Amnesty International "will not be cowed into silence" as Russian authorities seal off Moscow headquarters

Staff arrived at work on Wednesday morning to find the doors sealed with the locks and alarm systems removed

Updated 17:05

Amnesty International have said they "will not be cowed into silence" after Russian authorities sealed off their Moscow headquarters.

Staff arrived at work on Wednesday morning to find the doors sealed with the locks and alarm systems removed.

An Amnesty statement said Russian municipal authorities had left a short notice to say the building was “property of a city of the Russian Federation” and that nobody could enter without being accompanied by a municipal official.

The human rights organisation’s Europe and Central Asia Director, John Dalhuisen said the move was “an unwelcome surprise for which we received no prior warning."

“Given the current climate for civil society work in Russia there are clearly any number of plausible explanations - but it’s too early to draw any conclusions,” he said.

“Changing our locks and turning off our lights has undoubtedly come as a setback, but we will not be cowed into silence or deterred from standing up for human rights in Russia.” 

A statement released by the Russian authorities said Amnesty failed to pay its rent and that the eviction was based on violations of the terms of the rental agreement.

Mr Dalhuisen called the Russian claims “bizarre” and insisted they are “simply not true.”

“We are 100% confident that we fulfilled all our obligations as tenants and have documentation to prove it,” he said.

“If the authorities remain unwilling to solve this issue, it will soon start to look ominously like a deliberate move to obstruct our work to defend human rights in Russia.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult not to see this incident through the prism of the wider crackdown on Russian civil society”

Amnesty staff have attempted to make contact with senior officials with the department; however they have received no answer as yet.

They are currently seeking a meeting with the municipality in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Amnesty has condemned Russian policy on a range of issues including the country’s military action in Syria and the alleged ill-treatment of anti-government protesters.

On Tuesday the group called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Ildar Dadin who they described as “a peaceful street protester convicted for participation in 'unauthorized' assemblies.”

Mr Dadin claims he was beaten four times by large groups of people on his arrival in the Segezha prison colony in September.

He said he was hung by handcuffs for half an hour before his underpants were taken off and he was threatened with rape.

Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International Russia said the allegations are “shocking.”

“Unfortunately they are just the latest in a string of credible reports indicating that torture and other ill treatment are being widely used in the Russian penal system with impunity, with the aim of silencing any form of dissent.”

An Amnesty statement said Mr Dadin is the first person to be jailed under a new law introduced in 2014 which punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.