- For defenders
- How can I help?
Russian Federation: Website of Interregional Committee Against Torture hacked
On 28 January 2012, the website of the Russian Interregional Committee Against Torture (CAT) was hacked.
CAT is a prominent Russian organisation which fights against torture and impunity of law enforcement authorities in the Russian Federation. CAT won the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe' Human Rights Prize in 2011 and is the leading organisation of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), which received the 2011 Front Line Defenders Award.
On 28 January 2012, the website of CAT was hacked and its content was altered; entire information of several cases was deleted. The only information that the hackers left relates to the cases documented by CAT and JMG in the Chechen Republic.
In an article which appeared on the website, allegedly written by the Investigations' Department of CAT, anonymous authors complained that the organisation had paid too much attention to the work of JMG in Chechnya, and that the necessity to fight police impunity in other Russian regions had been neglected. It is believed that the authors, in the context of a recent surge of public expressions of nationalist and anti-North Caucasian feelings in Russia, wanted to discredit the work of CAT and present it as ethnically and politically motivated.
Following the hacking, the website was re-established and CAT, in its communication about the incident, recalled that 90% of law enforcement representatives who were held accountable and condemned as a result of the work of CAT came from regions of central Russia and not from the North Caucasus.
Front Line Defenders believes that the hacking of CAT's website may be part of a larger campaign aimed at discrediting and intimidating CAT and JMG. Recently, on 21 January 2012, member of CAT and JMG, Mr Anton Ryzhov was temporarily detained in Nizhny Novgorod as he was on his way back from Chechnya. His laptop and memory sticks were confiscated. He was kept in the police station for several hours where he was questioned about the activity of JMG and was not allowed to make any phone call. See Front Line Defenders appeal dated 23 January 2012.
The hacking incident also may be related to the complaint filed by the representative of the Chechen OMON (special police forces) against Mr Igor Kalyapin, chairman of CAT and 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 three to seven years imprisonment. See Front Line Defenders appeal dated 20 January 2012.
Front Line Defenders believes that the hacking of the website of CAT is directly related to its fight against police impunity and the work of JMG in investigating torture and disappearances in Chechnya.