The homes and offices of activists who help domestic violence victims in the Russian North Caucasus region of Daghestan have been raided by police, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on February 15.
According to HRW, police seized computers and other electronic equipment during the raids on February 13 in Khasavyurt and Makhachkala, the regional capital.
Those targeted in the police action are affiliated with the Stichting Justice Initiative (SJI), an NGO that provides aid to victims of human rights abuses in the North Caucasus and survivors of domestic violence elsewhere in Russia.
“These outrageous police raids show the poisonous climate for NGOs in Russia, and particularly in the North Caucasus,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These are overt attempts to suppress independent civic activity, instill fear, and keep activists in a perpetual state of uncertainty.”
The court order allowing the search and seizure, which HRW said it saw, contained no information about a specific alleged offense that would have justified the action.
The searches on February 13 were the second time in six months that police have targeted SJI and its partners.
In August 2019, police and security services raided and searched the group’s offices in Moscow and Nazran, a city in the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia. In the Russian capital, the authorities did not show a search warrant and claimed that the raid was linked to a search in the adjacent offices of an audit company.