The Russian authorities must investigate and put an end to the coordinated assault on human rights NGO Memorial and ensure it can carry out its legitimate work in the North Caucasus, Amnesty International said after one of the organization’s offices in the region was torched.
The office in Nazran, Ingushetia, was hit by an arson attack last night, one week after the head of Memorial’s office in Grozny, Chechnya, was arrested on trumped-up drugs charges.
“The Russian authorities, who have long sought to silence Memorial from speaking out on human rights issues, must launch a thorough and effective investigation into this vicious attack and bring those responsible to justice. Any failure to do so would raise suspicions about the authorities’ possible involvement,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research.
“In the current climate of constant harassment, intimidation and assault on human rights defenders in the North Caucasus, letting this and previous attacks to go unpunished will only send a message that activists and others can be attacked without consequence.”
Memorial is a network of organizations and associations which focus on past and present human rights violations in Russia.
The head of the organization’s office in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, was stopped in his car by police on 9 January and held incommunicado for several hours. The Chechen authorities later stated that drugs had been “discovered” in his car.
Titiev’s lawyer, Pyotr Zaikin, said he was kept under constant close surveillance by plain-clothes men throughout his stay in Chechnya and that his car was repeatedly stopped by police.
Oleg Orlov, from the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Moscow, and Novaya Gazeta reporters who came to Chechnya to attend Titiev’s court hearings also said they were followed.