Open appeal of the civil society of the Republic of Ingushetia to international and Russian human rights organizations, the human rights ombudsman in the Russian Federation, the presidential council for civil society and human rights, the mass media, the general public of the Russian Federation, and the international community
On December 12, 2018, following the mass protests in Ingushetia over the unpopular agreement with the neighboring Chechnya on the new border running through disputed territories, two young men, Muslim Khashagulgov and Artogan Khaniev, were killed in a shopping center in the city of Nazran by security officers. According to the official investigation reports, the security officers attempted to detain two local residents, who resisted arrest and used a firearm and a grenade thus killing themselves and wounding the officers. The Ingush public strongly disagrees with and does not trust these reports as they are inconsistent with the facts known about the incident.
Muslim Khashagulgov was a civil activist of impeccable reputation and we have no information from anyone about him having done anything illegal or unethical. Artogan Khaniev had been selling flavors and fragrances in the same shopping center and the local community was unaware of his alleged illegal activities either. Neither of the two had been on the police watch list. Although, admittedly, we have less information about Artogan Khaniev than about Muslim Khashagulgov, there is still no merit to the negative allegations about Artogan. Also, notably, what is known about Muslim does not match the negative image as it is being portrayed by the official investigators: he had a law degree, had academic and professional awards, believed in nonviolence, and was, in fact, a pacifist.
We are confident that the two killed young men did not resist the security officers, were not carrying any weapons or other prohibited items and we have no reason to doubt that they were law-abiding members of the community. We believe that this incident, as it is being reported officially, is an attempt by the security forces and the Ingush authorities to intimidate the local public and even to undermine the entire grassroots and civil rights movement, their prime target being Ingush civil activists. The reason for us to believe that this is the case is that many of the events, including press-conferences organized by the activists, were held at the same shopping center where the tragedy occurred on December 12, 2018.
This violent incident is the latest in the series of tragic events that had been taking place for decades in our republic which resulted in thousands of deaths and over four hundred forced disappearances and missing persons. Most, if not all, of these crimes still remain unsolved. The people of Ingushetia are trapped in the endless vicious circle of powerlessness when thousands of citizens are subjected to unfounded accusations of criminal offences and routinely, lacking any evidence whatsoever, are convicted for crimes they never committed. Over these years, thousands of citizens had been interrogated and tortured and properties had been searched. Violations of human rights and liberties have become widespread and routine, including defamation, criminal prosecution, threats, and intimidation against public figures and civil activists, some of whom have been killed. Over the recent years, peaceful meetings and public protests against the authorities have been practically banned in Ingushetia. Freedom of expression remains severely restricted, citizens’ electoral rights are systematically violated, elections in Ingushetia are staged (the official head of the republic being essentially appointed by the Russian president), and there are numerous reports from voters and observers of ballot rigging and other electoral fraud.
This situation speaks volumes about the widespread and systematic nature of the violations of human rights and liberties and, in fact, about the disregard for human rights demonstrated by the officials.
The tragedy that occurred on December 12, 2018, considering the impunity of security enforcers and officials as well as the special operations of law enforcement agencies aimed at detention of “alleged and suspected offenders” that are carried out with numerous violations of applicable laws, undermines public trust in law enforcement agencies and raises serious questions about the reasonableness and justification of such operations. Although security forces indeed demonstrate their ability to disarm, catch and detain the worst of criminals and terrorists, the special operations that are carried out in Ingushetia often result in extrajudicial executions of young people whose guilt often remains unproven. The outcome of the December 12, 2018 special operation in Nazran is no exception and it raises questions whether the use of arms that resulted in the deaths of two young men, who we believe to be entirely innocent, was reasonable and justified. The public opinion in Ingushetia is that the outrageous brutality of law enforcers which is manifested in the excessive use of arms during operations aimed at detaining alleged offenders not only does not comply with the primary objective of the government, i.e. protection of the right to life, but it also does not meet the principle of proportionality in the use of force (ensuring balance between means and objectives). We are of the opinion that, in this particular case, had appropriate measures and precautions been undertaken, the fatal consequences could have been avoided.
The practice of extrajudicial executions widespread in Ingushetia and used against alleged offenders whose guilt is not established by a legally effective court judgment not only endangers the health and life of those who happen to be in the vicinity of the scene, but also compromises the credibility of government authorities among the public as it diminishes and undermines the role of those officials whose job is to protect civil rights and liberties.
The corruption, arbitrary and abusive practices as well as the impunity of the authorities, the inhumane treatment of people, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions committed by the officials and law enforcement agencies lead to fear and hostility and serve as a fundamental factor for creating a depressing environment in the region which makes people feel unprotected and insecure, lose interest in contributing to the public good and economic and human development of our republic. In these circumstances, the efforts of civil activists, human rights advocates and organizations aimed at identifying the causes for the blatant disregard for the law, at exposing and preventing damaging practices in Ingushetia involve risks of persecution for these activists and of use of violence against them by certain corrupt government officials, and law and security enforcers.
In view of the above, we, the undersigned, call upon international and Russian human rights organizations, media professionals, all Russian citizens as well as Russian officials and authorities, including the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Russian Federation, Members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, upon everyone who values peace and order in the North Caucasus and in the rest of Russia to join our cause and pay close attention to the events in Ingushetia; to provide their reliable coverage and make efforts to investigate and ensure objective legal assessment of the circumstances of the tragedy in Nazran, to develop an effective and workable mechanism for preventing arbitrary and abusive practices used by the authorities, law enforcers and security forces; to take measures ensuring security for residents in Ingushetia and the rule of law and justice in our republic.
- Ingush Committee for National Unity
- World Congress of the Ingush People
- OPORA INGUSHETIA Non-governmental Organization
- Coordinating Council for Non-governmental Organizations of the Republic of Ingushetia
- MASHR Human Rights Organization
- Coordinating Council for Youth Organizations of the Republic of Ingushetia
- COMMITTEE FOR DISPLACED PERSONS Regional Grassroots Movement
- YOUTH LEAGUE OF INGUSHETIA Regional Non-governmental Organization
- NEW TIMES Regional Non-governmental Organization
- PRISON AND LAW (TUR’MA I PRAVO) Regional Non-governmental Organization
- YABLOKO Regional Party Branch