Memorial: Russian authorities go for the chronicler of war crimes, not the perpetrators


The Memorial Human Rights Centre has issued a statement regarding the extraordinary follow-up to publication of a book on people charged with war crimes over Chechnya.

At the end of April 2011 it became known that the Centre for Fighting Extremism had begun checks into the circulation of the book “International Tribunal on Chechnya. Legal prospects for holding personally liable individuals suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the armed conflict in the Chechen Republic”.

As part of the check, the Nizhny Novgorod Centre for Fighting Extremism interrogated both one of the authors of this book, well-known human rights activist Stanislav Dmitrievsky, and Igor Kalyapin, the Head of the Committee against Torture who had several copies of the book unlawfully removed in 2009.

The Moscow Centre for Fighting Extremism in its turn summoned for questioning the Director of the Centre for International Protection, Karina Moskalenko and Natalya Yakovleva, Director of the Independent Press Centre where the book’s presentation was held in 2009.

It transpires that the law enforcement agencies have some kind of conclusion from a specialist who concluded that the book contained extremist utterances.

The book “International Tribunal on Chechnya” “relies on broad documentary material on human rights violations and norms of international humanitarian law in Chechnya and to a considerable extent on material collected by the Memorial Human Rights Centre. This material, both separate items and as substantial publications have been widely circulated, in particular being passed to the investigation bodies. Numerous criminal investigations have been initiated on the basis of requests which we sent, indicating that the investigators agreed that the crimes had taken place.

In more than 150 cases the European Court of Human Rights has passed judgements binding for the Russian Federation which found the latter responsible not only for the actual crimes, but for the fact that the culprits were not brought to justice.

The book has been an important reference point in this direction. It contains a high-quality legal, human rights and historical analysis of events during the two Chechen wars and all the circumstances leading to them. It also discusses the possibilities and ways of bring those guilty from both sides of the conflict to answer, using international mechanisms.

The attempt to declare the book extremist is an obvious violation of the Russian Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It continues the flawed practice of replacing substantive discussion of the authorities’ mistakes and crimes with prohibitions and repression.

Who are they trying to protect from the book “International Tribunal on Chechnya”? Is it really the social group of “war criminals”?

The Memorial Human Rights Centre expresses its outrage over this latest attempt to crush freedom of speech and obstruct human rights activity by using anti-extremist legislation.

We plan to carefully follow the situation regarding the book “International Tribunal on Chechnya” and counter any attempts to harass its authors, publishers or distributors. 

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