Rights Group Reports on Victims of Chechnya “Amnesties”

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 20

The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) released a report on May 16 entitled “Amnestied People as Targets for Persecution in Chechnya,” which documents the fate of people who have been amnestied in Chechnya and were subsequently abducted, tortured and killed. According to the report, a number of people who heeded the call by Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Patrushev for the members of “illegal armed formations” in Chechnya to lay down their arms following the July 2006 death of Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev have met such a fate.

According to numerous accounts, the civilians “most at risk” of persecution are “amnestied militants and their relatives,” the report’s executive summary states. “They are abducted and tortured, frequently with the purpose of fabricating criminal cases against them. Some are extra-judicially executed. Many individuals were forced into an ‘amnesty’ as a result of torture, threats or coercion. Others were persuaded to do that by the law-enforcement agencies and the local administrations, which were interested in producing impressive numbers of surrendered fighters [in order] to raise their status in the eyes of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and his team.”

According to the IHF report, other victims included “supporters of the separatist movement who “never took part in the actual fighting” but may have helped the rebels in other ways and “thought that going through the amnesty process would improve their security situation and that of their families. Notably, many of those individuals were persecuted (including abducted, tortured and killed) after their ‘amnesty.’”

The report also describes what is referred to in Chechnya as Kadyrov’s “grey amnesty,” under which Kadyrov promises to ensure the safety of former rebel fighters who are ready to renounce their separatist past by joining the ranks of Kadyrov’s own armed formations. “In such cases, it does not matter whether an official amnesty act is enforced or not,” the report’s executive summary states. “If these persons then tried to leave Kadyrov’s security agencies, they would be detained as members of an illegal armed formation, or worse, would risk not only their own lives, but also the lives of their relatives.”

Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF, said in a press release that accompanied the report’s publication: “The group most at risk of grave human rights abuses in Chechnya [is] those who have been amnestied as part of the ‘virtual’ normalization process, and this pattern does nothing to establish true justice, human rights and peace.”

The IHF report can be found at: https://www.ihf-hr.org/documents/doc_summary.php?sec_id=3&d_id=4402.

Meanwhile, Interfax on May 16 quoted a Chechen law-enforcement source as saying that one person had been abducted and two others had gone missing. A resident of the village of Bilty in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district was taken from his house by unidentified individuals dressed in camouflage, and his whereabouts have not yet been determined, the source said. A woman who works as a teacher in a Grozny school failed to return home from a local market, while a man in the town of Argun was reported missing.