Human Rights Watch Reports Harassment by Law Enforcement Officials on Human Rights Activist from Northern Caucuses, Russia

On Friday, November 6, 2015, law-enforcement officials in Ingushetia, Russia, searched the family home of Magomed Mutsolgov, a human rights activist, and the office installations of Mashr, a local human rights organization under Mutsolgov’s leadership. According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, armed law-enforcement officials arrived in the morning of November 6 to the locations, said that they were acting on behalf of the Chief Department for Investigation in Russia’s North Caucasus federal district, and presented a search warrant. The warrant identified Mutsolgov as “a liaison between anti-Russian non-governmental organizations located on the territory of Georgia, the USA, and European countries.” It also blamed Mutsologov of carrying out “acts of sabotage . . . to incite inter-religious conflicts in Russia’s North Caucasuses federal district,” as well as “extremist, propagandist projects . . . to foster negative public attitude toward the actions by the Russian government with regard to Ukraine, Georgia and Syria.” The officials proceeded to seize founding and accounting documents, as well as other belongings.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said that the law-enforcement officials’ allegations are “outrageous and clearly aim to intimidate and demonize [Mustolgov] in the public eye.” This practice, however, is not uncommon for Russian authorities. For example, in their 2008 report, HRW noted that “in a striking move to intimidate independent observers,” sixteen (16) human rights advocates and journalists were abducted, detained, and expelled from Ingushetia by security forces as they attempted to monitor two (2) planned public rallies in November 2007 and January 2008. Additionally, in events as recent as the annexation of Crimea in 2014, non-profit organizations reported that authorities “violate[d] fundamental international human rights, including basic civil, political, and social rights,” such as information and media restriction.

As HRW has repeatedly pointed out, the situation in Russia continues to deteriorate, with the crackdown intensifying on civil society, media, and the Internet. For instance, last year Parliament adopted laws and authorities engaged in practices that blocked independent online media and further stifled free expression. These moves have increasingly isolated the country and inflamed anti-Western sentiments to levels unseen in Russia since the Soviet era.

For more information:

Human Rights Watch – https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/11/10/russia-officials-harassing-ingushetia-rights-defender

Human Rights Watch – https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/russia [World Report 2015: Russia]

The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/20/ingushetia-dirty-war-russia [2009 article]

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