Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 41

A man who was detained by Kabardino-Balkaria’s anti-organized crime directorate (UBOP) on suspicion that he participated in the October 13 raid on police stations and other targets in Nalchik described to Kavkazky Uzel how he was tortured while in custody. “I was detained on the 13th on a street near my home,” the website quoted him as saying on November 1. “Apparently, the reason was that someone had informed on me, [telling the authorities] that I am a believer. I want to emphasize that I pray only at home and don’t go to the mosque. I was taken to the sixth department (UBOP of the Interior Ministry of Kabardino-Balkaria). By that time, there were already very many detainees there. They were standing in the corridor with their faces to the wall. Exactly how many people were there, I can’t say, inasmuch as it was impossible to turn one’s head. I think it was from 50 to 100 people. The number changed. Some were let go, others were taken elsewhere.” The former detainee said the authorities tried to torture him into admitting that he had participated in the rebel raid. “They beat me with their hands, feet, truncheons, rifle butts. Everyone who walked past tried to strike [me]. I heard the moans and cries of other detainees. Then they examined my fingers and apparently were convinced they didn’t have traces of gunpowder or gun oil, and after that they let me go. One of my acquaintances who was also detained told me afterwards that he was tortured with electric shocks.”

Kavkazky Uzel reported on October 28 that Amnesty International had expressed concern about the fate of Rasul Kudaev, the former inmate of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, who was detained on suspicion of participation in the Nalchik raid, something that others who know him claim is untrue (see Chechnya Weekly, October 27). The London-based human rights group said in an appeal addressed to Kabardino-Balkarian prosecutor Yuri Ketov, Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov and Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, that it was concerned about the possible use of torture against Kudaev and reports that he was not receiving medical help. “There exist serious fears in connection with his fate, the state of his health and the threat that torture will be resumed,” the group’s appeal read.

Kavkazky Uzel reported that Kudaev was beaten while in custody, with the aim of extracting a confession that he had participated in the October 13 armed attacks. The website quoted his mother, Fatima Tekaeva, as saying he was beaten so badly while in custody that the emergency medical services had to be called in, but that the emergency medical services had refused to give her a document confirming this, telling her that it could be issued only with the permission of the law enforcement organs.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on November 1 that representatives of two international human rights groups—Ole Solvang of the Russian Justice Initiative and Aleksandr Petrov of Human Rights Watch—had arrived in Nalchik and met with relatives of rebels and other detained by the law enforcement agencies following the October 13 raid. According to the website, the Russian Justice Initiative has already gathered material concerning the authorities’ refusal to return the bodies of dead rebels to their families and sent it to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. The website reported on October 29 that the situation in Nalchik remained very tense as a result of the fact that relatives of rebel fighters killed in the October 13 raid had been trying unsuccessfully to get their bodies returned. Relatives had been protesting outside the republican government’s headquarters in Nalchik for 12 days and witnesses said that some of the 85 bodies that had been stored in a refrigerated train car had started to decompose. reported eyewitnesses as saying that relatives had ransomed four of the bodies for $45,000.

Ekho Moskvy quoted relatives of people killed in Nalchik on October 13 as saying that ordinary citizens as well as rebel fighters were among the victims and that the authorities had counted anyone killed who did not have identification on them at the time of their death as being among the rebels. Relatives noted that at the time of the October 13 raid, law enforcement personnel were blockaded inside their headquarters, so that many local men had raced to save their wives and children without taking their identity documents with them.

Yevgeny Ikhlov, head of the information-analytical service of the For Human Rights movement, told Kavkazky Uzel: “Corpses must not be taken hostage. This will generate a new round of violence and tension in the region. Relatives are unable to bury their dead according to all the rules; to conduct burial ceremonies according to Islamic canons. Tension [and] discontent with the authorities over such actions will accumulate, as they accumulated in Beslan. And then they will pour out in an explosion. Not right away, but after attitudes toward the actions of the authorities reach critical mass. It will be a huge explosion!”

On October 31, Kavkazky Uzel posted an appeal by the Kabardino-Balkarian Rights Center claiming that the number of illegal detentions and instances of torture was on the increase and warning that the situation in the republic could develop along the lines of Ingushetia and Dagestan, “where explosions, killings and kidnapping have long since become a daily occurrence as in Chechnya.” The group said that the authorities’ refusal to hand over the bodies of dead rebels to their relatives was making the situation worse and building support for the rebels.

For his part, Kabardino-Balkaria’s President, Arsen Kanokov, told Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya in an interview published on October 31 that he had seen photographs showing the poor condition of the bodies of those killed in the October 13 raid and had shown the photographs to the republic’s prosecutor, Yuri Ketov. “Now everything has been done: [the bodies have been wrapped] in polyethylene, identified, the refrigerators are working,” he told Politkovskaya. “I ordered that photographs proving that the bodies are in a proper condition be published in the media.” As for the demand that the bodies of rebel fighters be returned to their relatives, Kanokov said: “We can only tell the relatives: appeal to the president, to the federal structures. But, on the other hand …relatives of the dead policemen say that they don’t want ‘them’ to be buried in the cemetery alongside [their relatives]…It’s a very hard choice to make.” Pressed by Politkovskaya as to his personal choice, Kanokov said: “It’s fifty-fifty. To calm society, it’s necessary to return [the bodies]. But the law [on not returning the bodies of terrorists] must not be broken.”

More generally, Kanokov said his attitude toward the families of the dead rebels was hardening. “As president, I am looking for a way out, so that a split in society does not happen, so that some are not set off against others,” he told Politkovskaya. “They are all our citizens…I am disturbed today by the aggressiveness of the relatives of the [rebel] fighters who were killed: I consider it improper. I myself was for humane treatment of those who were killed, but today I am becoming harsher with each passing day. If the state comes off weak…One must be fair and tough. Fair strength has always been honored in the Caucasus… And those who died – those guys were the weakest link in the organization that arranged it all [the October 13 attack]. If we don’t fight back, then I’m afraid our humaneness will be taken as a sign of weakness.”