Take Action for Andrei Rudomakha
On 28 December 2017, three unidentified, masked men violently attacked environmental rights defenders, Andrei Rudomakha, Aleksandr Savelyev and Victor Chirikov, along with a correspondent for the online news source, “Free Media,” near the defenders’ office in Krasnodar.
Andrei Rudomakha is the director of Environmental Watch on North Caucasus (EWNC), which focuses on environmental rights and campaigns for the preservation of wild life in the region. The organization has conducted investigations into rights violations caused by illegal land grabbing by local officials. Aleksandr Savelyev also works for the organization and Victor Chirikov volunteers for EWNC.
On 28 December 2017, Andrei Rudomakha, Aleksandr Savelyev, Victor Chirikov and a correspondent for the online news source, “Free Media,” traveled to the Black Sea coast to investigate allegations concerning the illegal construction of a luxury mansion. The defenders attempted to film the construction work but were stopped by security officers guarding the facility who demanded that the defenders present their passports.
Later that day when Andrei Rudomakha, Aleksandr Savelyev, Victor Chirikov and the correspondent returned to the EWNC office, they were violently attacked by three unidentified, masked men. Andrei Rudomakha was subsequently hospitalized with severe injuries including a fractured skull, broken nose, and mild concussion. Aleksandr Savelyev, Victor Chirikov and the correspondent were attacked with gas canisters and Victor Chirikov was kicked in the chest. The assailants stole the group's backpacks, cameras and laptops, in what appears to be a targeted effort to prevent exposure of the illegal construction. Police have reportedly opened an official investigation into the attack.
This most recent attack on EWNC appears to be in direct retaliation against the organization's work in the defense of environmental rights. However, this is not the first time that the organization has been targeted and environmental rights defenders from EWNC have been subjected to numerous attacks in the past as a result of their human rights work.
In September 2016, unidentified, masked men attacked EWNC and Greenpeace camps in Kuban, where EWNC and Greenpeace were working to extinguish wildfires. The assailants beat the defenders, cut their tents and attempted to set the tents on fire. The police subsequently opened a criminal investigation into the attack under art. 158 (“theft”), art. 119 (“threatened with murder”) and art. 115 (“deliberate infliction of slight damage to health”) of the Criminal Code but to date, investigations have failed to identify the perpetrators.
In September 2016, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation stated that the activities of the EWNC were “political” and declared the organization to be a “foreign agent”.
In 2014, the environmental rights defender, Yevgeny Vitishko, who also worked for the EWNC and who campaigned against construction work for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of damaging the regional governor’s property.
I condemn the attack against the EWNC, Andrei Rudomakha, Aleksandr Savelyev and Victor Chirikov and believes the attack to be directly connected to their work in the protection and promotion of environmental rights.
I urge the authorities in the Russian Federation to:
1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack of Andrei Rudomakha, Aleksandr Savelyev and Victor Chirikov with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Andrei Rudomakha, Aleksandr Savelyev and Victor Chirikov;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.