“DISAPPEARANCES” IN CHECHNYA ON THE RISE
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 41
Kavkazcenter, citing Russian non-governmental human rights organizations, reported on November 2 that 116 people had been kidnapped in Chechnya over the previous month. Among those abducted, the Chechen separatist website claimed, were ten women, three police officers, two children aged seven and twelve, five teenagers aged up to 16 and a 70-year-old man. Two of those abducted were found murdered while several others were later released. The fate of the rest of those kidnapped remains unknown. Kavkazcenter also cited information from the Council of Chechen Non-Governmental Organizations that some 30 large-scale zachistki, or mopping up-operations, had been carried out in various population centers around Chechnya in October. According to the website, so-called kadyrovtsy—forces loyal to Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov—killed twenty people in night raids, including women, children and elderly people.
Kavkazcenter noted that the Chechen government has dismissed these statistics. Indeed, the head of the Chechen president’s administration for human rights, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, told Interfax on November 2 that the claim that 116 people were kidnapped in October was unconcealed “disinformation” and “provocative” in nature. Nukhazhiev also said the claim was directly connected to Chechen President Alu Alkhanov’s visit to the Council of Europe at the end of October and the “mutual understanding” about the situation in Chechnya he ostensibly was able to achieve, as well as the visit to Chechnya by a Council of Europe delegation.
It should be noted that according to the Regnum news agency, Alkhanov himself told a closed meeting on October 31 with representatives of Chechnya’s power structures devoted to the issue of disappearances that instances of kidnapping in the republic had become more frequent, with 16 abductions in October. According to the Moscow Times, Alkhanov told reporters in Moscow on October 27 that 65 people remained missing after being abducted in Chechnya from January to September. “I’m not happy that people are still being abducted in the republic,” the English-language newspaper quoted him as saying. “This is a violation of human rights.”
Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of the Memorial Society’s council, told Ekho Moskvy that the abduction rate in Chechnya was “significantly higher” now than last year. She said that abductions were being carried out by federal forces, kadyrovtsy, members of the Chechen-manned Vostok and Zapad special battalions of the Russian army’s 42nd Motor-Rifle Division, and by the rebels who, she said, “are kidnapping police officers and administration officials.” The local police, she added, are using similar methods against suspected rebels and their families. According to Gannushkina, in the past, the situation involving kidnappings and other such abuses generally improved on the eve of elections. The fact that the situation is now worsening, she said, indicates that the republican authorities are losing control of the situation with the approach of Chechnya’s parliamentary elections on November 27.
As newsru.com reported on November 2, Memorial’s Dmitri Grushkin said in mid-October that 208 people had been kidnapped in Chechnya over the previous seven months, out of whom 107 disappeared without a trace, 87 were freed, nine were found murdered, and five were under investigation. According to Grushkin, 138 Chechens had been murdered, including 60 civilians, 33 members of local power structures, one government official and 35 rebels. The bodies of nine others remained unidentified. Since 2002, he said 1,690 people have been abducted in Chechnya, of whom 547 were freed, 166 were found murdered, 13 were under investigation and 964 disappeared without a trace. Chechen Security Council Chairman Rudnik Dudaev, however, said the figures given by the human rights activists concerning abductions were too high.
On October 26, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) appealed to Vladimir Kravchenko, Prosecutor of the Republic of Chechnya, concerning the kidnapping and killing of Salman Arsanukaev and his son Khamzat, whose bodies were found with multiple knife wounds on the morning of October 18 after “masked and camouflaged security service personnel” abducted them from their homes in the village of Pobedinskoye the previous day. Another son, Supian, whom authorities accused of being a rebel, was killed on October 2 by security forces who found him hiding at the house in Grozny where his sister-in-law, Zarema Buraeva, lived. According to the IHF, more than 100 Chechen-speaking officers from the Defense Ministry, Federal Security Service (FSB) and Chechnya’s Anti-Terrorist Center took part in the raid on the house, where they found and killed Supian Arsanukaev and detained Zarema Buraeva and her brothers Ali and Baudin Buraev, who have not been seen since.
The IHF called on Kravchenko to “locate the ‘disappeared’ persons, to investigate the apparently illegal circumstances of their ‘disappearances,’ and to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of the extra-judicial killings.” In both cases, the IHF noted, “the alleged perpetrators” were members of “the security structures of the Chechen Republic.”