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Republic of Fear: HFHR’s report on human rights abuses in Chechnya

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has launched the report Republic of fear. Human rights in modern-day Chechnya. The document describes the situation of Chechen asylum-seekers in their home country, providing what is known as the “Country of Origin Information” (COI). The document is based on interviews with experts and public domain sources of information such as reports from international organisations or media accounts.

The report addresses the most serious human rights violations, such as murders, torture and enforced disappearances and state-organised persecution based on the principle of collective responsibility. Particular attention was paid to the situation of vulnerable groups that are particularly exposed to an increased risk of human rights violations, such as human rights defenders, journalists, sexual minorities and followers of non-traditional forms of Islam. Due to the multi-layered nature of discrimination and violence, the situation of women is also extremely difficult.

In recent years, the oppressive activities of the Grozny regime have been steadily intensifying. In the modern Chechnya, anyone who opposes the official ideology, criticises the authorities or attempts to independently judge domestic situation can fall victim to persecution. For this reason, the list of groups particularly vulnerable to human rights violations presented in the report is not an exhaustive one.

The report also describes the measures taken by the authorities against Chechens who remain outside its borders, including the abuse of international mechanisms for prosecuting suspected perpetrators of serious crimes, which are invoked in order to persecute political opponents. A section of the report is also devoted to the situation of individuals who are forced to return to Chechnya.

In view of the widespread climate of terror and the risks associated with the communication with journalists, NGOs and human rights defenders for the local population, only a fraction of the crimes actually committed by law enforcement authorities are publicly unveiled. Even the families of victims of the regime often hide the murder and disappearance of relatives from their local communities. In these circumstances, journalists and activists recording human rights violations not only expose themselves and their associates to extreme danger but also fail to gather all evidence and assess the extent of the abuses taking place in the republic.

“The absence of Russian government’s adequate response to extensive and well-documented cases of mass persecution proves that the people of Chechnya have very little chance of obtaining adequate and real protection of their rights within the borders of the Russian Federation. For an increasing number of Chechens, leaving the republic, but also leaving Russia and asking for the protection of foreign authorities is the only viable way of escaping danger”, says Marta Szczepanik, the author of the report.

According to the HFHR, the institutions responsible for examining asylum applications submitted by Chechen nationals should always be aware of the above considerations.

The report is available here.

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