are a further sinister development in the ongoing harassment of independent NGOs and human rights defenders in Russia which has seen an ever growing number of independent NGOs labelled as “foreign agents”, and four foreign organizations labelled as “undesirable” and banned from operating in Russia.

Starting on 12 January, the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov and other individuals from his close circle, have made a number of incendiary statements accompanied by an aggressive rhetoric, against those who they describe as “enemies of the people” and of Russia, and “traitors”. In his initial statement during a meeting with journalists to mark the Day of Russian Press, Kadyrov called for the “non-systemic opposition” (oppositional political groups not represented in the parliament) to be put on trial for their “subversive activities”.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement attracted much criticism, particularly from human rights defenders and other champions of civil and political freedoms in Russia. Calls were made to President Vladimir Putin to dismiss the Chechen leader for this provocative statement.

Those who publicly criticized Kadyrov were immediately subjected to pressure and harassment. Ella Pamfilova, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, was the only federal-level official who criticized Kadyrov’s statement, describing it as “meaningless” and a disservice to Russia’s President. She promptly received a call from a member of the State Duma from Chechnya, Shamsail Saraliev, who demanded that she apologize to Ramzan Kadyrov. A local MP in Krasnoyarsk who denounced Kadyrov for the same statement in a social media posting hastily retracted his criticism and declared he was “convinced of the authority of the Chechen leader” after he was contacted by “a representative of the Chechen people”.

On 16 January, the Speaker of the Chechen parliament and Kadyrov’s close associate, Magomed Daudov, published a statement in Grozny Inform, the mouthpiece of the Chechen administration, in which he blamed “non-governmental and ‘human rights’ organizations from America and Europe” for fueling past conflicts in Chechnya. He named the independent radio station Echo Moskvy and TV channel Dozhd, and made reference to several prominent human rights defenders, media workers and political activists, accusing them of high treason and other crimes. He repeated his attacks, in a deeply provocative and insulting manner, in at least two Instagram postings where he also made thinly veiled threats against those he singled out as “paid puppets” and “traitors”. Daudov’s threats were accompanied by photos of several of those he named. Further publications and personal and general attacks followed, including by Ramzan Kadyrov himself.

These threats have been made in a climate of an increasing crackdown against government critics and other dissenting voices in Russia that was epitomised by the assassination of the prominent political activist Boris Nemtsov in February 2015. There is a history of violent incidents and killings of human rights defenders and other government critics which the Russian authorities have conspicuously failed to investigate and punish. Among these is the killing of Natalia Estemirova which sent a message across Russia that human rights work – or even speaking out against the government – in Chechnya is a highly risky business.

It was a group of courageous human rights defenders from other parts of Russia, led by Igor Kalyapin and his NGO Committee against Torture (disbanded after the Russian authorities put it on the “foreign agents” list in 2015), who set up the Joint Mobile Group for Chechnya to ensure ongoing human rights work within the Chechen Republic. The Group, and Igor Kalyapin personally, have since faced a range of threats and attacks, ranging from egg-pelting by aggressive men from Chechnya at a press conference in Moscow, to the Group’s office in the Chechen capital Grozny being subjected to an arson attack on 13 December 2014, and then again ransacked on 2 June 2015 by a mob during a “protest action” outside its windows. Neither of these incidents has been effectively and impartially investigated by the authorities in spite of a wealth of evidence, including CCTV recordings, being available to them.

This pattern of threats and attacks against human rights defenders, media workers and political activists, particularly those working on Chechnya, and the continuing impunity for such acts make it imperative that the federal Russian authorities promptly and impartially investigate the threats and attacks and ensure that those responsible are brought before justice. Moreover, those who have been threatened, attacked and harassed due to their work in defending human rights must be urgently protected. As a first step, the Russian authorities should publicly acknowledge and recognize the legitimate work carried out by human rights defenders.

Prominent international rights groups Amnesty International and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to take action following “threats” and “menacing” language deployed by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his inner circle against journalists and activists.

