WASHINGTON, D.C.— VOA Russian Service reporter Fatima Tlisova says security forces in the Northern Caucasus are acting with impunity and committing widespread human rights abuses.
Tlisova, who has long experience reporting on rights issues in the region, testified Thursday as a regional expert before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress.
Tlisova told the Commission that journalists, independent lawyers, and civil and political activists are often targeted and oppressed by Russian security forces to the point where, as she put it, “self-censorship becomes the principal rule of survival.”
“The consequences of this policy affect the lives of local civilians on every level,” she said at Thursday’s hearing, chaired by U.S. Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn).
“Most of the people in the North Caucasus who I’ve recently interviewed say that they live in fear,” said Tlisova. “They don’t trust the authorities and are afraid to become victims of the Russian security forces even more than they are afraid of the rebels.”
She cited human rights groups who accuse Russian authorities of disproportionate use of force and repressive policies which have led to the deterioration of the situation and, as a consequence, the radicalization of local youth and the spread of violence.
She said it is extremely difficult for foreign media and human rights groups to access the region and document what is happening, since Russian authorities restrict access and require multiple registration and license requirements for entry.
Fatima Tlisova is an award winning investigative journalist who has written extensively on Russia and the North Caucasus, including the role of Islam, human rights abuses, and freedom of the press. While in the Caucasus, she worked with Novaya Gazeta and reported for the Associated Press. She was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University and the National Endowment for Democracy. Tlisova is a recipient of Pulitzer Center grant for her multimedia project on the relations between the state and the press in Russia.
The mission of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress.