Fire seriously damaged office of human rights organization in Grozny

The recent fire in the office of the Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Activists in Grozny has caused considerable damage, Tatyana Lokshina, the head of the Russian office of Human Rights Watch, told Interfax on Sunday.

The recent fire in the office of the Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Activists in Grozny has caused considerable damage, Tatyana Lokshina, the head of the Russian office of Human Rights Watch, told Interfax on Sunday.

"As far as I know from the staff of the Mobile Group, the office is largely destroyed. The damage is very serious," she said.

Lokshina said the Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Activists is working in Chechnya under the aegis of the Nizhny Novgorod office of the Committee Against Torture, which is headed by Igor Kalyapin.

Lokshina said law enforcement officials had come to the apartment rented by two employees of the Mobile Group in Grozny on Sunday morning. "They are practically holding them in the apartment and they demand that they follow the law enforcement officials. They didn't show any search or arrest warrants. We are concerned about our colleagues," she said.

Lokshina said the Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Activists now has two employees, Sergei Babinets and Dmitry Dmitriyev, and they are both held by law enforcement officials in their rent apartment in Grozny. The authorities are not commenting on Lokshina's statement.

According to earlier reports, the office of the Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Activists in Grozny caught fire on Saturday. Lokshina said on Facebook on Saturday the authorities may have decided to cause the Mobile Group of Russian Human Rights Activists to leave Chechnya.

On Thursday, unidentified attackers pelted eggs at speakers at a press conference dedicated to the situation in Chechnya at the Independent Press Center. Eggs hit program director of the Russian branch of Human Rights Watch Tatyana Lokshina, head of the Committee against Torture Igor Kalyapin and head of Memorial human rights center Alexander Cherkasov. Lokshina told Interfax that they called the police and expect criminal procedures to be launched.

"We believe that Igor Kalyapin was the main target of the attackers," she said adding that on Wednesday Kalyapin addressed the Investigative Committee and Prosecutor's Office in relation to reports that the homes of relatives of militants who attempted acts of sabotage in Grozny on December 4 are being burned down in Chechnya.

The Russian presidential human rights council has promised to raise the incident at the press conference with the Russian administration. "What happened is absolutely not normal," Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the presidential human rights council, told Interfax on Thursday.

 

Kalyapin heads the Nizhny Novgorod office of the Committee Against Torture and is a member of the presidential human rights council.

One of the most high-profile cases involving the work of human rights activists in the Northern Caucasus is the death of Natalya Estemirova, an activist of the center Memorial. Estemirova went missing in Grozny on July 15, 2009 and her body with bullet wounds was later found on the Chechen-Ingush border. Estemirova was the most prominent human rights activist in the Northern Caucasus. Her colleagues are saying her killing has not been resolved yet.

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