–IVANOV DEFENDS ULMAN VERDICT
On June 6, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov defended last month’s acquittal by a Rostov jury of GRU Captain Eduard Ulman and three subordinates on charges of murdering six Chechen civilians in January 2002. Ivanov also attacked Russia’s chief military prosecutor, Colonel-General Aleksander Savenkov, for criticizing the verdict. Savenkov had denounced the verdict as bearing “no relation to the question of justice” and said no one doubted the four servicemen committed a crime and should be punished (see Chechnya Weekly, May 25). NTV quoted Ivanov as saying to Savenkov in response: “Without going into the details of the investigation, which has been going on for four years, I must say that I do not understand how it is possible to say that the acquittal of a group of servicemen in a jury trial has no relation to justice. For what, then, have jury trials been created and are functioning in our country?”
–RIGHTS VIOLATIONS INCREASE IN CHECHNYA’S NEIGHBORS
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights issued a report on June 2 stating that the human rights situation is deteriorating in Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Citing data compiled by the Memorial human rights center, the Vienna-based human rights group reported that the number of abductions in Ingushetia increased from 28 in 2002 to 52 in 2003 and 75 in 2004. It also noted that the Ingushetia’s deputy prosecutor, Rashid Ozdoev, was himself abducted when he attempted to investigate the role of the local FSB branch in those kidnappings. “More than a year has passed since his abduction, and while the facts surrounding his abduction and the abductions he was investigating received a good deal of publicity, no proper investigation has been conducted, and those who are guilty have not been identified and brought to justice,” the IHF wrote. In the wake of the Beslan tragedy, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria have also become “places beyond the rule of law,” the report stated.
–CHECHNYA GETS A NEW MUFTI
Chechnya’s senior clergymen voted unanimously to elect Sultan Mirzaev as the republic’s mufti, Interfax reported on May 31. Mirzaev, who was most recently the first deputy mufti, took over from Akhmad Shamaev. Visradi Shirdiev, chairman of the Chechen government’s committee for contacts with religious organizations told Interfax that Shamaev stepped down “for health reasons.” “Shamaev himself was not present at the majilis session, but he called and promised to come within the next few days to express his gratitude to the clergy for support,” Shirdiev said.
But the Los Angeles Times on June 5 quoted Shamaev, whose son was murdered in June 2003 and is now living in a self-imposed exile in Moscow, as saying that he quit for different reasons. “I couldn’t do anything there – no one took my words into consideration,” he told the newspaper. “I wanted to leave at a point where I could still save my face in front of my people. And I wanted to escape a nervous breakdown.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Every day and every minute, I have been hearing a kind of cry of my people. I have seen the tears of mothers and the weeping of children. They have been crying these tears because so many people have disappeared: their children, their husbands – all gone. And I could not bring any calm to their hearts – and I just couldn’t bear it any longer.”
— Former Chechen mufti Akhmad Shamayev on why he stepped down as Chechnya’s spiritual leader, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times on June 5.