Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 1

Citing the Swiss newspaper Schaffhauser Nachrichten, Kavkazky Uzel reported on December 30 that around 200 complaints from Chechens concerning crimes committed by Russian troops, including torture, kidnapping, extra-judicial arrests and murders, have been filed with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. According to the website, the fact that Chechens continue to file complaints with the Strasbourg court knowing that this could make them targets of security forces testifies to a worsening of the situation in Chechnya. The website also reported that Chechens who have filed complaints in Strasbourg may have to wait years for verdicts, given that only 25 Russian lawyers are working at the court and usually reject complaints filed by Chechens. The complaints are generally taken up only three years after they are filed and verdicts are handed down a long time after that, Kavkazky Uzel reported. While there are no separate statistics about complaints filed by Chechens, of the 24,000 complaints filed against Russia in Strasbourg in 1998, Russian lawyers working at the court rejected 15,000 and the court rendered verdicts only in 100 cases, with 8,900 cases remaining unresolved. On December 13, the European Court for Human Rights accepted complaints filed by the relatives of 56 people killed during a zachikstka, or security sweep, carried out by federal forces in the settlement of Novye Aldi near Grozny on February 5, 2000.

Crimes of the kind that end up on the Strasbourg court’s docket continue to take place in Chechnya. Kavkazky Uzel reported on January 4 that early that morning 16 people armed with automatic weapons and wearing camouflage uniforms had seized three people from their homes in the town of Achkoi-Martan. The victims were identified as Akhmed Khaitaev (b. 1972), who serves in the district military commandant’s office, Mamed Khaitaev (b. 1978), a construction worker, and Alvi Takhaev (b. 1979), also a construction worker. According to the website, relatives of those abducted filed written statements with the police headquarters and prosecutor’s offices in the Achkoi-Martan and Suzhensky districts that included the circumstances surrounding the abductions, descriptions of the abductors and license plate numbers of some of the cars the abductors were driving. Yet the authorities in both districts refused to accept the statements. “The relatives believe that the police and the officials of the prosecutor’s offices know the names of the kidnappers and the location of those kidnapped, and that the forceful disappearances were carried out by representatives of Chechen power structures,” Kavkazky Uzel wrote.

The Caucasus Times, meanwhile, reported on January 2 that a 42-year-old Grozny resident died after being severely beaten by members of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s Anti-Terrorist Center during a traffic altercation. According to the website, police were searching for the culprits.

An article published in the Financial Times on January 4 by correspondent Arkady Ostrovsky quoted a Russian rapid-reaction force soldier based in Chechnya as saying that the security forces loyal to Chechnya’s First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, or kadyrovtsy, constitute a “legalized bandit formation” and “are no different from the rebels.” The soldier, named Sergei, told Ostrovsky that kadyrovtsy “often attack Russian checkpoints and prevent Russian security forces from carrying out their duties.” Another soldier named Vladimir predicted a future war between the federal forces and the kadyrovtsy: “‘We often get intelligence about the whereabouts of rebel fighters. We get there 30 minutes later, but the house is already surrounded by Kadyrov’s fighters who point their guns at us and tell us to get out,’ says Sergei. ‘We are told not to return fire when attacked by Kadyrov’s men,’ Vladimir says angrily. ‘But sooner or later, the situation will explode, and there will be a new war in Chechnya.'”