Death Threats for a Memorial’s Affiliate Lawyer in Kabardino-Balkaria
This week Magomed Saltanmuratovich Abubakarov, a lawyer, and member of the lawyers’ association Nizam has received text messages and telephone calls with threats of death and violence.
February 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm his phone received a text message from the number 8 964 0 345916 that read “where are you?”, followed by strong language. Abubakarov immediately called the number but the phone was off.
February 9 at 2:56 and 2:58 pm two messages came from the same number that read “you think you can hide?” the first version augmented with strong language. Magamed replied at 3:01 pm with a text message that said “who’s hiding? I suggest we meet.” He immediately received a reply that said “you guessed it right”. The lawyer tried to call the number. He heard dial tones but no answer and a few minutes later the phone was turned off again.
February 10 at 4:10 pm a call came from the same number. Abubakarov answered and heard twenty seconds of silence, and then the phone was hung up.
February 11 at 10:28 came a text message that read “time to get beaten the f___ up, you’ll end up in the morgue”.
That same day Magamed Abubakarov reported the incident to the police of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.
The lawyer was able to establish that first, the number from which the threats keep coming isn’t registered anywhere, and second, that this number connected from beyond the region under jurisdiction of the Kabardino-Balkaria Division of the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Magamed Abubakarov has received threats more than once in the recent past.
Since 2007 he has lead a legal branch of the HRC Memorial in Kabardino Balkaria. As a lawyer Magamed defended two of the accused in the attack in the city of Nalchik in October 13, 2005. In the course of the case proceedings he reported crude violations of human rights both during the preliminary investigation as well as at the stage of the court inquiry. He argued in court the unlawful actions of the police officials, demanding to bring the criminals in uniforms to justice/ responsibility. Several appeals of the Kabardino-Balkaria residents were made to the European Court for Human Rights with Abubakarov’s assistance. He participated in numerous cases related to kidnappings, torture, and falsification of evidence in the course of investigations of crimes.
Magamed spoke at many public events in the region, in Moscow, as well as internationally, and took part in meetings with European institutions involved in protecting human rights, raising questions of violations of human rights in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region.
The management of the HRC Memorial had to on more than one occasion insist that Abubakarov temporarily leave his region out of security concerns.
HRC Memorial is confident in that these threats are related with Magamed Abubakarov’s professional and defense of human rights activities and demands that the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service in the Republic of the Kabardino-Balkaria take measures to establish the source of the threats without delay and call those responsible to justice. Regrettably we are aware of cases when such threats against human rights defenders and journalists were followed with assassinations and killings.
Just how Abubakarov had been treated by the law enforcement authorities can be judged based on how an investigation was conducted into an on-road incident more than year ago, when Magamed was harmed in strange consequences and with many questions left unanswered.
Near 1:00am on December 16, 2011 Abubakarov was driving in his car through the streets of Nalchik, the official capital of the region. Officers of a special unit of the Check Point and Patrol Service stopped him on Bajsulatova Street. Their vehicle entered the opposite lane and squeezed Abubakarov’s vehicle to the side lane. Then the officers left their vehicle on the lane facing the oncoming traffic with headlights on but emergency signal lights off. Persons clad in camouflage uniforms came out of the vehicle and pointed their weapons at Abubakarov. The officer who drove the vehicle had a uniform of the patrol service and his balaclava off. He approached Abubakarov and requested to see his documents, and then to open the trunk. Guns were pointed at Abubakarov and he had to comply with these demands. He left his vehicle, and escorted by officers on both sides, walked around the vehicle and opened the trunk. As soon as the lock of the trunk clicked Abubakarov heard a sound of an approaching vehicle behind him. As soon as he tried to turn around to look, he was hit from behind by a Lada Priora.
Magomed was delivered to the regional hospital in Nalchik with many broken bones and bruises and stayed in the hospital until the middle of February 2012. During these two months he received not a single visit from single law enforcement officials, no one asked him for a statement.
At the same time, the driver of the Lada Priora at first paid Magamed a few visits, and admitting to his guilt in the incident, was trying to convince Abubakarov not to launch a criminal case: then, according to him, he could “solve the question” with the police officials for a payment. All these conversations with the driver took place in front of witnesses and were recorded.
Only in the middle of February did Magamed have a visit from an investigator from the city police division. The results of the inquiry conducted were not made available to Magamed. In the beginning of March 2012 Abubakarov incidentally ran into the same investigator at the hospital and he verbally informed him Magomed application to launch a criminal case has been rejected since the driver of the Lada Priora did not violate traffic rules. At the same time, Abubakarov, the victim whose ability to work was taken away from him for several months, was not shown a single document on the case. He repeatedly contacted the city Prosecutor’s Office, including filing a complaint in line with the Criminal Code Article 124 (failure to render aid to a sick person), but received no reply.
Considering the authorities’ reactions, Magamed Abubakarov doubts that the incident was in fact an unfortunate accident and considers that the lack of investigation and even the accident itself are linked to his professional activity.
February 16, 2013