Portions of an article on torture in Chechnya written by murdered reporter Anna Politkovskaya before her death were published Oct. 12 by the Novaya Gazeta. The report detailed allegations of abuse, including an account by one man who said he was hung from a ceiling and beaten by security officials. Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov denies involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder, but her death is a suspected political assassination. Politkovskaya was found shot dead Oct. 7 in the elevator of her Moscow apartment block. Days earlier she said in a radio interview that she was working on a story about torture by Chechen forces with ties to Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to bring Politkovskaya’s killers to justice. (Jurist, Oct. 12) Simultaenously, however, Russian federal authorities appear to be acting like they have something to hide. From the AP, Oct. 14:
MOSCOW Human Rights Watch on Saturday denounced the closure of a Russian rights group that exposed abuses against civilians in Chechnya as a flagrant attempt to muzzle criticism.
The highest court in central Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region on Friday satisfied prosecutors’ request to shut down the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which had campaigned against the more than decade-old conflict against separatists in Chechnya and published reports alleging torture, abductions and murder of civilians by Russian forces and their pro-Moscow Chechen allies.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement Saturday that the court’s decision represented a “blatant attempt to silence a strong critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya.”
“Russia’s actions to quash the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society fly in the face of international standards protecting civil society,” Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Russian government has moved to systematically eviscerate all checks on its power and civil society is its latest target.”
Cartner urged Moscow’s international partners, particularly the European Union, to speak against official harassment and intimidation of rights activists in Russia.
The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society successfully fought off an attempt to close it last year and has faced increasing pressure from the authorities in recent months. In February, its director Stanislav Dmitryievsky was convicted of inciting ethnic hatred and given a two-year suspended sentence.
The court ruling on Friday came less than a week after the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist also known for her reporting on abuses in Chechnya. Speaking earlier in the week, Dmitryievsky linked the prosecutors’ efforts to close the organization with her slaying.