The prosecutor of the North Caucasus Military District has launched around 300 criminal cases this year involving crimes carried out by Russian servicemen in Chechnya. Pavel Krasheninnikov, the State Duma deputy who heads the independent public commission on Chechnya, said yesterday that 179 cases have gone to court. However he could name neither the exact number of people on trial nor the criminal statutes they were being tried under. According to Ella Panfilova, the former social affairs minister who is a member of the commission, those who have been charged are Russian contract soldiers who were involved in selling weapons and looting and had committed crimes while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Panfilova said the crimes committed by Russian soldiers were robbing the Kremlin of Chechens who might be loyal to Russia (Russian agencies, September 13).
Meanwhile, it is clear that the cases that have been brought represent only a fraction of the crimes being carried out by Russian servicemen in Chechnya, including high-ranking officers. No criminal cases have been launched in connection with the large-scale killing of civilians during Russian air raids on and artillery bombardments of Chechen towns and villages. Nor have there been criminal cases brought for crimes committed during so-called “cleansing” operations carried out on population centers that have been freed of Chechen guerillas. Yet, as the Monitor’s correspondent can attest to, it is certainly the case that a majority of the crimes committed by Russian servicemen occur during such “cleansing” operations. There are cases in which grenades are thrown without warning into basements where Chechen civilians are hiding. Russian soldiers often open fire on any persons who is moving, without first determining whether they are civilians or rebel fighters. In addition, there have been no criminal cases launched concerning torture carried out in so-called filtration camps, even though human rights workers have testified that gross human rights abuses take place in these camps.
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