Person of the Week: Igor Kalyapin

posted 21 Mar 2016, 09:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Mar 2016, 09:07 ]
On 16 March 2016, human rights defender Igor Kalyapin was attacked as he was leaving his hotel in Grozny, capital of Chechnya. Shaun Walker, writing in The Guardian, reports: 'When [...] Igor Kalyapin, travelled to Grozny in an attempt to arrange a press conference, he was thrown out of the hotel he was staying in, with the reasoning that people who criticised Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s Kremlin-appointed leader, were not welcome there. When he walked on to the street, a group of about 15 youths in masks attacked him, punching him as well as throwing eggs, chemicals and flour at him.' 

Igor Kalyapin heads the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, based in Nizhny Novgorod, an organization that is a leading participant in the Joint Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Groups in Chechnya set up in 2009 to investigate human rights abuses in the region. On 9 March 2016 a vehicle in which staff of the Joint Mobile Group were travelling, together with a number of journalists, was attacked in neighbouring Ingushetiya as they journeyed to Chechnya. A number of the activists and journalists were hospitalized as a result of their injuries. 

Igor Kalyapin told Shaun Walker in an interview: 'We won’t have anyone staying the night in Chechnya any more, it’s clearly too dangerous. If they can attack me, a member of the president’s human rights council, outside the poshest hotel in the city, then it’s clear that there are no limits. But we can’t pull out altogether. We all have to take a risk. There is no choice. We have two or three court hearings a week there. As long as people want our help there, we will have a presence there.'

Human Rights Watch reports: 'The March 16 attack was the fourth in the last 15 months on Joint Mobile Group staff and offices in the North Caucasus. In addition to the March 9 attack, on June 3, 2015, unidentified people in masks forced their way into the organization’s office in Grozny, destroying the contents of the office and forcing its staff out. On December 13, 2014, unidentified attackers set fire to the office. The next day, Chechen police without a warrant ransacked the office and took mobile phones, several cameras, laptop computers, and other electronic equipment. They also conducted body searches of the two Joint Mobile Group employees who worked there and searched their car. No one has been held accountable for these attacks.'

Shaun Walker, 'Human rights defenders battle on as Chechnya cracks down,' The Guardian, 21 March 2016
'Russia: Rights Defender Attacked in Chechnya; End Zero Accountability Policy for Attacks on Activists,' Human Rights Watch, 17 March 2016