Homo Homini Award was granted to Dagestan Lawyer MagomedovaPublished: Mar 4, 2014 Reading time: 7 minutes
Last night, Sapiyat Magomedova, a lawyer from Dagestan, was granted the Homo Homini award which is given annually by the People in Need organization to people who play an important role in the struggle for human rights around the world.
"Sapiyat Magomedova is a young and extremely courageous lawyer active on the border of Dagestan and Chechnya, who decided years ago she could not sit back and watch what was happening. Committed to the principles of her profession and its essential mission, she insists that the law must be defended, even though the cases she is involved in include arresting without impeachment and unjust imprisoning or killing. A woman who risks her health and maybe even her life on daily basis," said Simon Panek as he introduced this year’s laureate.
The minister of Human Rights, Jiri Dienstbier, presented Ms. Sapiyat Magomedova with the Homo Homini award during the ceremonial opening of the One World Festival of Documentary Films. She was awarded for her personal courage in defending human rights.
"It’s a work led by the effort to seek justice for everyone, because every human deserves to be treated as a human being, with certain dignity. It's a job where one risks his own life, and that is why it truly deserves to be awarded,” Minister Dienstbier said.
Sapiyat Magomedova delivered a speech in which she outlined the complicated situation of lawyers in the Northern Caucasus territory. She mentioned armed crews that operate in the area who are connected to political figures and official institutions.
“What stands in the background of all this evil that is happening in Dagestan is that no one wants to interfere – not even the court, nor the procurators, nor any of the resting state agencies who should be defending the constitutional rights of the citizens in the first place. It is actually the contrary – they are ready to justify any illegal murders and are even ready to help those who are responsible for it,” Ms. Magomedova explained.
“Human rights cannot be violated like this. The level of corruption in our territory is directly dependent on what we have achieved in the area of human rights and silence is exactly what is needed for the absolute triumph of corruption,” this year’s Homo Homini laureate added.
Sapijat Magomedova speech
Laureate of the 2013 Homo Homini award
Prague Crossroads, March 3rd, 2014
I am very happy that I could come to the capital of the Czech Republic, to Prague. It's a great honor for me to be awarded with this prestigious, international Homo Homini prize. I would like to thank Mr. Simon Panek in the first place, and all of his coworkers at People in Need who awarded me with this prize. It is hard for me to express my gratefulness and my pride, and not only in my name, but in the name of all other laureates of this award, and also in the name of my profession in general, because the defenders of human rights are the ones who carry the burden of defending human rights and freedom. It is no secret to anyone that, contrary to the overall situation in Russia, the republics of northern Caucasus – and Dagestan in particular – find themselves in a rather different and much more complicated situation. It is, for multiple reasons, one of which is the aspect of nationalities, religious conflicts and so on. The territory is a wild mash-up of Russian laws, Islamic morals and Dagestanian customs.
In Dagestan, it is often a lot easier to kill a man than to negotiate with him. For example, some of the provincial deputy mayors travel around with bodyguards, armed to the teeth with machine guns. You don't really have to go very far to find armed crews. The armed crews exist in the legal political sphere of Dagestan and these crews, unfortunately, wear police uniforms, and sometimes even have a parliamentary membership card in their pocket. They are corrupters and murderers. Most of the murders of state officers are happening within the area of local criminal gangs settling the scores, criminal and financial, who are connected to the state official institutions. I do not claim there is not a terrorist underground structure that commits attacks on the representatives of the force structures, the state officials and other state agencies. If we study these terrorist attacks closely, however, we can only see that although these attacks are formally committed by the members of this illegal underworld, they are based on the order of political representatives who order them in their own interests. That’s unfortunately a fact.
I admit there are terrorists, led by fanatic and sectarian ideas, they have their brains washed out and they can be behind a variety of very wild actions, whatever their motives are. What remains the essential fact, however, is that in most cases, they are doing so based on an order from above.
What stands in the background of all this evil that is happening in Dagestan is that no one wants to interfere – not even the court, nor the procurators, nor any of the resting state agencies, which should be defending the constitutional rights of the citizens in the first place. It is actually the contrary – they are ready to justify any illegal murder and are even ready to help those who are responsible for it.
In a country where everybody feels obligated to rip off the state, because the state is doing the same, in a country, where the salary of a policeman is six or even ten times higher than the salary of a teacher, where avoiding punishment depends only on the height of a financial amount, meaning only on how much money is needed to avoid the punishment, where any opinion other that the official one and any kind of discontent is subdued with high fines and murders, in a country like this, the murders will just keep on happening and people will be looking around pretending that nothing is actually going on, that it is only a part of the war against terrorism.
Human rights cannot be violated like this. The level of corruption in our territory is directly dependent on what we have achieved in the area of human rights, and silence is exactly what is needed for the absolute triumph of corruption. To prevent this silence, every single person has to ask himself a question, whether he should mobilize all of his strength and fight the injustice, or whether he shall rather give in to fear and keep on finding excuses for himself, repeating that there is no way to fight the system, because nothing can be really achieved.
The core of the job of an advocate is working with people, and people are very different. When I am pleading the interest of my clients, no matter who the client is, I am seeing various cases. Some of my opponents are not even able to comprehend that, for example, when I am advocating my clients and I am bringing the accusation to higher instances, the reason why I am doing so is not that I have some personal antipathy towards a particular investigator or judge – it is because this is my job and this is the way I do it.
What’s specific about being a lawyer and a woman in Caucasus region is that women are usually perceived as housewives, which affects our work largely. I do not intend to say, not at all, that women find themselves in some form of humiliating or degrading position. It is just that a female lawyer is automatically perceived as someone who does not perform in her job as well as a man could, so we have to try very hard at times to dissolve these illusions of our opponents.
When I defend the interest of my clients, I often hear some very uncomplimentary comments about myself, and not only that. Sometimes I even receive threats from the powerful people of this world. These threats sometimes take on a form of direct violence, like I have experienced very recently, when I was beaten by the police fellows. I can only say that I was very lucky not to be included on the list of murdered advocates in Dagestan. At that time it was a case of one woman whose interest I came to advocate to the police department, because she was imprisoned there that very day. And as you can see, this was not a unique case; it is also the case of the lawyer from the film that has been broadcasted here.
For me, the Homini prize is important for couple of reasons. First, it is an appraisal of my work as a lawyer, an appraisal of me personally on international level, and also it is a great support of my further work and a certain assurance for safety. I am very grateful and I thank you.
Speach of Edward Lucas, The Economist Editor: