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Russian Federation: Detention of human rights defender Mr Anton Ryzhov on his way from Chechnya
On 21 January 2012, human rights defender Mr Anton Ryzhov was temporarily detained in Nizhny Novgorod as he was on his way back from Chechnya.
Anton Ryzhov is a lawyer with the Interregional Committee Against Torture and the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), a solidarity initiative of Russian human rights defenders who visit Chechnya on a rotating basis in order to investigate torture and disappearances. The JMG received the Front Line Defenders Award in April 2011.
In the early morning of 21 January 2012, Anton Ryzhov was detained by Nizhny Novgorod transport police at the train station as he was returning from a 5-week mission in Chechnya, where he had worked as head of the JMG team. The police checked his documents and then brought him to the local police station. He was detained based on 'operative information' received by local police alleging that his electronic equipment might contain 'terrorist information'. The police searched Anton Ryzhov and his belongings, and took his picture 'for the database'. His laptop and memory sticks were confiscated in the presence of five witnesses. He was kept in the police station for several hours, where he was questioned about the activity of the JMG. During his detention he was not allowed to make any phone call. He was released at approximately 4am on 21 January 2012.
The electronic equipment seized contained confidential information relating to cases of human rights violations involving members of the Chechen police, which jurists of the JMG are currently investigating. Anton Ryzhov's laptop also contained files of correspondence with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning cases submitted against the Russian Federation. This correspondence is strictly confidential and should not be disclosed to State representatives. Anton Ryzhov is lodging a demand with the police to ensure that all the confidential materials are returned to him. If the return of the materials is not forthcoming, he intends to file a complaint with the ECHR for seizure of confidential correspondence by the State.
The JMG believes that this incident is related to the complaint filed by the leader of the Chechen OMON (special police forces) against Igor Kalyapin, chairman of Committee Against Torture and of the JMG, for allegedly disclosing 'State secrets'. On the basis of the complaint, an investigative enquiry was launched and a criminal case may be opened against him under Article 283 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. If convicted of the offence, Igor Kalyapin could face between 3 to 7 years imprisonment.
Front Line Defenders believes that the detention of Anton Ryzhov is directly related to his work with the JMG in investigating torture and disappearances in Chechnya, and forms part of a larger campaign of intimidation of the JMG.