Paris-Geneva-Brussels, January 13, 2017.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, together with the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial”, strongly denounce the threats made by the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament Magomed Daudov via Instagram against the team of the independent news portal Caucasian Knot, including Grigorii Shvedov, human rights journalist and Editor-in-chief.
On January 5, 2017, the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament Magomed Daudov published a post on his Instagram account entitled “How to untie the Caucasian Knot?”. The post refers to Grigorii Shvedov as a dog nicknamed “Shved” whose “wisdom teeth must be pulled out” and “long tongue shortened” for “prattling” in the Caucasian Knot. On January 9, 2017, Grigorii Shvedov filed a complaint to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.
The Caucasian Knot is an independent Russian media portal founded in 2001 known for reporting on human rights abuses in the Caucasus region, including Chechnya.
The post implicitly calls for acts of violence against the Caucasian Knot team, including in particular Mr. Shvedov. The fact that it has already gathered close to 2,000 “likes” and numerous hateful comments show that the message “has been accepted”, creating a climate for a possible crime.
Our organisations recall that human rights defenders, including in particular human rights journalists, have been targets of violence and criminalisation in Chechnya. Last year, Chechnya-based Caucasian Knot journalist Zhalaudi Geriev was sentenced to three years in prison on trumped up charges. On December 28, 2016, the Supreme Court of Chechnya rejected his appeal. Moreover, on January 10, 2017, five unidentified masked men attacked and beat Caucasian Knot journalist Vladislav Ryazantsev in Rostov-na-Donu.
“It is inadmissible and irresponsible for a representative of the Chechen authorities to publicly threaten a human rights defender and editor-in-chief of a news portal. State authorities should ensure and promote a conducive environment for human rights defenders”, stated Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
“The authorities of the Russian Federation should investigate the threats which, in the context of impunity prevailing in the Chechen Republic, constitutes a real danger for Mr. Shvedov and the news portal team”, added Stefania Kulaeva, Director of ADC Memorial, FIDH member organisation.
In a context where human rights groups have been facing increasing difficulties in reporting on the human rights situation in Chechnya, the Caucasian Knot has become one of the last sources providing daily reports on the human rights situation. For this reason, the Chechnya’s leadership has been particularly targeting the new portal with a smear and stigmatisation campaign.
Many journalists have been murdered for investigating war crimes and human rights violations in Chechnya. The killings of Anna Politkovsklaya, Natalia Estemirova and Stanislav Markelov are the most illustrious cases. All these cases remain in impunity.
On March 9, 2016, several journalists and human rights workers of the Joint Mobile Group, who were on a press tour in North Caucasus, were brutally attacked at the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. The Joint Mobile Group led by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, an OMCT member organisation, was attacked several times over the last years, including their office and their head Igor Kalyapin in person. The attacks have never been duly investigated and those responsible have never been brought to justice. Attacks even intensified following a post on Instagram by the Head of the Chechen Republic, Mr. Ramzan Kadyrov on December 10, 2014, accusing Mr. Kalyapin of supporting terrorist attacks in Chechnya.
Magomed Daudov is known for his recurrent acts of violence. On October 6, 2016, he beat up the President of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic and repeated open threats to the critics in his social network accounts. He is known for his unconditional support to Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov.