Kadyrov Hosts Film Festival, Activists Detained for Photographing Suspect Facility

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 24

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said on June 13 that his “favorite film” is the restoration of Chechnya’s economy, social sphere and culture now taking place. “I can state with certainty that I love to observe, day and night, the grandiose processes connected to the rebirth that is taking place in Chechnya,” Kadyrov told journalists after the opening of the Noev Kovcheg (Noah’s Ark) film festival in Gudermes, Newsru.com reported. “I saw yesterday’s terrible, tragic day in the history of the republic. Today a new day has dawned. That’s my main film. Naturally, I don’t have time to watch films, but I responsibly state that the rebirth of culture [and] the spirituality of the people is for me the most important and main task, and I am sparing neither energy nor resources to realize it. I would like it if Chechnya became an ark for the whole world, if it served as a model for high spirituality, learning and culture of a people. I would also like it if the festival became a yearly thing, with well-known figures in culture, cinema and art coming to Chechnya.”

The Noev Kovcheg film festival opened with “12,” the film by Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov about a young Chechen boy framed for the murder of his stepfather, a Russian military officer. Kadyrov closed the festival, which featured 44 films from 21 countries, on June 19.

Meanwhile, four activists with the Memorial human rights group were detained for several hours in the village of Goiti in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district after photographing a building in which people have reportedly been illegally detained, Gazeta.ru reported on June 18. The website quoted local law-enforcement officials as saying the Memorial activists did not have permission to take pictures of the building and that local residents had become concerned about the photographing. “People dressed in plain clothes who did not present documents detained our four employees,” Interfax quoted Memorial council member Aleksandr Cherkasov as saying. According to Cherkasov, the people who detained the Memorial activists said the building was a “secret object.” Cherkasov complained that the police were interested not in the crimes that have allegedly taken place inside the building, but in the fact that they might be made public. “We are greatly troubled by this incident,” Cherkasov said.

Gazeta.ru noted the fact that an illegal prison is located in Goiti became known during the investigation of the case involving two residents of Ingushetia, Magomed Osmanovich Aushev and Magomed Maksharipovich Aushev, who were abducted in the Chechen capital Grozny last September and held in Goiti. The brothers were freed following mass protests in Ingushetia (Chechnya Weekly, December 13 and September 13, 20 and 27, 2007). Memorial stated in a report on the North Caucasus issued earlier this year that its investigation had found that people were held, interrogated and tortured in a building in Goiti which formally belongs to the Urus-Martan district internal affairs department (ROVD). Memorial reported that Hussein Mutsolgov, a 21-year-old resident of the village of Surkhakhi in Ingushetia’s Nazran district, who was kidnapped in May 2007 and remains missing, was also held in Goiti (Chechnya Weekly, December 13, 2007). After Kadyrov and other Chechen officials met with Memorial representatives earlier this year, Memorial human rights center board chairman Oleg Orlov said the Chechen officials with whom he met denied the existence of an illegal prison in Goiti (Chechnya Weekly, February 29).

Meanwhile, Gazeta.ru quoted Chechen Interior Ministry officials as saying that the Memorial activists had not been detained but were simply urged to go to the ROVD and explain why they had not informed local officials why they were taking photographs in Goiti. The officials insisted that after Memorial staffers identified themselves and explained their actions, they were allowed to leave. Chechen human rights ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiev also insisted that the Memorial activists had not been detained and had in fact violated the established “norms and rules” of an area in which a counter-terrorist operation is being conducted. “We have repeatedly asked Memorial employees to cooperate with local administrations [and] law-enforcement organs, but this is not being done by them,” Gazeta.ru quoted Nukhazhiev as saying.