From our members: When human rights defenders continue the fight

Editor’s Note: This will be the first post in an ongoing series featuring the work of our 140+ member centres around the world in more than 70 countries. It’s in these centres, from Argentina to The Philippines, where the fight against torture is most direct – where victims are treated for their physical and psychological wounds, where testimonies are first heard, and where healing begins.

Human rights defenders often face grave dangers for those who investigate violations, such as torture, committed by the state. In the upcoming weeks, IRCT member centre Committee Against Torture, a Russian interrregional NGO, will be updating us on their work with the Joint Mobile Group. The group, coordinated from NGOs and human rights defenders from across Russia, joined together to investigate the human rights violations, including torture and enforced disappearances, in Chechnya. They describe it as follows:

Working in the framework of the Joint Mobile Groups (JMG) is one of the ways to conduct a public investigation into grave human rights violations. We must admit that this type of activity is, in fact, induced, as it requires extraordinary organizational resources and funding.  Therefore, it is used only in the context of large scale or systematic violations, when the region featuring such violations: 1) lacks human rights NGOs capable of conducting a professional public investigation on their own; or 2) when due to the large scale of violations local NGOs do not have the capacity to conduct such an investigation; or 3) when involvement of local human rights defenders into such investigations might pose a real threat to their lives, health and security, or that of their families.

When at least one of these conditions is present, establishing a JMG is basically the only way to effectively fight unlawful violence and seek redress for victims.

The Joint Mobile Group was awarded the 2011 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders At Risk. This video, explains why:

In a second video, Igor Kalyapin, a member of the Joint Mobile Group, speaks about how the international attention and, specifically, the award from Front Line has impacted their work: “Because the authorities there, having realised that it is not possible to scare us away, have started to treat us with total indifference. That is, they still try to frighten the Chechen human rights activists and control them in some way, but with us, they simply pretend that we’re not there.”

Check out the website of Committee Against Torture here, where they have several news stories in English on the work of the Joint Mobile Group in Chechnya. Visit us next week to read more about their work.

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  1. Human rights defenders fill in the gaps « World Without Torture
  2. A state of impunity: a brief history of human rights violations in Chechnya « World Without Torture
  3. Investigating human rights violations in Chechnya together « World Without Torture
  4. The case of Islam Umarpashayev: enforced disappearance, torture and detention in Chechnya « World Without Torture
  5. Harrassment, threats and intimidation: when human rights defenders pursue torture cases « World Without Torture
  6. Chechen lawyers faced slurs and intimidation by state officials « World Without Torture

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