Chechnya has become the first region of the Russian Federation to prosecute misprision of a felony, i.e. failing to report an offence to the authorities.
The court in the Zavadskoy district of Grozny instituted criminal proceedings for misprision of a felony against local resident Askhab Khizriyev. He is accused of not reporting to law enforcement agencies a planned crime. Khizriyev’s friend, Farid Safin, was planning to leave Russia for Syria to join the Islamic State. Under new provisions in the Russian Criminal Code, Askhab Khizriyev could face up to a year in prison.
For Chechens, who have traditionally considered reporting someone to the authorities as not only personally embarrassing, but also casting a shadow over the whole nation, this criminal case is extremely controversial. There is a feeling among many in the republic that the purpose of the law is to intimidate.
‘They probably want us to return to 1937, when the secret police ruled and informing against others was commonplace. In Chechnya such things will not pass, because people remember informers for centuries. It is an attempt to break the backbone of the people, who have preserved their values despite everything we have endured. Everything was taken away from us and the last thing that remains is our honour and dignity. It is unlikely that Chechens will give them up’, said Abdula Kamayev, one resident of Grozny.
For some, to go to prison for misprision of a felony is an honour.
‘There is a Russian proverb: “don’t count out a prison cell, a begging bowl may come as well”. If my sons or I ever end up behind bars, it will only be for breaking this law. The most important thing in the world is to live among others with one’s head held high. If someone is going to commit a crime, then let the police work better; they have every opportunity to do so. Why should people stand up against each other, especially when snitching and denunciation are the most shameful things for Chechens’, said Lecha Musayev, a local taxi driver.
The package of anti-terror laws, including the law against misprision of a felony, was signed by president Vladimir Putin last summer. Several people have already been sentenced under the new amendments, which affect the right to rally, picket, and to post on social networks. This is the first time the section covering misprision of a felony has been applied.