Russia: Abubakar Iangulbaev, family and lawyers targeted by State authorities (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of the Russian Federation on 31 March 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public.

The Government replied to the communication on 28 April 2022. While the reply states that Ms. Zarema Musaeva is in good health, the Special Rapporteur continues to hear that her health is deteriorating. At the time of publishing this article, Ms. Musaeva remains in detention, and the criminal case against her has been transferred to court for consideration

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication Read the Govenment's response

BACKGROUND

Topics:

  • alleged search in Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s flat, his alleged questioning and seizure of electronic devices, as well as the alleged denial of access to legal assistance, all of which was reportedly in retaliation for his legitimate human rights work.
  • alleged disproportionate use of force against his mother Mrs. Zarema Musaeva, her alleged arbitrary detention, criminalisation and denial of access to legal assistance.
  • alleged arbitrary detention of Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s other relatives and the alleged smear campaign and physical threats against him and his family.
  • alleged disproportionate use of force against Mr. Sergey Babinets and two other lawyers affiliated with the Committee Against Torture, allegedly aimed at preventing them from providing legal assistance to Mrs. Zarema Musaeva.

ALLEGATIONS

Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev

On 28 December 2021, law enforcement officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ (“MIA”) Center for Countering Extremism and an investigator from the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Chechen Republic reportedly searched Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s flat in Pyatigorsk. They reportedly questioned him about his work and family. They also reportedly seized his work laptop and smartphone, both potentially containing sensitive information, and forced him to provide passwords from the seized devices, threatening to send him to the Chechen Republic. During about six hours of the search and questioning, Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev was reportedly not allowed to leave the flat or consult with a lawyer.

Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s family

On the night of 22-23 December 2021, unidentified armed persons, some of whom wore law enforcement uniforms, reportedly forcibly arbitrarily arrested at least 37 of Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s relatives living in the Chechen Republic. The relatives were then reportedly held at the Directorate of the MIA for the City of Grozny (the capital of the Chechen Republic), Police Department No. 1 in Grozny, and the Department of the MIA for the Urus-Martan District without any legal basis. Most of them were reportedly released within three days, and others were released on 3 February 2022 after publicly dissociating themselves from, and verbally attacking Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev and his family.

In the late evening of 20 January 2022, unidentified Chechen law enforcement officers came to the flat in Nizhny Novgorod, where Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s parents lived. The reason for their visit was reportedly the interrogation of Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s mother, Mrs. Zarema Musaeva, as a witness in a criminal case. However, they reportedly refused to interrogate her in Nizhny Novgorod and forcibly took her to Grozny, over 1 800 km away.

For this, the law enforcement officers reportedly broke into the flat covered by the inviolability immunity due to Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s father’s former federal judge status. The law enforcement officers then reportedly dragged Mrs. Zarema Musaeva out of the flat. They reportedly did not allow her to bring insulin required several times a day for her diabetes and warm clothes or shoes despite the freezing weather. When she was taken away, she fainted. For a day, the family did not know about her whereabouts. For 15 days, the lawyers have reportedly not been allowed to see or speak with her.

On 21 January 2022, the Leninsky District Court of Grozny sentenced Mrs. Zarema Musaeva to 15-day administrative detention under article 20.1 (1) of the Code of Administrative Offences (“petty hooliganism”) for allegedly publicly insulting people upon her return to the Chechen Republic. Despite article 17 of the Federal Law No. 67-FZ dated 26 April 2013, which lists diabetes with complications, which she reportedly suffers, among the grounds preventing a person from serving administrative detention, she was reportedly placed at the special detention centre for administrative detainees in Grozny.

On 31 January 2022, a criminal case was reportedly opened against her under article 318 of the Criminal Code (“use of violence against a public official”). The criminal case reportedly relates to Mrs. Zarema Musaeva’s scratching of the face of a police officer who was documenting her administrative offence. If convicted, she faces up to ten-year imprisonment. On 2 February 2022, the Staropromyslovsky District Court of Grozny reportedly ordered her to remain in detention until 1 April 2022 as a restraining measure in the criminal case. Mrs. Zarema Musaeva’s health is reportedly deteriorating, and it is unclear if she receives adequate medical assistance, medications and diet required for her health condition.

Since 21 January 2022, Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev and his family have been subjected to a smear campaign and have been receiving physical threats from Chechen public officials, including the death threats posted on Telegram by the Head of the Chechen Republic on 21 and 22 January 2022.

On 20 January 2022, a complaint regarding Mrs. Zarema Musaeva’s forced transfer to the Chechen Republic was filed with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. On 5 February 2022, a crime report about the statements of public officials was filed with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. The status of the investigations is unclear.

On 10 February 2022, the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic upheld its previous decision to remand Mrs. Zarema Musaeva in detention and not to release her into house arrest.

Family lawyers

On 20 January 2022, unidentified Chechen law enforcement officers who reportedly broke into the Iangulbaevs’ flat in Nizhny Novgorod and reportedly physically attacked the family’s lawyers. Three lawyers affiliated with the CAT reportedly came to the Iangulbaevs’ flat to provide legal assistance to the family. The female lawyer asked the law enforcement officers about the reasons for their attempts to enter the flat. The law enforcement officers reportedly hit her on the face and broke inside. They then reportedly beat up and pushed Mr. Sergey Babinets and another male lawyer into a spare room and locked them there to prevent them from protecting their clients.

CONCERNS

Without wishing to prejudge the accuracy of the information received, we wish to express a concern as to the alleged search in Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s flat, his questioning and seizure of his electronic devices, which are reportedly related to his legitimate human rights work. We are gravely concerned with the alleged smear campaign and physical threats against Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev and his family emanating from public officials, especially considering that Mrs. Zarema Musaeva is currently in detention.

We also wish to express concern as to the alleged disproportionate use of force against Mrs. Zarema Musaeva, her arbitrary detention and criminalisation, as well as the alleged arbitrary detention of Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev’s other relatives.

Finally, we are concerned with the alleged denial of access to legal assistance for both Mr. Abubakar Iangulbaev and Mrs. Zarema Musaeva, and the alleged disproportionate use of force against the latter’s three lawyers, including Mr. Sergey Babinets, which was allegedly aimed at preventing them from providing legal assistance.

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