Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 15

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said on April 10 that 14 people have been abducted since the beginning of the year, Interfax reported. “Unfortunately, the problem of kidnappings has not been fully resolved but the rate of registered abductions has shrunk,” Alkhanov said at a meeting with a visiting United Nations delegation headed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “Seventy people were kidnapped over the same period last year. The entire human rights community recognizes the positive trend in matters related to human rights and abductions. Statistically the crime rate in Chechnya is below the Russian average.”

The Nazran-based Council of Non-Governmental Organizations, meanwhile, reported on April 8 that at least 207 people were kidnapped or detained in Chechnya by law enforcement forces or unidentified armed men in camouflage during the first three months of 2006. Some of those abducted were later released, the group said. It also reported that 13 young women were detained in Gudermes in January. At least 46 people were killed in Chechnya over the first three months of 2006, the council reported, noting that six of those killed were women and five were law enforcement officers. Five people were killed and three others kidnapped in Ingushetia during the same period. One of those kidnapped was Magomed Chakhkiev, a 71-year-old member of Ingushetia’s parliament.

Chechen Prime Minister Raman Kadyrov, for his part, demanded that order be brought to the lists of the republic’s residents recorded as missing, Itar-Tass reported on April 9. “There are lots of problems in the republic, and it is high time to begin resolving them,” he told a meeting of the political council of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party’s regional branch. “First and foremost this concerns the problem of people who have been abducted.” Kadyrov said that among those listed as missing “there are also those who have gone into the mountains [joined the rebels] or abroad with forged passports, but there are also those among them who are indeed missing.” Kadyrov said that “all of the republic’s forces,” including the military and police, would be tasked with finding them.

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on April 12 that the whereabouts and fate of a driver for the Chechen office of the Civil Support Committee for human rights, Bilat Chilaev, who was detained on April 9, remains unknown. Citing a joint press release by the Civil Support Committee and the Memorial Center, Interfax reported on April 11 that Chilaev and and Grozny resident Aslan Israilov were detained while leaving the village of Sernovodsk, where local law enforcement agencies were conducting a massive manhunt for people involved in the murder of three village residents, including an official of Chechnya’s Anti-Terrorist Center, on April 8. Citing eyewitnesses, Kavkazky Uzel reported that Chilaev was giving Israilov a ride to Grozny when they were stopped and driven off by masked members of an unknown power structure.

The separatist Chechenpress news agency reported on April 7 that a group of Chechen rights activists had appealed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) over the disappearance. Vakhid Murdashev, a close associate of slain Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov. Last December, the Russian authorities sentenced Murdashev—who was one of the four Maskhadov associates with the rebel leader when he was killed on March 8, 2005, in the village of Tolstoi-Yurt—to 15 years imprisonment on four charges, including organizing an armed mutiny. Murdashev was held at the notorious Chernokozovo prison in Chechnya, from where he disappeared on March 2 after speaking with the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, who visited the prison. Murdashev’s lawyer, Bay-Ali Elmurzaev, said his client was taken away from Chernokozovo on a helicopter. The appeal, which was signed by Mayrbek Taramov, Nadezhda Banchik, Viktoriya Pupko and Said-Emin Ibragimov, called on PACE to investigate Murdashev’s disappearance. “We believe that in order to preserve your authority, you should immediately launch an investigation into the gravest crime committed on the territory of the Russian Federation, which is a member of the Council of Europe,” the appeal read.