Chechnya’s Human Rights Ombudsman Criticizes the Republic’s Prosecutor

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 20

Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, said on May 16 that the republican prosecutor’s office has failed to monitor the protection of human rights, Interfax reported. “It is my duty to state that, regrettably, the prosecutor’s office has not become an oversight instrument in instances in which human rights are abused, with or without violations of the law,” Nukhazhiev said during parliamentary hearings. “Of the 292 abductions in which law-enforcement officials were involved – with ample proof of this provided – neither the republican prosecutor’s office nor the military prosecutor’s office has taken any of these cases to the court. The time has come to initiate litigation against the prosecutors’ inactivity. Human rights activists see no other option.” Referring specifically to Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, Nukhazhiev said: “Concerning the prosecutor, his failure to perform his duties appropriately is a long overdue issue that must be raised at the [federal] Prosecutor General’s Office.”

Kommersant, on May 17, quoted Nukhazhiev as accusing the republican prosecutor’s office of “criminal inactivity in protecting the rights of the local population” and adding: “I know that President Ramzan Kadyrov is also dissatisfied with the work of the law-enforcement bodies, in particular the prosecutor’s office.” Kuznetsov, for his part, told the newspaper that Nukhazhiev’s accusations are baseless. “Of course, there are many shortcomings in our work, but progress is manifest: of late, the prosecutor’s office has investigated and brought to court tens of cases involving kidnapping and corruption of high-level officials.” According to Kommersant, human rights activists have a positive opinion of Kuznetsov’s work. “Valery Kuznetsov is precisely the prosecutor under whom the prosecutor’s office began to do something,” Natalya Estemirova, a staffer with the Chechen branch of the Memorial human rights center, told the newspaper, adding that she did not rule out that Kuznetsov’s enemies would simply try to drive him out of the republic. “Before him [Kuznetsov], the human rights situation in Chechnya was much worse, and the prosecutor’s office was almost always inactive, but for some reason no one paid any attention to that,” she said.

Kommersant quoted a source in the Chechen prosecutor’s office as saying that Nukhazhiev had either taken Kadyrov’s cue or actually “coordinated his speech with him.” According to the newspaper, Kuznetsov’s subordinates believe his adherence to principle has made him unacceptable to Kadyrov. They cited an incident that took place last year, when Sultan Isakov, the head of the secretariat of the republic’s compensation commission and a member of Kadyrov’s inner circle, was detained on suspicion of receiving bribes. “It was demanded that we halt the investigation, and we were accused of sabotaging national projects, even though the official’s guilt was obvious,” a source in the republican prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying.

Kommersant concluded: “If President Kadyrov secures Valery Kuznetsov’s dismissal and the appointment of his own candidate to the post of prosecutor, it will also be simpler for him to deal with the only police structure in Chechnya that is not under the control of the republican authorities – the Operational Investigative Bureau (ORB-2) under the Russian MVD’s Main Directorate for the Southern Federal District. The Chechen president has more than once urged the prosecutor’s office to draw attention to the ‘illegal activities of this organization,’ but nonetheless the criminal cases launched against ORB-2 personnel on the basis of Chechen complaints have generally come to nothing. It could not, however, be otherwise, since it is precisely ORB-2 employees who, by participating in the investigation of the most notorious criminal cases in Chechnya, ensure that the prosecutor’s office solves them.”

Nukhazhiev, meanwhile, also called for extending the terms of Chechnya’s president and parliament – as well as the Russian president – from four years to seven or eight years, reported on May 16. The current four-year terms for Chechnya’s president and parliamentarians could become “a brake on the renewal and development of our society,” Nukhazhiev said in a statement. The current four-year term for the Russian president is “a blind imitation of the West,” he said. “[It] in no way expresses the interests of the country,” he added, pointing to the fact that “under the leadership of the current head of state, fundamental reforms of all spheres of society’s vital functions has begun, but the country is already being drawn into an election campaign, which undoubtedly will divert huge financial, political and human resources.” A four-year term is insufficient to carry out political and economic reforms, Nukhazhiev said. “The Chechen Republic is already beginning to feel this problem,” he said. “The tasks of our society are much more complex and deep.”