Europe’s Rights Body Decries Assault in Russia’s Chechnya

The European commissioner for human rights urged Moscow Friday to investigate a violent assault on a journalist and a lawyer in Russia’s province of Chechnya.

Elena Milashina, from the independent Novaya Gazeta, said she and Marina Dubrovina, a lawyer accompanying her on a trip to Chechnya, were pushed and beaten by a dozen people in the lobby of their hotel late Thursday. Milashina long has exposed human rights violations in Chechnya.

The regional branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry in Chechnya said it was looking into the incident.

The Kremlin has relied on Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov to keep the North Caucasus region stable after two devastating separatist wars. International rights groups have accused Kadyrov’s feared security forces of extrajudicial killings, torture and abductions of dissenters.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović on Friday condemned the assault on the journalist and the lawyer as “the latest of a series of worrying attacks on human rights defenders and critics” in Chechnya.

Mijatović noted that “ the climate of hostility against independent civil society activists, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in Chechnya is often fomented by virulent and threatening speech of political leaders, including at the highest levels” of the regional leadership.

She urged the Russian authorities to “urgently reverse this unacceptable situation and uphold their obligations to ensure that human rights defenders can work safely and freely.” Mijatović emphasized that those responsible for the assault must be punished.