Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on August 6 that Mokhmadsalakh Masaev, a 42-year-old resident of Chechnya who made public his secret detention and torture by Chechen security agents, was abducted again. Citing Masaev’s relatives and the Memorial human rights group, Human Rights Watch reported that he was seized in Grozny on August 3 by unknown individuals in camouflage uniforms and that the incident was witnessed by passers-by and street vendors. According to HRW, Masaev’s family has no information as to his fate or whereabouts, and a local police station refused to register a report on the abduction filed by Masaev’s brother Oleg. Moreover, Oleg Masaev’s conversation with the policemen led him to believe Mokhmadsalakh had been abducted by Chechen law-enforcement agencies acting on informal instructions of the republic’s leadership, HRW reported.
Earlier this year, Masaev told HRW that he had been abducted from a mosque in Gudermes in September 2006 and held in an illegal detention facility until January 21, 2007, and that while in detention he was beaten on several occasions, accused of being a Wahhabi and a collaborator with insurgents, held in inhumane conditions and subjected to death threats. Two of his acquaintances were abducted and held with him but freed earlier through the intervention of their well-connected relatives. Following Masaev’s persistent demands, the prosecutor’s office in early 2008 launched a criminal investigation into the kidnapping of Masaev and his two friends. On July 10, Novaya Gazeta, published an interview with Masaev, in which he said he “had been held hostage for four months by [Chechen President] Ramzan Kadyrov” in a secret detention facility located in Kadyrov’s native village, Tsenteroi.
“We are deeply alarmed about Masaev’s abduction and fear his life is in danger,” said Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Russia office. “Masaev is one of the few people who dared to speak publicly about how he was tortured in illegal detention by Chechen officials, and we are afraid he’s paying a very high price for his courage … If President Dmitry Medvedev is truly committed to entrenching the rule of law across Russia, he needs to foster an environment in which victims of human rights abuses can speak up without fear, including in Chechnya.”