Makhmut Magomadov, a Chechen human rights activist who previously served as a deputy prosecutor during Aslan Maskhadov’s presidency, was abducted in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district on January 20. Since 2000, he has worked as a legal expert for the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), the International Protection Center and the Chechnya Committee of National Salvation, helping victims of human rights abuses bring their cases before the European Court on Human Rights. According to the IHF, in 1992, following a long career with the police in Donskoi, Tula Oblast, Magomadov became an investigator for the Chechen Ministry of Interior. From 1994 to 1996 he worked in the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Interim Administration of Chechnya and later as the republic’s Assistant Prosecutor General for criminal investigations. He also headed a task force set up to fight kidnappings in Chechnya that was, according to the IHF, “instrumental in freeing hundreds of kidnapped persons.”
Kavkazky Uzel on January 21 quoted the Chechnya Committee of National Salvation as saying that Magomadov was abducted from the apartment of a friend he was visiting by armed men who were wearing camouflage but no masks. They drove off with him in the direction of the center of Grozny. Eyewitnesses to the abduction – who included Magomadov’s wife, along with his four-year-old daughter and six-month-old son – said they thought the kidnappers, who spoke Chechen and refused to identify themselves, were kadyrovtsy – Chechen security personnel subordinated to the republic’s first deputy prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov.
The IHF said in a statement issued on January 21 that Magomadov had worked until December 2004 as an expert on the group’s Legal Protection of Individual Rights in the Russian Federation project, aimed a training Russian lawyers and human rights activists in the use of international law. “At the time of his detention, he was working on over 30 cases, mainly concerning ‘disappearances’, torture and ill-treatment, and extra-judicial executions committed by Russian security forces,” the statement read, adding that the IHF suspected Magomadov was targeted “due to his work in compiling applications from the victims of human rights abuses for submission to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.” The statement also quoted IHF Executive Director Aaron Rhodes as saying: “We are deeply concerned for the fate and whereabouts of Makhmut Magomadov. We fear he will be subjected to torture or ill-treatment and may be executed like so many of the ‘disappeared’ in Chechnya.”
In a January 21 letter to Vladimir Kravchenko, Chechnya’s acting prosecutor, Aaron Rhodes wrote: “We urge you to conduct a thorough investigation on the abduction of Makhmut Magomadov. If the men who detained him were acting in an official capacity, we call on the authorities immediately to make known the reasons for his detention and inform his family of his fate and whereabouts. Further, the Russian authorities should either charge him with a recognizable offence or release him immediately.” Copies of the letter were sent to Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, Russian presidential human rights commission chairwoman Ella Pamfilova, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Chechnya Committee of National Salvation said its staff and Makhmut Magomadov’s relatives are “troubled by the continuing practice in the republic of large-scale disappearances of people and worried about the possible threat to his life,” Kavkazky Uzel reported on January 21. The committee said it was appealing to Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Peter Schieder, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles, as well as all Russian and international human rights organizations, “for urgent assistance in the search for and release of Makhmut Dzhaparovich Magomadov.” Also on January 21, the Memorial human rights group released a statement expressing concern over Magomadov’s abduction. On January 22, Human Rights Watch issued a statement about Magomadov’s abduction. Rachel Denber, acting executive director of New York-based group’s Europe and Central Asia Division, said: “Magomadov is at great risk of torture, execution and ‘disappearance’. The Russian government must act immediately to find and protect him.”