Russian Federation: The federal authorities must respond immediately and decisively to latest threats against human rights defenders, journalists and political activists

The federal Russian authorities must respond to a string of thinly veiled threats against several prominent human rights defenders, media workers and political activists, which originated from the political leadership of Chechnya. Such threats should not be taken lightly. The assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 and the abduction and murder of Chechen human rights defender Natalia Estemirova in 2009 were preceded by similar threats. This time, those threatened and intimidated include human rights defenders Igor Kalyapin, known for his human rights work in Chechnya and Lev Ponomarev, the Editor-in-Chief of Echo Moskvy Aleksei Venediktov, and political activist Ilya Yashin, among others.

These threats are a further sinister development in the ongoing harassment of independent NGOs and human rights defenders in Russia which has seen an ever growing number of independent NGOs labelled as “foreign agents”, and four foreign organizations labelled as “undesirable” and banned from operating in Russia.

Starting on 12 January, the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov and other individuals from his close circle, have made a number of incendiary statements accompanied by an aggressive rhetoric, against those who they describe as “enemies of the people” and of Russia, and “traitors”. In his initial statement during a meeting with journalists to mark the Day of Russian Press, Kadyrov called for the “non-systemic opposition” (oppositional political groups not represented in the parliament) to be put on trial for their “subversive activities”.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement attracted much criticism, particularly from human rights defenders and other champions of civil and political freedoms in Russia. Calls were made to President Vladimir Putin to dismiss the Chechen leader for this provocative statement.

Those who publicly criticized Kadyrov were immediately subjected to pressure and harassment. Ella Pamfilova, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, was the only federal-level official who criticized Kadyrov’s statement, describing it as “meaningless” and a disservice to Russia’s President. She promptly received a call from a member of the State Duma from Chechnya, Shamsail Saraliev, who demanded that she apologize to Ramzan Kadyrov. A local MP in Krasnoyarsk who denounced Kadyrov for the same statement in a social media posting hastily retracted his criticism and declared he was “convinced of the authority of the Chechen leader” after he was contacted by “a representative of the Chechen people”.

On 16 January, the Speaker of the Chechen parliament and Kadyrov’s close associate, Magomed Daudov, published a statement in Grozny Inform, the mouthpiece of the Chechen administration, in which he blamed “non-governmental and ‘human rights’ organizations from America and Europe” for fueling past conflicts in Chechnya. He named the independent radio station Echo Moskvy and TV channel Dozhd, and made reference to several prominent human rights defenders, media workers and political activists, accusing them of high treason and other crimes. He repeated his attacks, in a deeply provocative and insulting manner, in at least two Instagram postings where he also made thinly veiled threats against those he singled out as “paid puppets” and “traitors”. Daudov’s threats were accompanied by photos of several of those he named. Further publications and personal and general attacks followed, including by Ramzan Kadyrov himself.

These threats have been made in a climate of an increasing crackdown against government critics and other dissenting voices in Russia that was epitomised by the assassination of the prominent political activist Boris Nemtsov in February 2015. There is a history of violent incidents and killings of human rights defenders and other government critics which the Russian authorities have conspicuously failed to investigate and punish. Among these is the killing of Natalia Estemirova which sent a message across Russia that human rights work – or even speaking out against the government – in Chechnya is a highly risky business.

It was a group of courageous human rights defenders from other parts of Russia, led by Igor Kalyapin and his NGO Committee against Torture (disbanded after the Russian authorities put it on the “foreign agents” list in 2015), who set up the Joint Mobile Group for Chechnya to ensure ongoing human rights work within the Chechen Republic. The Group, and Igor Kalyapin personally, have since faced a range of threats and attacks, ranging from egg-pelting by aggressive men from Chechnya at a press conference in Moscow, to the Group’s office in the Chechen capital Grozny being subjected to an arson attack on 13 December 2014, and then again ransacked on 2 June 2015 by a mob during a “protest action” outside its windows. Neither of these incidents has been effectively and impartially investigated by the authorities in spite of a wealth of evidence, including CCTV recordings, being available to them.

This pattern of threats and attacks against human rights defenders, media workers and political activists, particularly those working on Chechnya, and the continuing impunity for such acts make it imperative that the federal Russian authorities promptly and impartially investigate the threats and attacks and ensure that those responsible are brought before justice. Moreover, those who have been threatened, attacked and harassed due to their work in defending human rights must be urgently protected. As a first step, the Russian authorities should publicly acknowledge and recognize the legitimate work carried out by human rights defenders.

Call for Submissions – The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly vol. 3

Oct 26 2020

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlins Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More