Ingush rights activists awarded as abuses in the republic persist

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 219

Magomed Mutsolgov of MAShR (New York Times).

On December 5, the Ingush non-governmental organization Mashr, which is headed by Magomed Mutsolgov and focuses on monitoring human rights violations in the republic, received the Moscow Helsinki Group. “Daily work in the field of rights of the individual and the defense of freedom in Ingushetia is a feat,” said Moscow Helsinki Group chairwoman Ludmilla Alekseyeva at the awards ceremony in Moscow. She cited grave dangers to the lives of human rights activists in Ingushetia, which made Mashr’s achievements especially remarkable (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, December 6).

Abductions and extralegal murders, as well as other forms of violence, have plagued Ingushetia for the past several years. On December 6 Ingushetia’s President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov claimed in an interview with the Gazeta.ru news website that since the start of the year there have been no kidnappings in Ingushetia, unlike in 2009, when nine people disappeared in the republic. Yevkurov openly admitted that government agencies were involved in those disappearances last year, saying that some of them bore “signs of security services’ actions.” Yevkurov said the number of serious crimes in Ingushetia dropped by 60 percent in the past eight months (www.gazeta.ru, December 6).

Mashr’s list of people abducted in Ingushetia has 14 entries for 2009 and one for 2010. The difference may be due to the fact that a group of Ingush were kidnapped in St. Petersburg in December 2009, which Yevkurov did not account for (http://www.mashr.org/docs/kidnapped-list.php, accessed on December 7). Several relatives of Ingush opposition leader Maksharip Aushev disappeared in St. Petersburg soon after Aushev himself was gunned down on a highway near Nalchik in Kabardino-Balkaria on October 25, 2009. Since then the practice of enforced disappearances of Ingush beyond Ingushetia’s borders has spread further, as several cases have been reported this year as well (see “Kidnappings Abound in Ingushetia and Transcend its Borders,” EDM, November 3, 2010).

Violence has hardly ceased in Ingushetia even though it may have become more muted in the past few months. On December 8, four insurgents were reportedly killed by the security forces in the area of the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya (www.ingushetia.org, December 8).

Earlier, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unexpectedly dismissed the security services’ statistics for the North Caucasus as lies. On November 19, presiding over a government meeting in Yessentuki, in the North Caucasus Federal District, Medvedev harshly criticized the security services for allowing the situation in 2010 to deteriorate.

Chechnya perhaps provides the most vivid example of the rigging of figures. Following a statement by Deputy Russian Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk that out of 352 terrorist attacks in 2010, 254 took place in Chechnya, the Chechen police stated there had been no single terrorist attack in the republic (www.echokavkaza.com, November 28). The Chechen parliament in Grozny and the hometown of Chechnya’s ruler Ramzan Kadyrov came under attack in 2010, and numerous smaller attacks took place in the republic as well.

President Yevkurov, who has completed two years in office, has attempted to use traditional Ingush institutions to control the republic. While the tradition of blood revenge remains alive in Ingushetia, he claims his government reconciled 160 warring Ingush families in 2009-2010. At the same time, some observers argue that Yevkurov’s drive to bureaucratize and control the traditional self-governing institutions of the Ingush people is wrong. The government of Ingushetia began to form “teip [clan] councils” to tap the power of Ingush informal leaders and bring them under the government’s control (www.ingushetiyaru.org, December 5).

Ingushetia’s government faces an uphill battle, trying to make the republic more attractive for private investors. The republic has one of the highest unemployment rates among the neighboring regions, which are also economically depressed. It was thought that high unemployment rate was conducive to the spread of Islamic extremism in the republic. President Yevkurov meekly admitted in his interview with Gazeta.ru: “Investors will choose Ingushetia as the last resort, if there is no other choice from among the other regions [of Russia].” At the same time, Yevkurov refuted the long held view of a direct relationship between the level of violence and the economic situation. He said that 90 percent of the people who joined the insurgency were well integrated into the society and employed (www.gazeta.ru, December 6).

Another old problem that still significantly affects Ingushetia’s society is the territorial dispute with the neighboring North Ossetia over the Prigorodny district. In 1992, the dispute erupted into a short but bloody war between the Ossetians and the Ingush. Most of the Ingush population of North Ossetia was driven out to Ingushetia or fled. Many Ingush refugees have not been able to return to their homes in North Ossetia since then. President Yevkurov took a resolute step to solve the issue, publicly stating that Ingushetia would not contest that Prigorodny district belongs to North Ossetia, but would press for the return of the refugees to their homes. Some civil activists in Ingushetia condemned Yevkurov’s relinquishment as “treachery,” but he said that 18 years of territorial dispute since the conflict had brought little relief for the Ingush refugees. North Ossetian politicians insist that Ingushetia’s government must formally abandon article 11 of Ingushetia’s constitution, which stipulates that Ingushetia will strive for the return of its lost territories (www.regnum.ru, December 7).

Despite some modest reduction in number of attacks in Ingushetia in the past several months, the baseline of the conflict does not appear to have changed dramatically. Besides the battle between the insurgency and the government, there other sources of tension, like Ossetian-Ingush relations, remain precarious. So the current situation in Ingushetia is perhaps best described as extremely fragile.