Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 18

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) on May 9 published an open letter to Chechnya’s prosecutor, Vladimir Kravchenko, regarding what it described as the “unlawful detention” and “disappearance” of Murad Muradov, chairman of the humanitarian non-governmental organization “Save the Generation,” on April 15. According to IHF, members of an “unknown law enforcement-security structure” illegally detained Muradov and took him off in an unknown direction during a special operation against a group of armed fighters in a nine-story apartment building in the Chechen capital. The security forces reportedly seized office equipment belonging to “Save the Generation,” as well as the organization’s charter and financial reports, and the database of three thousand persons (mainly children and teenagers), who were permanently injured by mines. Unidentified security personnel also illegally searched the home of Muradov’s parents.

On May 4, less than a week before the European Union-Russia summit in Moscow, the IHF called on the EU, among other things, “to use its leverage within the EU-Russia partnership to press for an end to the vicious cycle of human rights violations in Chechnya.” “The IHF regrets that no resolution about Chechnya was tabled by the EU at this year’s UN Human Rights Commission and believes that it is therefore imperative that the EU addresses Russia about its policies in Chechnya at the upcoming summit,” the appeal read.

The IHF’s appeal to the EU cited other cases of disappearances in Chechnya and Ingushetia, as well as the criminal investigations of and media campaign against the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD), which monitors human rights abuses in Chechnya. Washington Post correspondent Peter Finn detailed in the newspaper’s May 8 edition the actions that the FSB and local prosecutors have taken against the Nizhny Novgorod-based group (see Chechnya Weekly, March 23). The ORChD is funded by the EU, the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. According to Finn, the Nazran-based Chechen Committee for National Salvation, which also monitors human rights abuses in Chechnya and is also funded by the EU and the NED, went on trial in Ingushetia on May 4 on charges of disseminating extremist information in its press releases.

On May 7, Human Rights Watch called on President George W. Bush and EU leaders to “voice concern about human rights violations in Russia” during their respective summits in Moscow. The New York-based group noted, among other things, that “the Kremlin appears to be harassing NGOs that monitor abuses in Chechnya or encourage public debate about the situation there. In several cases the authorities threaten to prosecute such organizations for ‘extremism’, in others, NGO leaders were the targets of intimidation by law enforcement agents.” Rachel Denber, acting Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called on the EU and the United States “to convey deep concern about the abuses in Chechnya and the general setbacks in civic freedoms in Russia” and to “seek a commitment from the Russian government that it will end the harassment and attacks on NGOs in the northern Caucasus.”