13th December 2014: The Grozny office of the Joint Mobile Group, a human rights organisation which works with NGOs from other Russian regions, has been burnt down in an alleged arson attack. The Committee Against Torture is a founding member of the Group and is still a part of the organisation. The Committee reports on its website that police officers who arrived at the scene of the fire apprehended two staff members of the Group without a convincing reason, and took away their mobile phones (leaving them without communication for several hours) and some office equipment. The men were later released and their phones returned to them, but the office equipment was retained.
The incident follows the criticism by the chair of the Committee against Torture, Igor Kalyapin, of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for his demands for collective punishment of the families of Islamist rebels who carried out an attack in Grozny on 4th December, in which 14 police officers and some civilians were killed along with some of the rebels themselves. Kalyapin made a formal complaint about Mr Kadyrov in Moscow last week. Kadyrov then publicly accused him of “backing criminals”.
Threats have been made against Mr Kalyapin because of his human rights work, and he was pelted with eggs during a press conference on 12th December. A rally “against terrorism” was held in Grozny on 13th December (the day the fire was started) at which protesters held banners demanding Kalyapin’s deportation and accusing him of being in the pay of the United States.
Chechen police deny harassing the Joint Mobile Group’s staff and claim that the fire was accidental.
More information from the Committee Against Torture’s website: http://www.pytkam.net/mass-media.news/1161
Statement from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International: http://www.hrw.org/node/131298
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