Take action for Elena Milashina
On 16 March 2016, the Ombudsman of the Chechen Republic Mr Nurdi Nukhazhiev announced that he had requested the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation to initiate a criminal case against human rights defender Ms Elena Milashina under Article 128.1 of the Criminal Code “Defamation”.
Elena Milashina is a human rights defender and an investigative journalist working for Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper. Through her research and reports she has drawn international attention to the Russian government’s crackdown on civil society, as well as gross human rights abuses ongoing in the Northern Caucasus. In cooperation with international and domestic human rights NGOs, she documents cases of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions, torture, and persecution of relatives of alleged insurgents in Chechnya and other republics in the Northern Caucasus.
A press release was published on the web-site of the Ombudsman of the Chechen Republic on 16 March 2016, in which Elena Milashina was accused by the Ombudsman of "spreading false information" with respect to the Chairman of the Chechen Parliament Magomed Daudov. The Ombusman referred to an article published by Elena Milashina in Novaya Gazeta on 10 March 2016, in which the human rights defender described an attempt by the Chechen police to abduct a member of the human rights organisation “Committee for Prevention of Torture” on 22 February 2016. Elena Milashina suggested that the abduction had been ordered by Magomed Daudov. In the press release the Ombudsman insisted that the human rights defender knew that no criminal charges had been filed against Magomed Daudov under Article 126 of the Criminal Code “Abduction”, yet presented the information in a way that led readers to believe it was the case. In light of this, the Ombudsman requested the Investigation Committee to initiate the criminal case against Elena Milashina.
I am concerned by the judicial harassment of Elena Milashina, which I believe to be a clear attempt to intimidate her, directly linked to her legitimate work in the defence of human rights. The threat of legal action against her is especially worrying given the escalating situation in Chechnya and increasing harassment and attacks against human rights defenders working in the region.
I urge the authorities in Russia to:
1. Drop the initiation of legal action against Elena Milashina, and cease all further harassment of the human rights defender, as I believe that the request for legal action filed by the Ombudsman of the Chechen Republic with the Investigation Committee is solely a result of her legitimate work in defence of human rights in Chechnya;
2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Elena Milashina;
3. Take measures to ensure that government officials and other public figures refrain from making statements or declaration stigmatising the legitimate work of human rights defenders;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Russia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.