The Observatory has been informed of the attack on Elena Milashina, an investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta who reports on corruption and human rights violations in the North Caucasus and Chechnya1. The Observatory has also been informed about the attack on human rights lawyer Alexander Nemov, who has worked extensively in the defence of human rights in Chechnya and collaborates with the Memorial Human Rights Defence Centre.
Early in the morning on July 4, 2023, unidentified armed people wearing face masks blocked the cars of Alexander Nemov and Elena Milashina while they were on their way from the airport to Grozny, Chechnya. They were brutally kicked, including in the face, threatened with death, had a gun held to their heads, and had their equipment taken away and smashed. While being beaten, they were told: "You have been warned. Get out of here and do not write anything”. Ms Milashina’s head was shaved and covered in green during the attack.
As a result of these beatings, Alexander Nemov has difficulty speaking and moving around. Elena Milashina's fingers are broken, has bruises all over her body and has lost consciousness several times since the attack.
Alexander Nemov and Elena Milashina were first hospitalised in Chechnya and then transported to the North Caucasus Multidisciplinary Medical Centre in Beslan, North Ossetia, where they were still hospitalised at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. While the victims were still in hospital in Chechnya, a Chechen police officer came there to take their statements. Ms Milashina and Mr Nemov refused as they do not believe investigations will be conducted.
Ms Milashina and Mr Nemov had travelled to Grozny to attend the verdict against Zarema Moussaïeva, the wife of a former Russian federal judge of Chechen origin, Saïdi Iangoulbaïev, who has become an opponent of Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic. Arrested in January 2022 in the north of Russia by Chechen law enforcement officers, Ms Moussayeva was forcibly returned to the Caucasus. During the verdict hearing, which took place in the morning of July 4, 2023, Ms Moussayeva was convicted for "fraud" and "use of force" against a police officer and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that Elena Milashina has been attacked for her legitimate human rights activities. On February 6, 2020, while visiting Grozny to attend a trial, Ms Milashina and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina were attacked and beaten by unknown female assailants in the lobby of the Kontinental hotel they stayed in. Novaya Gazeta reported on February 8, 2022 that Milashina had been forced to leave Russia due to threats against her.
The Observatory strongly condemns the attack against Alexander Nemov and Elena Milashina and calls on the Russian authorities to carry out an independent investigation into the above-mentioned acts.
The Observatory urges the authorities in Russia to put an immediate end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Alexander Nemov, Elena Milashina and all human rights defenders and organisations in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, asking them to:
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Alexander Nemov and Elena Milashina, as well as all human rights defenders in Russia;
- Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack against Elena Milashina and Aleksandr Nemov, while ensuring their protection, and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Put an immediate end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Alexander Nemov, Elena Milashina and all human rights organisations and defenders in Russia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), email@example.com
- Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: email@example.com
- Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Russia in your respective country.