Czech humanitarian organisation forced to leave Chechnya

21-07-2005

The Czech charity People in Need has been forced to cease its activities in Chechnya and Ingushetia. The Russian authorities refused to extend its permit to operate in North Caucasus where People in Need has been working since 2000.

The People in Need organisation has played a major role in the war-torn region and focused mainly on education and child support, rebuilding homes, schools and health care facilities. According to the organisation, for the last nine months they worked under the close surveillance of the Russian authorities and were even accused of financing anti-Russian terrorist groups. I asked the head of the organisation, Simon Panek, what official explanation the Russian authorities gave People in Need when they refused to issue it a new permit.

"The official and very brief explanation we got in a letter was that the investigating structures and services are not supporting our re-registration application. Nothing more concrete. It's difficult to defend yourself or argue if there is nothing you can discuss. The problem is that the law is from 1989 and it does not give so many options to the applying organisation to get a more detailed explanation. It even says that a refusal might be given without explaining the reason."

The People in Need organisation had many projects running in Chechnya and Ingushetia. Their future is now uncertain.

"Part of the projects were handed over the local NGOs - about 30 to 40 percent, which mean that aid and services to beneficiaries continue. Part of the projects were completely terminated, unfortunately also the psycho-social project helping traumatised children in Grozny - which is really quite bad. Because a few thousand children have gone through that project in the last few years and it has shown really significant results - helping them to get rid of the trauma from the conflict, the bombing, the very difficult years of 1999-2000. And part of the projects are still under the decision-making of the donors - if they will hand it over to some other NGOs or if the projects will be terminated as well."

The charity hopes it is not the end of their activity in North Caucasus. People in Need is applying again for a new permit. Simon Panek again.

"The fact that we didn't get any concrete written accusation from an attorney office or court in our view shows that there is no reason except a few articles in the newspapers. So we hope our new application will be judged rationally and there is quite a high chance that we can get a new registration which will allow us to reopen our work in the North Caucasus region."

21-07-2005