27 January 2022
by Igor Kalyapin, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights, laureate of the prize of the Moscow Helsinki Group for his defence of human rights
Yesterday, the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Chechen Republic, Mansur Soltaev, posted on Instagram an appeal to Valery Fadeev, chair of the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights. Reminding Fadeev of their personal acquaintance and of their work together, Soltaev called on Fadeev to intervene to resolve a dispute between Soltaev and me, and to expel me from the Council.
Soltaev also called for a criminal case to be opened against me, claiming he has evidence that I and the Committee Against Torture finance terrorists and terrorist activity.
As evidence in support of this accusation, the official of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov cites fragments of audio recordings in the Chechen language. He claims that these are voice messages exchanged between members of the Yangulbaev family [the family of Saidi Yangulbaev, a retired Chechen Supreme Court judge who recently fled Russia with his daughter after his wife’s arrest, and of Abubakar Yangulbaev, formerly a lawyer for the Committee Against Torture]. The individuals on the recording speak mainly in Chechen, but Mansur kindly translates what they say.
If the official’s translation can be trusted, and if his assertion – that the recordings he has presented really relate to members of the Yangulbaev family – can be believed, then it follows that a member of the family, located abroad, has been involved in posting material on the ADAT Telegram channel. (That resource is, in my opinion, stupid and obscurantist, systemically posting offensive and obscene material about members of the Kadyrov administration and the security forces.) The individual in question is upset that the number of subscribers to their channel has decreased, but is also pleased that they managed to post a video showing a Chechen official being beaten in Turkey. In addition, some of the people taking part in the conversation say that, while they have not managed to “suck out” all of the money from the Committee Against Torture, even so they have succeeded in getting out several million roubles.
It is unclear how this selection of words and fragments of recordings was collected or how they fell into the hands of Chechnya’s Human Rights Commissioner. Mr Soltaev calls them “a complete set of evidence” that I, Kalyapin, and the Committee Against Torture have been financing terrorism. On this basis, Soltaev has called on Fadeev to expel me from the Human Rights Council and has urged the Prosecutor’s Office to launch a criminal investigation and to carry out “investigative experiments.”
Well, OK, as long as they don’t take the evidence to the pharmacy to carry out the experiments. Soltaev’s denunciation, addressed to the chair of the Human Rights Council, is false in essence and monstrously illiterate in form.
Valery Fadeev may not launch criminal cases, even though he has the rank of Presidential Adviser. Incidentally, the Prosecutor’s Office does not launch criminal cases, as Soltaev, as Ombudsman of a region of the Russian Federation, should know. “Investigative experiments” are also not conducted by prosecutors. In Russia, criminal cases are launched according to the conditions specified in the Code of Criminal Procedure, not on the whim of officials. There are however exceptions, of course.
Everyone knows what fabricated criminal cases are. But usually when officials exploit their status and connections to dispose of their opponents with the help of law enforcement agencies, they conceal this. In our country, this is still considered not only illegal, but also indecent. It is clear that Mansur Soltaev has not the slightest idea of either legality or decency. He publicly addresses his vile proposals to Presidential Advisor Fadeev, unashamed, invoking old friendship and joint work. Only, here he forgot to promise a good spread…
However, Mr Soltaev is not quite the simpleton he wishes to appear. As my friend Dmitrievsky says in such cases: ‘…a fool he may be, but he doesn’t eat soap…’ Soltaev understands perfectly well that he has no grounds for bringing charges or even lodging a complaint from the standpoint of the Law. The recordings he has provided, even had they been admissible evidence, attest to only one thing: the Yangulbaevs do not like Kadyrov and his assistants. The Yangulbaevs openly rejoiced, watching a video of the beating of one of Kadyrov’s people in Turkey. Perhaps this does no credit to their humanity, but there is nothing criminal in it. They exchanged their little joys, jokes, and smiles amongst themselves through private correspondence on their phones. And if not for Mr Soltaev, who published these materials, then perhaps nobody would have known. The accusation that the Yangulbaevs are the sponsors of the beating of the Chechen official in Turkey is pure slander. Soltaev presented no grounds for such an assertion. If law enforcement agencies had had grounds for opening a criminal investigation in relation to the Yangulbaevs or Kalyapin, such an investigation would long ago have been begun. All this, the siloviki no doubt explained to colleague Soltaev. And it is for this very reason that Soltaev turns to Fadeev, chair of the Human Rights Council, hoping that he will resolve the issue, because they have long known each other. For clarity’s sake I remind you that members of the Human Rights Council are appointed by order of the President and only the President can have them removed.
As for the issue of ‘financing terrorism’: we met the Yangulbaev family in 2017, when they complained to the Committee against Torture about beatings and torture by Chechen security forces, including accusing Ramzan Kadyrov personally of torture. After checking the facts and circumstances, our lawyers came to the conclusion that the Yangulbaevs’ complaint was well founded. Nevertheless, the law enforcement bodies did not effectively investigate the Yangulbaevs’ statements and complaints. Because the Yangulbaev’s family in Chechnya was threatened with reprisals by the Kadyrovites, they were advised to move to another, calmer and safer region of Russia. This procedure is standard practice for of the Committee against Torture and is used quite often, and the case of the Yangulbaevs was no exception. And as always, in such cases, we turned to our partners, with whom we have an agreement to pay for housing for such forced migrants, and, if necessary, to pay for medical care.
Our organization, the Committee against Torture, cannot pay for anything on its own since it is not a legal entity, has no accounts or property and cannot conduct financial or economic activities.
As for the millions they talk about on the tapes Soltaev has publicised, that must be about the debts owed them by the Judicial Department of the Chechen Republic’s Supreme Court. The fact is that Saidi Yangulbaev, on his retirement as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic, was supposed to receive the pension stipulated for a retired federal judge. Quite a decent sum, by the way. However, after Saidi and his sons filed complaints about torture against the law enforcement agencies, payments to the retired federal judge were stopped for some reason. Our lawyers helped Yangulbaev apply to the Judicial Department of the Russian Supreme Court. The matter was sorted out as a result, legality restored, and it was ruled that all the missing payments should be made to Yangulbaev. The sum turned out to be quite considerable. For the past year the judge has been receiving his monthly allowance in full and the payer is the Judicial Department of the Chechen Republic.
If the human rights ombudsman Soltaev thinks any payments to the Yangulbaev family is financing of terrorism, he should write a denunciation against the Judicial Department of the Chechen Republic instead of making wild accusations against me. I would like to remind Mansur Soltaev that slander in the Russian Federation is considered a crime for which there is criminal liability.
Suggested further reading:
- ‘Committee for the Prevention of Torture (Russia),’ Wikipedia
- ‘Journalist presents story of Kadyrov’s enmity with Yangulbaev family,’ Caucasian Knot, 29 January 2022
- Posters Insulting Russian Activist Who Spoke Out On Chechnya Appear At His Mother’s Apartment,’ RFE/RL, 31 January 2022
- ‘Russian Lawmaker From Chechnya Vows To Behead Family Members Of Rights Lawyer,’ RFE/RL, 2 February 2022
- Putin Meets Chechen Leader Amid Outcry Over Threats Against Activist’s Family,’ RFE/RL, 3 February 2022
‘The sidestepping spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s comment on ‘blood feuds’ shows that he needs to take another look at Russia’s Criminal Code,’ Meduza, 4 February 2022