Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 40

On October 10, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center issued a report entitled, “An Uncertain Future: The Challenges of Return and Reintegration for Internally Displaced Persons in the North Caucasus.” The report states that while most internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been able to benefit from international assistance, within Chechnya, the safety of returning IDPs is not ensured. “IDPs, together with the general population, are subject to grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights,” the report stated. “Living conditions for IDPs are generally harsh. There is insufficient space available in the crowded Temporary Accommodation Centers, where lodging is rudimentary, often without plumbing or other utilities. Although the government has allocated and disbursed funding particularly for compensation, payments are only for those whose previous housing was destroyed, and the sums actually received by IDPs are often insufficient to rebuild. Despite the fact that in Chechnya, pensions and some benefits are paid more or less regularly, the living conditions in Chechnya – particularly for IDPs – are bleak. There is a lack of accurate and consistent statistics on the number of IDPs in Chechnya; while the Chechen authorities acknowledge about 48,000 IDPs within Chechnya, international agencies estimate up to 180,000 IDPs within Chechnya.”

Citing the Danish Refugee Council, the report notes that outside Chechnya, some 21,000 Chechen IDPs remain in Ingushetia, “living either in the private sector or in Temporary Settlements where living conditions are often dire.” It adds that while the authorities in Ingushetia have not forcibly sent back IDPs, they have used “a combination of incentives and pressures” to persuade them to return to Chechnya. “The closure of tent camps in Ingushetia in 2004 left many IDPs with little choice but to return,” the report continues. “More recently, IDPs have been de-registered and there have been threats to close the Temporary Settlements. Protection concerns for IDPs in Ingushetia have grown, as instability has spread from Chechnya to neighboring republics. In particular, IDPs have faced discrimination and problems in obtaining necessary documentation.”

The IDPs remaining in Ingushetia from the 1992 Ingush-Ossetian conflict “have faced a special set of problems,” the report states. “They were often ineligible to receive relief from international agencies, which in some instances left them in worse circumstances than IDPs from Chechnya. Many are still unable to return to their homes in North Ossetia-Alania. As a result of the Beslan tragedy and other security incidents, they have faced increased tensions and discrimination. A group of IDPs in the village of Maiskoye, inside North Ossetia, faces particular hardships.” The report notes, however, that in 2006, Russian officials at the federal level and the level of the Southern Federal District focused “considerable attention” on the problems of IDPs originating from Prigorodny region and achieved “appreciable results,” including “the increased return of IDPs to North Ossetia, either to their place of original residence or to the newly established village, Novy, and the agreement of international agencies to incorporate assistance to IDPs from North Ossetia in their project activities.”

The problems of IDPs in Chechnya “are more about human rights than relief,” the report concludes. “IDPs are subject to grave violations committed with impunity by the security forces, including disappearances, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, and torture. The rule of law has not been restored in Chechnya. Although the court system has been restructured and is beginning to operate more effectively in some civil cases, albeit not in criminal cases, courts do not provide protection or redress for human rights violations and do not operate independently in such cases. The judicial system does not operate independently. Although international agencies and national NGOs have highlighted the human rights problems in Chechnya, they have been ineffective at producing change.”