The latest report of the Lam Center for Pluralism, a human rights organization based in Djohar (Grozny) and Nazran, Ingushetia which works closely with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, describes in its latest report conditions in the mountain region of Chechnya. Living conditions in the highland district capital of Shatoi and the village of Ulus-Kert are said to be “very poor,” while the villages of Mardy and Zony are said to have become “ghost towns.” “In other towns, people have made half-destroyed houses more or less livable or live with relatives. There is no assistance available for rebuilding destroyed houses…. The living conditions are worst in the Itum-Kalinsky and Sharoisky districts. Nothing is left of the regional capital of Itum-Kale except ruins and piles of trash…. Residents are faced with a serious lack of clothes, especially warm clothes…. According to a public health expert, the sanitation conditions in these regions are deplorable.”
“All three regions,” the Lam report continues, “used to be served by a single, 120-bed hospital in the city of Shatoi, which at the present time is being used as a base for Interior Ministry troops. The regional hospital now operates out of a private home, and patients are cared for either outside or in tents…. In the city of Shatoi, children ‘study’ in unheated tents. The school building has been completely destroyed, and the boarding school, which might also have been used to hold classes, is being used by the region’s military commander…. The most serious problem [for the schools] is the lack of heat” ([Lam] Dispatches from Chechnya, no. 9).
On March 21, the leading Russian human rights organization Memorial made public a report containing extensive criticism of the actions of the Russian military in Chechnya. In the report, Memorial asserted that “in Chechnya extrajudicial executions are becoming the norm.” Concerning the recently discovered mass dumping ground for unburied corpses located next to the main Russian military base in Chechnya, Khankala, Memorial noted that at least sixteen of the bodies found there are those of persons “who had been taken into custody by representatives of the federal forces.” A spokesman for Memorial, Andrei Cherksasov, added: “The terrible discovery at Khankala is only the tip of the iceberg” (NTV.ru, March 21).
On March 18, Amnesty International asked the UN Human Rights Commission to initiate an international investigation into the conflict in Chechnya. Amnesty called for “special investigations on torture, arbitrary executions, violence against women, and the impact of the war on children” (Agence France Presse, March 18). Three days later, on March 21, the New York-based Human Rights Watch “accused the Russian military of responsibility for a wave of disappearances, alleged torture and execution of civilians in Chechnya.” The organization noted that “the ‘disappearance,’ torture and summary execution of detainees continue, marking the transition from a classical internal armed conflict into a classical ‘dirty war,’ where human rights violations and not the conquest or defense of territory are the hallmarks” (AP, March 21).