The ICJ has called on the Russian authorities to institute a prompt, independent and thorough investigation into the recent use of physical force against lawyers Natalia Magova, Diana Sipinova and Liudmila Kochesokova and detention of Diana Sipinova by officers of the Ministry of Interior in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic.
Those responsible should be held accountable, the ICJ stressed.
According to the lawyers and as corroborated by video recordings available online, they arrived in the Department of the Ministry of Interior in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic to represent their client Ratmir Jilokov, another lawyer who was detained on 20 May 2020, also following alleged violence against him by the police.
Despite the lawyers’ requests to have access to their client, they were not allowed to meet him. Instead, they were removed from the building of the Department of the Ministry of Interior with the use of physical force by several officers, which resulted in an altercation.
Moreover, Diana Sipinova was detained in the building of the Department for several hours. Both she and Ratmir Jilokov were later released.
“The use of physical force against the lawyers to prevent their meeting their client was clearly contrary to international human rights law and standards, including those on the role of lawyers,” said Temur Shakirov, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme.
The ICJ also raised concerns at the criminal proceedings against lawyer Diana Sipinova, following the incident of 21 May 2020, and Ratmir Jilokov, who was detained on 20 May 2020 apparently in connection with having tried to defend a client’s premises from what he considered to be an unlawful search by the authorities.
Both are accused of having used violence against police officers.
Reportedly, the criminal proceedings against Diana Sipinova and Ratmir Jilokov were instituted following their complaints of being subjected to physical attack by the officers of the Ministry of Interior of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic.
The ICJ highlights that as provided by the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers, States must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and that they do not suffer, or be threatened with prosecution for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
International human rights law further guarantees the right of a person deprived of liberty to meet with his or her lawyer.
The authorities should take effective measures to prevent such acts against lawyers in the future, and to ensure that lawyers are not prevented from representing their clients in accordance with law, the ICJ said.
The ICJ furthermore calls on the authorities to terminate the criminal investigations against the lawyers in connection with their attempts to meet with and defend their clients’ interests, and for any other action they have taken in relation to the representation of their clients that was in accordance with their professional duties, standards and ethics.
Natalia Magova, Diana Sipinova and Liudmila Kochesokova are lawyers based in Kabardino-Balkaria Republic in the North Caucasus part of the Russian Federation.
According to the official website of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of Kabardino-Balkaria, Diana Sipinova and Ratmir Jikolov are charged with the criminal offence provided for by Article 318.1 (use of violence which does not endanger life or health against the public officials in connection with the performance of their duties) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In particular, Diana Sipinova is charged with having used violence against officers of the department of the Ministry of Interior of Kabardino-Balkaria Republic when she requested access to her client on 21 May 2020. Ratmir Jilokov is charged with having used violence against the police officers who arrived in the office of his client to conduct a search on 20 May 2020.
On 30 May 2020, the first instance court imposed the preventive measure for Diana Sipinova of prohibition of certain activities for two months.
Lawyer Ratmir Jilokov, who was detained on 20 May and released on 21 May 2020, claims that the officers who arrived in his client’s office for a search failed to provide him with any legal grounds or the document authorising the search, and that he was subjected to violence when he had challenged the unlawfulness of the officers’ actions. The first instance court imposed the preventive measure of prohibition of certain activities for two months in respect of him.
The Federal Chamber of Lawyers of Russian Federation expressed their support to the lawyers and criticized the interference with their professional functions and actively participated in the defence of the lawyers.
The ICJ has previously raised concerns at violence and intimidation against Russian lawyers.