Person of the Week: Igor Kalyapin

posted 8 Jun 2015, 15:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Jun 2015, 15:56 ]
Igor Kalyapin is chair of Committee Against Torture, based in Nizhny Novgorod, and head of the Joint Mobile Group of human rights defenders in the Chechen republic. On 3 June 2015, the offices of the Joint Mobile Group were ransacked by a group of unidentified individuals. 

In a statement issued in response to the attack, Memorial Human Rights Centre said: "It is necessary for action to be taken to defend the life and safety of human rights activists in Chechnya. Today in Grozny a crowd set off for the offices of the Joint Mobile Group (which is headed by Igor Kalyapin) following a protest rally held in Grozny under the slogan 'No to the information war against Russia and the Chechen Republic!' Aggressive youths battered the car used by the human rights activists, then smashed the CCTV camera on the balcony of the Joint Mobile Group’s office to applause from the crowd which had gathered, after which they broke in and began to raid the office. The human rights activists escaped through a window. The Memorial Human Rights Centre expresses its deep concern at these developments and demands the immediate intervention of the federal authorities in order to protect the life and well-being of human rights defenders in Chechnya."

In a commentary published on the website of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Igor Kalyapin, head of the Joint Mobile Group, stated: "The office of the Joint Mobile Group has been taken by assault. Masked attackers have broken down the door with a sledgehammer. The car used by the Joint Mobile Group which was parked in the courtyard has been smashed up by the raiders. I have been unable to contact Apti Alaudinov, Chief of Police for the Chechen Republic – the General simply won’t answer his phone..."

In a blog published by Sergei Babinets, a staff member of the Joint Mobile Group, Kalyapin was quoted as saying: "The police failed to appear on the scene during the entire two-hour raid. Our co-workers who were forced to jump out of the window ran into police officers who were patrolling on the other side of the building, but they ignored a request to intervene. They also made no attempt to halt the human rights activists who were fleeing in fear of their lives; the officers had obviously been deployed there as observers in order to ensure that the activists did not inadvertently harm any of the attackers. Something else is curious; it’s only natural for equipment to get smashed up during a raid, but it seems out of character for the perpetrators to go to the effort of removing documents from the office. Why on earth would they need them? Ramzan Akhmatovich need only have asked and I could have photocopied them all for him...”

In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Front Line Defenders called on the Russian authorities to take urgent steps to protect human rights defenders working in Chechnya from attacks and harassment. In their joint statement, the three organizations described what took place:

"At about 10:30 a.m. on June 3, an aggressive mob surrounded the building in which JMG has its office, smashing JMG's car in the courtyard with metal crowbars, before forcing their way into the building entrance. They broke down the door and stormed into the JMG office. Several people also climbed onto the office balcony and tried to break in through the window. JMG staff - Albert Kuznetsov and Daniil Chendemirov - escaped through a window on the other side of the building. The mob ransacked the office, then broke down the door of the apartment rented by the JMG staff on the same floor of the building.

Local and Moscow-based human rights defenders repeatedly called the police in Grozny asking them to intervene, but their phone calls went unanswered. Witnesses said police officers joined the crowd but did not intervene. According to Human Rights Center Memorial said that members of the Investigative Committee, a stand-alone agency responsible for investigation of serious crimes in Russia, arrived at the scene around noon. An Investigative Committee official told Memorial that over 40 people were detained, but there has been no independent confirmation, nor were any further details made available."

The joint statement also noted: "In the lead-up to the previous attack, on December 13 a public demonstration took place in Grozny with banners labeling JMG “supporters of terrorism.” Later that day, the JMG office was destroyed by fire in a suspected arson attack. The next day, Chechen police entered the apartment rented by JMG in Grozny and, without providing any explanation or a search warrant to the two JMG staff members present, ransacked the apartment and confiscated mobile phones, several cameras, laptop computers, and other electronic equipment. They also conducted body searches of the two JMG staff members and searched their car. The two members, Sergei Babinets and Dmitry Dimitriev, were held by police for several hours before being released without charge." 

In 2013 the Joint Mobile Group was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for the commitment and courage demonstrated in its work. 

'Joint Statement by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Front Line Defenders', Human Rights Watch, 3 June 2015
'Human rights defenders' office ransacked in Grozny', in English, 3 June 2015
'Joint Mobile Group awarded the Martin Ennals Award,' Civil Rights Defenders, 8 October 2013