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CHECHNYA: Amnesty International material seized as 'anti-Russian propaganda'

Mariana Katzarova was travelling to Vladikavkaz in the Republic of North Ossetia to attend a seminar on Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights in the North Caucasus at the invitation of the Russian government. The seminar is co-organised with the Council of Europe.

Officials at Sheremetyevo airport opened the boxes containing Amnesty International's report and commented that they seemed to be 'anti-Russian government propaganda' which criticised the Russian Ministry of Interior and the police. Russian officials in the airport conferred over what to do and their discussions seemed to focus on the content of the report. Finally, they decided to seize the materials on the grounds that they were not convinced that Amnesty International would not use the report for 'commercial purposes'.

Amnesty International is concerned that this type of event sets a dangerous precedent which brings to mind old Soviet practices. Moreover, this incident calls into question the real commitment of the Russian authorities to investigate human rights violations, particularly in Chechnya, and their commitment to freedom of speech .

Mariana Katzarova has informed the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this incident and has requested their cooperation in getting the reports released. However, so far this has not been achieved.

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