Legal Case of the Week: Investigation into March 2016 attack on journalists and human rights defenders in Chechnya suspended

posted 20 Feb 2017, 05:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Feb 2017, 05:18 ]
On 15 February 2017 Investigative Committee suspended its investigation into the March 2016 attack on a group of journalists and human rights activists in Chechnya, The Moscow Times reported. The Moscow Times quoted the lawyer acting for the victims of the attack, Andrei Sabinin, as saying that the case had instead been closed due to a lack of leads. The incident happened on 9 March 2016 when a gang of masked men attacked the minibus in which the group of journalists - Russian, Swedish and Norwegian - and members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture were travelling near the Chechnya-Ingushetia border. They group were travelling in order to interview victims of torture and their families. Many had reported being followed by cars with Chechen number plates. The attack, which prompted international outrage and was condemned by the Kremlin, resulted in members of the group being hospitalized with broken bones. Their vehicle was torched. The Moscow Times quoted Tanya Lokshina, Russia's programme director at Human Rights Watch, as saying of the attack: "It is supposed to be a signal to journalists, including international reporters, asking them to think twice about whether it's really worth working with this organization, and going to Chechnya."

The day after the attack, as The Moscow Times reported, 'Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country's Interior Ministry to take the case under control. He asked the ministry to probe into the circumstances of the incident and report on what happened. His statement came several hours after presidential aide Dmitry Peskov called an attack on the journalists “absolute hooliganism,” expressing “hope” Ingush law enforcement agencies would take “effective measures” to find those responsible.' For their part, Chechen authorities denied involvement in the attack, describing it as a 'publicity move' to promote the work of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. In August 2016 Human Rights Watch issued a report on Chechnya which described journalism as 'the most dangerous profession' in the region

Photo: Logo of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation

'Russian Police Abandon Investigation Into Attack on Journalists in Chechnya,' The Moscow Times, 15 February 2017
'Kremlin Reacts to Attack on Journalists in Ingushetia,' The Moscow Times, 10 March 2016
'Russia: Pre-election Crackdown in Chechnya. Sweeping Repression Against Critics,' Human Rights Watch, 30 August 2016