The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention of Ms. Zarema Musaeva, after her abduction in January 2022 in reprisal of her sons’ public criticism of the Chechen government. Her sons are Abubakar Yangulbaev, Chechen human rights lawyer and member of the NGO Committee Against Torture, a member of the OMCT-SOS Torture Network, and Ibrahim Yangulbaev, an outspoken critic and blogger.
On February 2, 2022, the Staropromyslovsky District Court of Grozny ordered the detention on remand of Zarema Musaeva for a period of two months, until April 1, 2022, on the charge of “use of violence against a representative of the authority” (Article 318 part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) in pre-trial detention center (SIZO) in Grozny. If convicted, Zarema Musaeva faces up to ten years of imprisonment. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, her place of detention remained unknown.
On February 2, 2022, the Vice-Premier of the Chechen Republic, Mr. Abuzayd Vismuradov, published a video on social media threatening to decapitate members of the Yangulbaev family. The First Deputy of the government of Chechnya, Mr. Isa Tumhadjiev, also appeared in the video, together with representatives of Chechen law enforcement bodies. On the same day, a demonstration against the Yangulbaev family was held in Grozny, in which participants cursed the Yangulbayev family, beat with sticks and burned portraits of them. Moreover, in the demonstration, the head of the Public Chamber of Chechnya, Mr. Ismail Denilkhanov, called to shut down the NGO Committee Against Torture, as well as the media outlets Novaya Gazeta and Dozhd TV, and to prosecute human rights defender Igor Kaliapin and journalist Elena Milashina1.
On February 1, 2022, State Duma Chechen deputy Mr. Adam Delimkhanov threatened to kill members of the Yangulbaev family in a video he shared on Instagram, in which he stated “One should know that we will hunt you day and night, without sparing our lives, property and offspring, until we cut off your heads and kill you”. However, no procedure has been instigated to investigate these threats. On the same day, in the evening, the head of the Chechen Republic, Mr. Ramzan Kadyrov, requested the countries where other relatives of Abubakar Yangulbaev reside to return them back to Russia, and uttered threats against his family.
The Observatory recalls that Yangulbaev’s family home in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, was broken into on January 20, 2022 by a group of men in civil clothes who claimed to belong to the Chechen law enforcement. During this raid, Abubkar Yangulbaev’s parents were beaten several times by police officers, who also used force and were hostile to other family members. Zarema Musaeva was detained by force and put in a car. The officers did not present an arrest warrant but a document stating that Ms. Musaeva had to be interrogated as a witness in a case related to fraud in the Republic of Chechnya dating from 2019. She was transferred to an unknown location. On January 21, 2022, Chechen authorities reported that Zarema Musaeva was serving 15 days of administrative detention for “petty hooliganism” (Code on Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation). Saidi Yangulbaev, Abubakar Yangulbaev’s father, was not detained due to his status as a federal judge. However, on February 3, 2022, the Chechen Supreme Court stripped him of his status as a retired federal judge, which entails the removal of his judicial immunity.
The Observatory further recalls that in the evening of January 21, 2022, a video of a meeting of Chechen Ombudsperson with Zarema Musaeva was broadcasted. In the video, Ms. Musaeva stated that no violence was used and that she was provided with medicines. Yet, in the video she looked weak and hardly spoke. On the same day, the head of Chechen Republic, commenting on the abduction of Ms. Musaeva, stated that the whole Yangulbaev family should be either jailed or buried in the ground. On January 28, 2022, the independent lawyers of Ms. Musaeva received a written statement on her behalf, in which she refused their services, underlining her satisfaction with the lawyer provided by the State.
Abubakar Yangulbaev’s family has been subjected to ongoing threats and reprisals from Chechen authorities and officials for years. In November 2015, Ibrahim Yangulbaev was beaten by the Chechen authorities in Ramzan Kadyrov’s residence for publicly criticising the Kadyrov’s regime in his social media publications. After Ibrahim Yangulbaev was beaten, then-Federal Judge Saidi Yangulbayev was forced to resign. The Chechen authorities threatened him with his son's death in case he would not resign. The family did not see Ibrahim Yangulbaev for six months after he was beaten. Later, it became known that all that time he had been in the basement of the local special military unit building. He was released for medical reasons.
In 2017, Ibrahim Yangulbaev was detained again and tortured by the Chechen police, and arrested on politically motivated charges. He was released in 2019 and filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in 2020.
In December 2021, Abubakar Yangulbaev was detained and released after interrogation as a witness, and several relatives of the family were kidnapped in Chechnya. Two of them remain in detention.
Earlier, in December 2021, relatives of a number of bloggers, public critics of the regime, were kidnapped by the Chechen security services. These attacks take place against the backdrop of unprecedented pressure on Russian civil society, in particular the closure of Human Rights Center “Memorial” and the OVD-info’s website, that provide legal and other assistance to victims of human rights abuses in Russia, including in the Republic of Chechnya.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of Zarema Musaeva and underlines that her health is at high risk. When she was abducted, police officers did not allow her to take the treatment she needs for her diabetes condition nor any warm clothes. Moreover, on the same day, Ms. Musaeva had been tested for Covid-19 as she was presenting compatible symptoms. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, the results of the test remain unknown. Furthermore, since her abduction, Zarema Musaeva has been denied access to independent lawyers, independent human rights organisations and her family.
The Observatory urges the Russian and Chechen authorities to immediately release Ms. Musaeva and put an immediate end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and the Yangulbaev family, and to put an immediate end to the threats and attacks against them. The Observatory calls on the authorities to grant her immediate access to adequate medical treatment, a lawyer of her choosing and her family.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Zarema Musaeva and grant her access to adequate medical treatment;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally disclose Zarema Musaeva whereabouts and release her, as her detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing her for her son’s legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Ensure Zarema Musaeva is granted immediate and regular access to a lawyer of her choosing and to her family;
iv. Conduct an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Zarema Musaeva enforced disappearance and the threats against the Yangulbaev family, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and punish them as provided by the law;
v. Put an immediate end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Abubakar Yangulbaev, his family as well as against all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation.
- Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
- Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
- Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: email@example.com
- Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: email@example.com
- Mr. Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: email@example.com
- Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.