Urgent Action: Call for the release of imprisoned Mongolian environmental defender

 Mr Beejin Khastumur, an environmental defender and founder of Mongolian non-profit beejin_khastumurorganisation Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel (DMNN), has been imprisoned by the Mongolian authorities under suspicious circumstances.

DMNN, an organisation which advocates for the protection of the environment and the rights of the nomad people of Mongolia, has exposed many violations of Mongolia’s environmental laws by foreign and domestic mining companies, in which certain Mongolian politicians have a stake. It has also organised numerous workshops, public gatherings and demonstrations to educate the public on environmental issues.

Mr Khastumur’s colleagues at DMNN strongly believe that their leader has in fact been unfairly imprisoned as a result of his work to expose the illegal mining operations of foreign and domestic companies in Mongolia. Beejin has suffered consistent intimidation and threats since staging a sit-in protest in the Mongolian capital Ullan Bataar in January 2016 to oppose an allegedly illegal permit given to a Canadian-Mongolian mining venture on the Onon River.

On the 10th March 2016, Mr Khastumur was charged by the Mongolian police under Article 181.3 of the Criminal Code of Mongolia, which corresponds with ‘a crime committed using a weapon or by a violent criminal’.  The typical sentence for such a crime is five to eight years of imprisonment. 

Mr Khastumur’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment relate to an incident that occurred on February 6th 2016. After a minor road traffic accident, the driver of a car that had collided with Mr Khastumur’s physically assaulted him. After the altercation, a traffic policeman stopped at the scene, establishing that Mr Khastumur had not been at fault for the crash. After the officer had left once more, the man who attacked Mr Khastumur called the police, claiming that Mr Khastumur had stabbed him with a knife during the argument at the accident scene.

In an attempt to prove that he was not in possession of a knife, Mr. Khastumur repeatedly requested that the police officer who arrived at the accident scene to search his body and vehicle. His requests were ignored.

 After being taken to the 1st precinct of Songinokhairkhan District Police Department and assigned a detective named Lkhamsuren, Mr Khastumur once again asked for a full search to be conducted. His request was denied once again. Mr Khastumur made this same request the next morning after reporting back to the police station to give further evidence, but again it was denied.

 A forensic examination of both Mr Khastumur and his accuser conducted the next morning  found Beejin to be suffering from bruises to his legs and chest, as well as a brain concussion. His accuser had suffered a small scratch above his knee, which he claims Beejin inflicted with a knife that was not searched for or found.

The decision by authorities to detain Mr Khastumur in absence of any evidence of wrongdoing was motivated by his alleged failure to report for questioning over the incident at the the Songinokhairkhan District Police Department. Mr. Khastumur did in fact present himself at the station on several occasions when called, however, DMNN report that the detective assigned to his case was not there at those times and was not reachable by phone.

On March 16th 2016 Mr Khastumur was incarcerated in Gants Khudag, a temporary detention centre notorious for the abuse, violence and torture of detainees. The other individual involved in the incident, who was imprisoned in 1985, 1990, 2006 and 2010 for violent assaults with a weapon under Article 181.3, was not charged with any offence.

On March 22, 2016, the Criminal Court of Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan Districts denied a request from Mr. Khastumur’s legal counsel to release him from custody. During the hearing the counsel insisted that the interrogation of Mr. Khastumur could take place while he was at liberty and that there were no grounds to keep him in detention. Mr. Khastumur remains in detention at serious risk to his health due to high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease.

On the same date, four men dressed in black attempted to enter Mr Khastumur’s house, claiming to be officers from the Khan Uul district police. They banged on the door and when Mr Khastumur’s wife answered they informed her that they wished to conduct a search of the house. No identifying documents were provided by the men and they left when Mrs Khastumur said that she would call the police.

This is not the first time Mr Khastumur and his family have been harassed. In recent months Mr Khastumur and his colleagues at DMNN have been subjected to intimidation, including death threats and physical assault, from both state authorities and mining company employees. These attacks have come as a result of DMNN’s work to expose many alleged violations of Mongolia’s environmental laws by foreign and domestic mining companies.

In light of this intimidation and based on the facts and information provided by DMNN and Mr Khastumur’s attorney, we believe there is significant reason to suspect Mr Khastumur’s arrest and imprisonment are unfair and illegal. 

DMNN are calling for international solidarity to press for Beejin’s release.

Please write to the Mongolian authorities immediately calling for:

1. The immediate and unconditional release Mr. Beejin Khastumur;

2. An immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the events leading to Beejin Khastumur’s arrest, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3. The necessary medical treatment to be provided for Mr. Beejin Khastumur; 

4. The Mongolian authorities to guarantee that, in all circumstances, human rights and environmental activists in Mongolia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals.

Send your emails to: 

Hon. Tsogtzandan Yondon, Chief judge of the Criminal court of Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan Districts who is assigned on his case, at

d_bkhs_tg@shuukh.mn

State General Prosecutor’s Office, attn: Prosecutor Enerel B. at

gpo@prokuror.mn

General Police Department, Detective Lkhamsuren is working on his case at 

info@police.gov.mn 


Background Information

Click here for more information on Beejin’s arrest.

Click here for more information about DMNN’s recent sit-in protest in Ulaan Bataar.

Click here for more information on the intimidation suffered by DMNN members and their families.

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