Russia: Human rights defender badly beaten in another brutal attack

Today’s brutal assault on Sirazhutdin Datsiev, the head of the Human Rights Centre Memorial’s office in Dagestan, North Caucasus, is the latest in a spate of troubling attacks on individuals associated with the organization, Amnesty International said today.

According to an eyewitness, Sirazhutdin Datsiev was outside his house in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala when he was approached from behind by an unknown man. The man delivered a severe blow to his head and then kicked him once he was on the ground. Datsiev had to be taken to the neurosurgery department of the area’s main hospital by an ambulance.

“This ferocious attack continues the string of assaults on the staff and property of Human Rights Centre Memorial in the North Caucasus. The frequency and severity of these assaults, and the total impunity for those who commit them, point to the Russian authorities’ negligence and begs the question of their possible complicity,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

On the night of 23 January, the car used by members of staff of Memorial in Dagestan was burnt, followed by anonymous threatening text messages promising further reprisals.

“The authorities have failed to investigate these attacks and threats. For too long we have observed a lack of action by Russian authorities in response to attacks against rights defenders in the North Caucasus - in Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and the neighbouring Krasnodar Region.”

Background

Human Rights Centre Memorial is a frontline human rights group in Russia, and particularly in the North Caucasus, which focuses on past and ongoing human rights violations. In 2009, Natalia Estemirova from the Grozny office in Chechnya was abducted near her home and killed, her attackers were never found. Memorial offices in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia have been attacked or burned down multiple times in the recent years.

The head of the organization’s office in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, was arrested on trumped-up charges of illegal drug possession on 9 January. Shortly after, the office of Memorial in Nazran, Ingushetia, was burned down. The perpetrators have not been identified.

Coordinator of the NGO Environmental Watch for the North Caucasus, Andrei Rudomakha, was attacked and severely beaten by three men on 28 December 2017, and received head injuries. His assailants have not been found.