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27.11.2007

No ordinary thugs

   

Prominent human rights defenders in Russia have addressed an open letter to the Human Rights Ombudsperson Vladimir Lukin and the Head of the Human Rights Council under the President Ella Pamfilova over the recent abduction of the Head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Oleg Orlov and journalists from REN TV.

As already reported, late at night on 23 November armed men in masks and camouflage gear burst into the Assa Hotel in Nazran where Oleg Orlov and the three REN TV journalists were staying.  They abducted the men at gunpoint and took all of their possessions. The four were taken to a field, threatened and beaten, and then left in freezing conditions barefooted and in their underwear.

The letter stresses the extraordinary nature of this abduction “even against a background of the lawlessness which is rampant in once peaceful Ingushetia.”

According to information received, the four police patrol officers responsible for guarding the hotel were called away by telephone. There are always four armed guards on duty in the Assa Hotel which belongs to the Ingushetia Government.  The police officers could only have been called away by their bosses.

 The letter’s authors state that “it is thus difficult to believe that the abduction was carried out by secret “destructive forces”, not known to the authorities in Ingushetia.”

While a criminal investigation has been instituted, the letter expresses concern over the articles of the Criminal Code cited.  They believe it is obvious that “obstruction of journalists carrying out their professional duties”, “unlawful entry with the use of force” and “robbery” in no way adequately encapsulate the events.

  They point to the omission of “abduction”, “threat to kill”., “beating” and “deliberately inflicted damage to health”.  The robbery should also be classified as “armed robbery”.

  The authors stress the need for the Russian law enforcement agencies to properly classify the crime, carry out a full investigation and to not obstruct the media in covering this.

  “We believe that not only the work of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Ingushetia has come under fire, but that of the entire human rights community, as well as  journalists.

  The safety of our colleagues has been jeopardized and we demand that the authorities carry out their duty to safeguard this.”

The authors call on Ella Pamfilova and Vladimir Lukin to take the investigation under their personal control and to use all their influence to ensure that the crime is adequately classified, and those responsible identified and published. 

The letter is signed by 16 well-known human rights activists, including Sergei Kovalyov, Ludmila Alexeeva and Svetlana Gannushkina.

 

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