16 August 2019 – Responding to today’s raid of the office of human rights organization Russia Justice Initiative (RJI) by police in the Republic of Ingushetia in the North Caucasus in Russia, Natalia Prilutskaya, Russia Researcher at Amnesty International, said:
“Without a court warrant police searched the office of Russia Justice Initiative and seized confidential documents, including legal contracts, in a clear attempt to intimidate and silence the organization’s staff.
“Over the years, Russia Justice Initiative has provided legal support to hundreds of victims of human rights violations. Among them are those who are being investigated in connection with a series of peaceful protests in Ingushetia last year against the redrawing of administrative border with the neighbouring republic of Chechnya. The authorities described one of these protests as “mass riots” and are now trying to link them with recent protests against unfair elections in Moscow.
“This is the latest manifestation of the Russian government’s smear campaign against peaceful protestors. Over the past month hundreds of people have been arrested simply for exercising their freedom of expression, and organizations like RJI are in the crosshairs as the authorities try to crush all dissent.
“We are calling on the Russian authorities to immediately stop the harassment of Russia Justice Initiative and let it continue its human rights work. We further call on the authorities to drop the unfounded mass riots charges and release all detained peaceful protesters across Russia, whose rights to freedom of expression and assembly must be respected.”
At around 9.30 this morning, police officers from the Main Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior for the North Caucasus Federal District raided the Nazran office of Russian Justice Initiative, and conducted a search without a proper search warrant. The police confiscated the organization’s documentation covering 2017-2019, including contracts with lawyers working on European Court of Human Rights cases. The organization’s staff members saw a police directive stating that the search was being conducted in connection with the protests in Moscow of 27 July and 3 August which the authorities falsely characterized as “mass riots”. The directive claimed that “an unidentified group of people who organized the Moscow protests” also “coordinate non-governmental organizations in the North Caucasus receiving foreign funding” and could have also organized “unsanctioned protest actions with mass riots in the North Caucasus”.