Dagestanis Protest Abductions by Police

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 23

The Caucasus Times reported on May 31 that two demonstrations had been held in Makhachkala—one to protest abductions of innocent civilians by police, the other to protest the lack of progress in an investigation into the violent dispersal by police of an earlier protest. According to the website, the demonstration to protest kidnappings by police, which was held on May 28, included the relatives of 14 young men recently abducted in Dagestan. Some of the protesters demanded to meet Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev.

One demonstrator, Shakhazada Dibirova, quoted by The Caucasus Times claimed: “They took my son a year ago and we still don’t know where he is. But after a rally last year he was released. And where do you think they kept him? In the UBOP [Directorate for Combating Organized Crime] building in department No. 6. He was tortured and crippled and he was kidnapped again recently.” Another demonstrator told the website: “We all know where they are hiding our sons! The police are waiting for the next special operation when they can throw out their dead bodies and tell everyone they were militants. That’s why they are kidnapping our children!”

On May 30, a demonstration was held in Makhachkala to mark the one year anniversary of police shootings during protest in Dagestan’s Dokuzparinsky district where demonstrators had gathered demanding the resignation of the district’s head, Kerimkhan Abasov, who had been accused of corruption and failure to pay wages and pensions. According to the Caucasus Times, OMON riot police at the earlier rally used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. One protester, Murad Nagmetov, was killed instantly, while another, Elman Akhmedkhanov, was seriously wounded and died later in a hospital. After dispersing the rally, OMON forces chased after the crowd and broke into houses, arresting 64 people. Murad Nagmetov’s father told the Caucasus Times that the authorities are not investigating his murder and are protecting the perpetrators. Lev Ponomarev, the veteran human rights campaigner who is the executive director of the For Human Rights movement, attended this year’s protest and told the Caucasus Times that he agreed with the protesters’ demand that Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov resign.

Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev chaired a closed meeting with members of his government on May 31 to discuss the demonstrations. Itar-Tass reported that Dagestan’s chief prosecutor Igor Tkachev told the meeting that the number of abductions has been increasing, with republican authorities registering 81 kidnapping cases in 2002 and more than 150 in 2006 and 71 cases in just the first four months of 2007 alone.

According to Tkachev, before 2003, kidnappings tended to be carried out by “crime families” to extract ransoms, while 50 percent of the abductions reported since 2003 have been kidnappings of young girls for marriage. Tkachev said that there have also been cases of kidnapping by people “passing themselves off as officers of secret services stationed both in Chechnya, as well as all over the North Caucasus, which aggravates the social and political situation and hamstrings the prestige of local bodies of self-government.” Dagestani authorities registered 42 cases between 2001 and 2006 of people kidnapped by persons in camouflage uniforms or claiming to be secret service officers. Of the 71 reported kidnapping cases during the first four months of this year, only six of them involved abductors wearing camouflage uniforms.

The greatest number of reports of abductions by persons in camouflage uniforms has come from Khasavyurt and the Khasavyurt district, where 12 such criminal cases were launched between 2004 and 2006.

According to Itar-Tass, Dagestani President Aliev said that work to prevent and solve such crimes has been unsatisfactory.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev said, during a visit to Dagestan on June 5, that the crime situation in the republic is very complex. “Last year about 16,000 crimes were registered in the republic, an increase of 21 percent,” he told officers of the Dagestani Interior Ministry in Makhachkala. “A quarter of these are serious and very grave crimes. About 6,000 crimes were registered in the first four months of the current year.” Nurgaliev said the work of the police in the republic has been made much more difficult over the last decade by extremist forces “that are getting support both from internal separatism and external anti-Russian centers.” He added: “Dagestan, which occupies a major strategic location in the North Caucasian region, has become one of the main targets for terrorist activity.” Those seeking to separate Dagestan from Russia have been using all possible means, “from the ideological expansion of Wahhabism to direct armed intervention by bandit formations from Chechnya,” Nurgaliev said.

On June 2, a clash between police and militants in the city of Khasavyurt, near Dagstan’s administrative border with Chechnya, killed two officers and three rebels, the Associated Press reported. Dagestani Interior Ministry spokeswoman Anzhela Martirosova told the news agency that the shootout took place when suspected militants refused to surrender to police and opened fire. Martirosova claimed that one officer was also wounded and the two militants who were believed to have escaped were being searched for by the authorities. Kavkazky Uzel and Ekho Moskvy radio on June 2 quoted Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov as saying that the three slain militants were part of the group headed by rebel field commander Rappan Khalilov, which has been attacking police personnel both in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district and in Chechnya.

Citing Dagestani Interior Ministry sources, Azerbaijan’s Azeri-Press Agency (APA) reported on June 6 that Dagestan’s and Georgia’s security agencies have intensified a search for Khalilov and that a special operation group sent from Moscow was involved in that search.