ETHNIC CHECHENS IN MOSCOW

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 11

Police harassment of ethnic Chechens living in Moscow has significantly increased since the October hostage crisis, according to a briefing paper from Human Rights Watch. The paper, available via the Human Rights Watch website (http://www.hrw.org/), concludes that “although Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to his credit warned against an anti-Chechen sentiment during the hostage crisis, Moscow’s police nonetheless stepped up identity checks and arbitrarily detained hundreds of Chechens, fingerprinting and photographing them. Police officers planted drugs and ammunition on Chechens, and then solicited bribes from them in exchange for not pressing charges. Police officials at registration offices routinely refused to register Chechens for obligatory resident permits, frequently referring to ‘instructions from above.’ Police also exerted pressure on Moscow landlords to evict Chechen tenants.”

The office of Aslambek Aslakhanov, the anti-separatist representative of the Chechen Republic in the federal Duma, told the New York-based human rights group that he had received increasing numbers of complaints–more than 300 since October–about the police planting drugs and weapons on Chechen detainees after arresting them. The Duma member’s office also said that only one Moscow police officer had been convicted for fabricating evidence in this fashion. Citing fifty cases studied by two independent Russian groups, Human Rights Watch found that “the Russian authorities have done little to address the issue. Prosecutors routinely press charges against the victims of the practice despite overwhelming evidence that they were groundless, and, as a rule, Moscow courts convict them. For example, most of the fifty cases Civic Assistance and Memorial documented in 1999 and early 2000 ended in conviction. Many other cases never make it to the courts as relatives of the detainees bribed law enforcement officials to avoid charges.”