Rights Activists Paint Grim Picture of North Caucasus Situation

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 127

Amnesty International said in a report released on June 30 that ongoing human rights abuses in Chechnya, Ingushetia and other parts of the North Caucasus give the lie to claims made by the Russia authorities that the region is generally reverting to "normal" after years of human rights abuses. The 48-page report, entitled "Rule without law: Human rights violations in the North Caucasus," details unlawful killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, alleged torture, threats to and harassment of families of those affected, and forced eviction of people displaced by earlier fighting, in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Commenting on the Russian authorities’ claim that the situation in the North Caucasus is normalizing, Tim Hancock, the campaigns director for Amnesty International’s branch in the United Kingdom, said: "Is it normal to attempt to redevelop parts of conflict-damaged Grozny, stumble across mass graves but have no system for checking which bodies they contain? Is it normal to have armed masked men surrounding family homes and carting people off in the night, in some cases taking people to their deaths? And is it normal to intimidate families who try to find about their loved one’s fate, as in the case of Ibragim Gazdiev in Ingushetia?"

As Amnesty International noted, 31-year-old Ibragim Gazdiev was reportedly seized by armed men in camouflage in the town of Karabulak, Ingushetia, in August 2007 (Jamestown Foundation, North Caucasus Analysis Volume 8 Issue 32, August 9, 2007 and Volume 8, Issue 41, October 25, 2007). "In a case typical of many others, Ibragim’s father Mukhmed has told Amnesty that he has been warned by officials to stop talking about his son’s enforced disappearance," the London-based human rights group said in a press release, noting that Gazdiev is the subject of an ongoing campaign on its part (www.amnesty.org.uk, July 1).

The Kavkazsky Uzel website on July 1 quoted Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of Mashr, a human rights non-governmental organization in Ingushetia, as saying that five people have been abducted in Ingushetia since the start of this year, compared with an analogous period in 2008, during which only one person was abducted in the republic. The website noted that Mutsolgov’s figures are higher than those of the federal investigative committee’s branch in Ingushetia, which has reported that only three people have been abducted in Ingushetia since the start of this year.

Mutsolgov said that of the five people kidnapped in Ingushetia so far this year, one was subsequently found dead in neighboring Chechnya and another was later released, while the other three have disappeared without a trace. He said that overall, the number of abductions in Ingushetia has dropped compared to the period of 2004-2005 while the number of murders in the republic has increased. Still, Mutsolgov said the current rate of kidnappings in Ingushetia, which would come to a total of around 10 if annualized, is very high. He added that of the more than 170 people kidnapped in Ingushetia since 2002, a majority of them were "definitely abducted by the power structures."

As Kavkazsky Uzel noted, Mutsolgov’s group Mashr reported in April of this year that a total of eight people were kidnapped and 212 murdered in Ingushetia in 2008 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, July 1).

Meanwhile, Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office, has expressed concern over the Kremlin’s apparent decision to cede control over counter-terrorist operations in Ingushetia to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in the wake of the June 22 attempt on the life of Ingushetia’s president Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who remains in a Moscow hospital (EDM, June 24, 25).

In a piece published in the Russia edition of Newsweek magazine on June 29, Lokshina wrote that Kadyrov essentially runs Chechnya as an "enclave" operating outside of Russia’s legal system. "Stating that his forces will investigate the attack on Yevkurov ‘through our own traditional means, and [with] vengeance [that] will be severe,’ Kadyrov is underscoring that Russian law has little relevance for him," she wrote. "The Kremlin should give this some serious thought before handing the President of Chechnya carte blanche in Ingushetia or anywhere else." Lokshina added that Kadyrov’s counter-terrorism operations in Ingushetia "may wreak havoc on Ingush society" (www.runewsweek.ru, June 29).