Russian Federation must address impunity in North Caucasus – another lawyer severely attacked | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Russian Federation must address impunity in North Caucasus – another lawyer severely attacked

Russian Federation must address impunity in North Caucasus – another lawyer severely attacked

The Memorial lawyer Murad Magomedov was attacked yesterday, February 4, and beaten by five men outside the Dagestan Supreme Court building in Makhachkala, Dagestan. He sustained severe head injuries and is in critical condition in hospital, unable to explain the details of what happened to him. Murad Magomadov had been defending villagers of the Vremennyi village in Dagestan who were lost everything during a so-called counter terrorism operation autumn 2014.

 – We call for a thorough and serious investigation into this brutal attack. The brutal attack against the lawyer in this case shows that the impunity law enforcement officers enjoy in North Caucasus leads to severe human rights abuses against innocent bystanders and unacceptably dangerous working conditions for the lawyers who dare to defend them, says Lene Wetteland, head of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Russia department.  

Magomedov is a lawyer from Dagestan affiliated with the respected human rights organization Memorial, but was in this particular case working in his own capacity. -Dagestan is a republic in the North Caucasus, where the counter terrorism operations, suicide explosions, torture and killings happen almost every day, something we almost do not hear about here in Norway.  Journalists and human rights defenders are being attacked and even murdered in Dagestan. Also civilians become victims of grave violence”, - adds Wetteland.

Murad Magomadov had been defending the villagers subjected to disproportional power abuse by law enforcement officers during a so-called counter terrorism operation autumn 2014. In what was explained as a search for rebel fighter bunkers whereas no official documentation was presented, several Russian-speaking soldiers and forces of the Interior Ministry entered the village with heavy machinery.

After a more than two months’ long operation, the locals could return to their village only to find that their private property and even whole houses had been deliberately destroyed. Also the village school and healthcare facility were ruined, and personal belongings were found dug down into the mud alongside building debris. Some villagers were promised compensation from 50 to 100 000 rubles depending on the extent – far from enough to rebuild or repair the damage.      

The practice is similar to that of the authorities in the neighboring republic of Chechnya in December 2014. After an attack which killed 14 and injured 30 people in Groznyy, 16 houses of families suspected of being related to the terrorists were burnt down without any due process. Such practice of collective punishment and disproportionate use of power towards innocent citizens is in blatant breach of the Russian Federation’s international human rights obligations and must come to an end.

The attack on Magomedov is also not the first incident of attacks or threats against lawyers who try to counter the abuse and impunity.  In 2010, five lawyers were attacked and beaten in Dagestan, including four women. They were all carrying out their professional activities defending the rights of citizens, thereby attempting to stop the security-services from breaking the law they are supposed to protect. Instead, the lawyers found themselves beaten by law enforcement officers who continue to benefit from impunity.

This practice creates unacceptably dangerous working conditions for lawyers and human rights defenders in North Caucasus. The responsible must be tried and sentenced in a court in order to limit escalation and to protect citizens. The government of the Russian Federation has a clear responsibility to halt the abuse before it spreads further over the country. We hope Norwegian authorities will bring up the human rights situation in the North Caucasus in all for a possible, including with the Government of the Russian federation. This case also underscores the need for protection of human rights defenders and journalists. 

­For more information:

Lene Wetteland, Head of Russia Department  976 97 553

Inna Sangadzhieva, Senior Advisor, Russia Department  976 99 458