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Violence Against Truth – Condemning Assaults on Lawyers and Journalists in Chechnya
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Violence Against Truth – Condemning Assaults on Lawyers and Journalists in Chechnya

Jul 9, 2023

Yelena Mishkina was traveling with Alexander Nemov, a journalist for the independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta on the way to cover the trial of Zarema Mustaeva. She is the mother of opposition activists exiled from the Chechen Republic who have challenged Ramzan Kadyrov.

Experts urged Russia fully to investigate and prosecute the culprits. Russian news sources claim that the authorities opened a criminal investigation into this attack.

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A flagrant disregard for safety

UN Human Rights Council appointed Special Reporters to describe the violent assault by a group of masked attackers as “another instance of the flagrant disregard for the safety of human rights defenders and journalists” in the Russian Federation.

They were severely beaten and assaulted shortly after they arrive in Chechnya, Russia on Tuesday.

In January 2022, President Kadyrov said on social media that Ms. Musaeva’s family “was waiting to find a spot either in jail or the earth”.

M. Nemov was part of the legal team that defended her. He was not able to appear in court due to his attack.

In a release by the UN Human Rights Office OHCHR, experts said that Ms. Milashina has been a Chechnya-based journalist for many years, who investigates human rights violations in the area.

The ‘Terrorists’ charge

In February 2022, the Chechen leader made death threats against her and she was forced to flee Russia temporarily after Kadyrov called her a “terrorist”, saying that “we had always eradicated terrorists and terrorists’ accomplices.”

Experts pointed out that the investigative reports of Ms. Milashina followed in two other women’s footsteps, Novaya Gazeta co-worker Anna Politkovskaya, and Chechen activist Natalia Estemirova. Both were murdered to put an end to their investigative works in Chechnya.

Reports claim that the attackers beat and stomped them, stole their cellphones, destroyed their equipment and documents, as well as smashed them. The attackers shouted repeatedly: “You have been warned.” “Get out and don’t write anything.”

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Risks and dangers

The experts stated that “this incident highlights the dangers, risks, and challenges faced by human rights activists and journalists in their attempts to defend human rights in Russia, – and in particular the Chechen Republic – and bring justice for the victims.”

The two victims suffered serious injuries and were taken to the hospital in Grozny, the capital. Ms. Milashina has a severe head injury, and she is frequently losing consciousness at the hospital.

The OHCHR stated that the attackers shaved her hair, bruised her, and drenched her with a brilliant green color. This is an extreme form of female humiliation in the North Caucasus.

They were moved to Beslan, in the Russian Republic of North Ossetia. This was due to concerns over their safety.

The experts expressed relief that Yelena Miklashina, Alexander Nemov, and their children survived the attack. They also praised the efforts made to get them safely to safety. We are deeply concerned by the threats that continue to be made against their safety, and lives.

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Keep a close watch on the Case

They said: ” We will closely monitor this case. This is yet another attempt by the Russian government to muzzle independent voices that advocate for justice for victims of human rights violations,”

The call was made for Russia to stop the “climate impunity” and create a safe and enabling environment that is free of intimidation, threats, and death, and by international commitments and obligations.

The Experts’ Mandate

Special Procedural allows the Human Rights Council to appoint independent human rights experts.

The mandate is to report and monitor specific countries or thematic situations. These are not UN employees and they do not get paid for their work.

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