Russian Federation: Continuing Prosecution of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation (ChCNS)

Report
from International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Published on 15 Mar 2005
Vienna, 15 March 2005. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) is concerned about the continued legal effort initiated by the Prosecutor's office of Ingushetia to bring to a halt the activities of the human rights NGO Chechen Committee for National Salvation (ChCNS), a member of the network of the All-Russia Movement for Human Rights. The organisation is again on the verge of being closed after a new trial was ordered by the Supreme Court, invalidating a prior verdict in favor of the NGO.

The ChCNS was created and registered in Ingushetia as a result of the first congress of Chechen refugees in Ingushetia in March 2001, to monitor the human rights situation in Chechnya and Ingushetia and distribute information about the conflict. But in July 2004, the Ingush authorities started efforts to have the organization shut down. The Prosecutor's office made a submission to the Nazran District Court to have the press-releases of the ChCNS examined, accusing the NGO of distributing information purposefully inciting public hostility toward representatives of the State, attempting to make the population resist the State, and discrediting the Russian armed forces and law-enforcement bodies by accusing them of mass-crimes. In an appeal on 23 September, the IHF expressed its concern at the prosecution of the ChCNS .

On 25 October 2004 the Nazran District Court ruled in favor of the ChCNS, rejecting the motion of the prosecutor's office contending that the press releases of the ChCNS were of extremist character. During the court trial it also became known that the case was brought to the attention of the Prosecutor's Office by a letter of the head of the Ingush FSB.

The Office of the Public Prosecutor of Ingushetia appealed the decision. The hearing before the Supreme Court was scheduled for 3 February 2005. Early in the morning of this day Ruslan Badalov, the Chair of the ChCNS, was informed that his mother had died in Chechnya. He immediately sent a lawyer to the Court with the oral request to postpone the hearing. This was accepted but without an answer about the new date. Then Badalov left for Chechnya, where he stayed for the funeral until 11 February, following the generally known Muslim funeral rites.

The panel of the Supreme Court held its hearing on 10 February 2005, one day before Badalov's return, without having informed Badalov, his lawyer, or the ChCNS about this date of the hearing. The Supreme Court panel cancelled the decision of the Nazran District Court from 25 October 2004, and sent it back to the same court for a new decision

The IHF reiterates its conviction that the charges against the ChCNS are politically motivated, with the prosecutor's office pursuing the NGO for its human rights work and the exercise of its right to freely express opinions on the Chechen conflict and the violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in this context, both in Chechnya and in Ingushetia. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court based on political charges brought by the Prosecutor's office further reflects the lack of independence of the judiciary in the Russian Federation. We appeal to the Nazran District Court to reject the Prosecutor's motion a second time.

For further information:

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Aaron Rhodes, Eliza Moussaeva, +43-1-4088822
Moscow Helsinki Group, Tanya Lokshina, +7-916 624 1906 (mobile)
Chechen Committee for National Salvation, Ruslan Badalov, +7-873-22 22 400