Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 23

Chechnya’s State Council held a session on June 15 devoted to the issue of combating kidnappings and searching for missing citizens during which it was stated that 63 criminal cases arising from 70 abductions have been opened in the republic since the beginning of the year and that the number of kidnappings sharply increased in May. “Abductions remain a factor that can seriously destabilize the situation in the Chechen Republic,” Interfax quoted Abu Aliev, deputy chairman of the State Council, as saying. He added that “impunity” is the prime cause of the continued abductions. According to Aliev, as of May 1, 2005, a total of 1,845 criminal investigations into the abduction or disappearance of 2,845 people had been launched since the start of the second Chechen military campaign in 1999, but only 366 people had been freed. He also said that 2,086 cases of people being forcibly abducted by members of unidentified security forces have been registered since the start of the “counter-terrorist operation.”

Nurdi Nukhazhiev, head of the Chechen government’s committee for protecting the constitutional rights of citizens, told the State Council meeting that as many as 52 mass graves have been found in the republic. “The necessary organizational decisions must be taken in order to identify and re-bury the dead,” he said, adding that the problem cannot be resolved without help from the Emergencies Ministry and other government agencies. “The situation is much more complex and tragic than it seems to be,” Nukhazhiev said. “At least 50-60,000 people in the republic are in a protest mood” because of kidnappings, he said. “These people are waiting for the parliamentary elections, and I would not advise anybody to regard them as extremists.” Nukhazhiev told the meeting that some 100 out of the 136 visitors he had received during his most recent office hours had come to inquire about kidnapped relatives. “There is no political will; a command from the top for everybody to work together on this problem has not been given,” he said. “The situation will not improve until a political decision is made.”

Recent reports by the relevant human rights groups help to explain the growing concern on the part of some pro-Moscow Chechen officials. The Council of Chechen Non-governmental Organizations reported on June 13 that armed people in camouflage kidnapped a 50-year-old resident of Grozny’s Leninksy district, Akhmad Elbiev, and that his fate remains unknown. Citing the Council of Chechen Non-governmental Organizations and the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD), the Prima-News information agency reported on June 10 that armed people in camouflage uniforms and traveling in several cars without license plates had abducted Vakhid Mairbekov from his home in Grozny’s Zavodskoi district. On June 9, security forces detained a 25-year-old inhabitant of the village of Zandak in the Nozhai-Yurt district during a “targeted” cleansing operation, driving him off in a car with blackened windshields. That same day, unknown people kidnapped Said Muzuev, a 30-year-old inhabitant of the town of Samashki in the Achkoi-Martan district.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 14 that Igor Shakhmurzaev, the chairman of the Chechen chapter of the Union party, who was abducted at the end of April in Grozny, had been released. Shakhmurzaev’s brother, Lema, who heads the Institute of Political Culture of Chechnya’s “Lamast” society, said Igor Shakhmurzaev was kidnapped by “Russian power structures staffers,” held in an unknown location and constantly questioned for more than month. Prima-News reported on June 10 that in connection with the May kidnapping of three brothers from the Groznensky district village of Oktyabrskoe who are members of the Social Democratic Party of Russia – Adam, Kureish and Movla Sherimbekovich – relatives of the abducted and human rights activists had sent an open letter to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who is member of the party’s political council, asking for help in freeing them. The three brothers were kidnapped at gunpoint from their homes by “representatives of the power structures” on May 5.

The separatist Marsho news agency reported on June 13 that several people who had lodged complaints with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg have been killed or abducted. Among them were Said-Khusein Elmurzaev, a resident of the village of Duba-Yurt in Chechnya’s Shali district, whose “disfigured” body was found on the outskirts of the Groznensky district village of Ilyinskaya on May 8, and his son Idris Elmurzaev, whose “tortured’ body was discovered in April. Prima-News reported that at the beginning of June, the remains a young man “literally blown to pieces by an explosives charge” was found on the outskirts of Grozny. According to the news agency, the victim, an inhabitant of Argun with the last name Usmanov, had been called in for questioning by Russia’s special services several days earlier. “People believe he was blown up after severe torture,” Prima-News reported on June 10.

Kavkazky Uzel on June 14 quoted Taisa Isaeva, head of the Council of Chechen Non-governmental Organizations’ information center, as saying that Chechen police had beaten a 14-year-old girl for wearing a headscarf. Isaeva quoted the girl’s mother as saying the incident took place on June 9 when she took her daughter to the police precinct in Grozny’s Zavodskoi district to get her a passport. “The daughter went inside, and the mother had to wait for her outside,” Isaeva told the website. “Subsequently, the woman heard the screams of her daughter. Rushing inside, she saw one of the policemen harshly beating her daughter with a club, calling her a ‘Wahhabi’ and cursing her in unprintable language. Only the mother’s intervention stopped this ‘guardian of law and order’.” According to Isaeva, the girl remains in grave condition.

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 11, that Russian aircraft and artillery carried out massive strikes on the outskirts of population centers and wooded areas in mountainous areas of Chechnya, including the Shatoi, Nozhai-Yurt, Vedeno and Itum-Kalinsky districts. A Shatoi resident told the website that ceaseless shelling was preventing local inhabitants from gathering firewood and grazing cattle. He said the shelling usually starts in the evening and lasts 30-40 minutes. A Russian military source told Kavkazky Uzel that shelling of the wooded areas in the mountains is carried out only if “the movement of groups of militants or their bases and camps” are discovered. On June 5, the head of the Shatoi district administration, Said-Khasan Duzaev, sent a letter to Chechen President Alu Alkhanov concerning the regular shelling of pastures located near the settlements of Khal-Keloi, Sharo-Argun, Dai, Aslanbek-Sherpivo, Gatin-Kali, Marsh-Kali and Musolt-Aul. Duzaev complained that the bombardment prevented local residents from grazing livestock and thereby earning their livelihoods. Prima-News reported that a teenaged herdsman was shell-shocked and a large number of cattle killed as the result of shelling on the outskirts of the village of Verkhny Dai on May 29.