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Rights Group of the Week: Memorial Human Rights Centre

posted 22 Jan 2018, 05:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Jan 2018, 06:41 ]
On 17 January 2018, masked men set fire to the office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Nazran, Ingushetia. As RFE/RL reported, Memorial said the action "was part of a campaign to chase it out of the North Caucasus." A senior Memorial associate, Oleg Orlov, was quoted as saying that security cameras showed two masked men arriving at the office at about 3:30 a.m. and breaking into the office through a window on the second floor.

Oleg Orlov told RFE/RL that Memorial considers the arson to be "a terrorist attack" intended to "frighten ordinary people" and deal a blow to Memorial. Orlov linked the attack in Nazran to the pressure Memorial has come under in Chechnya: "This attack is not random. A criminal case was fabricated against Oyub Titiev and...massive pressure is being imposed on Memorial in Chechnya. It looks like they consider Memorial an enemy that they want to remove." Memorial in an official statement said that its office in Nazran "is exclusively dedicated to human rights problems in Ingushetia and in no way linked to Chechen issues. Nonetheless, it's obvious to us that there is a link between the arson attack with those forces who are trying to destroy the work of Memorial in Chechnya and squeeze Memorial out of the entire North Caucasus region." [translation by RFE/RL]

Amnesty International in a statement condemned the attack: "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." Anna Neistat, Amnesty International's senior director for research, said: "The Russian authorities, who have long sought to silence Memorial from speaking out on human rights issues, must launch a thorough and effective investigation...and bring those responsible to justice. Any failure to do so would raise suspicions about the authorities’ possible involvement."

Tanya Lokshina of Russia Programme Director at Human Rights Watchsaid: "This despicable attack likely has everything to do with Memorial’s work in neighboring Chechnya and its efforts to secure the release of Oyub Titiev, Memorial’s Chechnya director, who was arrested last week by Chechen authorities on bogus drug possession charges. For many years, Memorial’s Ingushetia office has been home to those documenting abuses during and after the war in Chechnya – Russians and foreigners, journalists and human rights investigators. [...] Titiev’s arrest is clearly aimed at punishing him for his human rights work and forcing Memorial to stop exposing abuses by Chechen authorities. Given these circumstances, the arson attack on Memorial’s office is surely no coincidence." 

Meanwhile, Memorial's office in Grozny, Chechnya, was raided three times this week, on 16, 18 and 19 January. According to RFE/RL, Oleg Orlov said that "police claimed they had found two cigarettes and an ashtray made from an empty tin can during the search on 19 January. Orlov said no such items were in the office, adding police may use them to fabricate evidence against Titiev, who was detained on what his supporters say were trumped up drug charges."

'Russian Rights Group Says Ingushetia Office Torched In 'Terrorist' Attack,' RFE/RL, 17 January 2018
Поджог офиса Правозащитного центра "Мемориал" в Назрани, Memorial Human Rights Centre, 17 January 2018
Russia: Attacks on human rights group Memorial must be investigated and stopped, Amnesty International, 17 January 2018
Lokshina, 'Arson Attack on Office of Russian Rights Group,' Human Rights Watch, 17 January 2018
Grozny Police Search Memorial Office For Third Tim
e This Week, RFE/RL, 19 January 2018
'Oleg Orlov associates arson of "Memorial" office with prosecution of Titiev, Caucasian Knot, 17 January 2018