Appeal over threats against human rights defenders and journalists in Dagestan


Oleg Orlov from Memorial and Lev Ponomaryov from “For Human Rights” have addressed an open appeal to the President of Dagestan, as well as Russia’s Prosecutor General and the Head of the FSB [Federal Security Service] over threats. The letter states that a group calling itself the “relatives of killed police officers” in a leaflet being circulated has claimed responsibility for several killings and is threatening reprisals against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

They say that the leaflets began appearing at the beginning of September in Makhachkala. The leaflets say that “since the authorities of the aren’t capable of fighting extremism, the relatives themselves will avenge those who died and fight for the future of their children” The list of 250 people whom the “relatives” are planning reprisals against includes human rights activists, lawyers and journalists. 16 people are named, these including the Head of the TV and Radio Company “Dagestan”, the founder of the newspaper “Chernovik”, the human rights defenders Svetlana Isayeva and Isalmagomed Nabiyev and two employees of the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

The leaflet claims that on 23 August “a death sentence was enforced against a group of bandits implicated in terrorist acts and killings of police officers and civilians”. This referred to the abduction of three people whose bodies were found in a burnt-out car on 26 August. Two others Arsen Butayev and Islam Askerov -  managed to escape and it is their testimony which makes it possible to understand how the “squadrons of death” in the Norther Caucuses work.

“Thus either the enforcement bodies are trying to place the blame for their own crimes on some secret organization of “avengers”, or yet another terrorist group is being formed in Dagestan.

In Dagestan, as throughout the Northern Caucuses, civilians are dying. A system of violence has developed, inextricably linked with torture, abductions, illegal prisoners and extra-judicial executionsThe appeal stresses that the State must act in accordance with the law, and that it is unacceptable that people should see terrorists and representatives of the law as competing groups, equally ruthless and immoral.

They call for “all necessary measures to ensure the safety of those whom these new “avengers” have labelled their enemies.

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