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Human rights abuses in Chechnya should be investigated, not covered up

Statement
Strasbourg 18/03/2021
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Human rights abuses in Chechnya should be investigated, not covered up

“The shocking testimonies revealed by Novaya Gazeta about extrajudicial executions and other grave human rights violations committed in Chechnya over the last years warrant an immediate, impartial, and independent investigation by the Russian federal investigative authorities into such violations. All individuals proved to be involved in those abhorrent crimes should be brought to justice regardless of the official status they may have,” said today the Commissioner.

“Novaya Gazeta is a well-respected Russian newspaper that has continuously reported on human rights violations. Its journalists have paid the price for their professional work, sometimes even at the cost of their life. Once again, they are the target of attacks, smear campaigns, intimidation, and other forms of reprisals aimed at silencing them. This situation cannot be tolerated and must stop immediately. Instead of harassing independent journalists and human rights defenders for carrying out their legitimate activities in the public’s interest, the Russian authorities should co-operate with them and ensure that they can work freely and safely.

This is equally applicable to eyewitnesses reporting serious human rights violations and their relatives. The Russian authorities bear the responsibility of protecting them. The published testimony of Mr Gezmakhmayev, a former Chechen police officer with whom I have spoken, is consistent with  allegations I have received from several NGO sources and they all need to be taken very seriously by the authorities which should  investigate further to establish the truth. Regrettably, not long after the publication of his testimony, some of his relatives in Chechnya were reportedly intimidated by the Chechen authorities with a view to coercing him into changing his statements.

The Russian authorities are well aware of the shortcomings in protecting human rights in Chechnya. As I have already stated, impunity for serious human rights violations is a prevailing trait, and alarming information about the abductions, unlawful detention, torture and other human rights violations in this region continues to arrive regularly. The Russian authorities pledged to comply with the spirit and letter of international human rights standards. It is time that they narrowed the gap between that promise and the grim reality in Chechnya.”