Rather than exhibiting “normalization,” the situation for peaceful civilians in Chechnya is actually deteriorating, according to a joint statement released on April 7 by four human rights groups–three of them western and one Russian. The groups are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, and Memorial.
The rights groups called attention especially to the threat to Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, where four major tent camps for displaced persons have been closed since last autumn, the latest on April 1. Refugees told human rights monitors, according to the joint statement, that “enforcement officials threatened to plant bullets or narcotics on them if they did not leave. Researchers of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Memorial found that similar carrot-and-stick tactics are now used in Satsita, the only remaining tent camp in Ingushetia.”
The human rights groups also used their combined resources to get updated information about the state of the temporary accommodation centers (TACs) that are being used to house refugees who return from Ingushetia to Chechnya. The joint statement reported that “on visits to four temporary accommodation centers in Grozny in late March, Human Rights Watch and Memorial researchers found that the conditions at the TACs do not meet international standards. In each TAC, rooms were overcrowded with eight or more persons sharing a fourteen-square meter room designed for six. There was no running water or functioning sewage system in any of them, and humanitarian food supplies were said to be irregular and insufficient, as many of the IDPs said they did not receive aid from humanitarian agencies.”
The joint statement reported the finding of observers from Memorial that some seventy-eight people are known to have been abducted in Chechnya during the first three months of 2004. Of these, forty-one have “disappeared.” In one case, according to the joint statement, “at around 2:00 a.m. on March 27, 2004, eight military vehicles entered the village of Duba-Yurt in the Shali region, carrying a large group of masked men in camouflage uniforms. The men conducted a targeted raid on nineteen houses and detained eleven men aged between twenty-eight and forty-four. Shortly after, the armed men released three of the men near the village but the other eight men have ‘disappeared.’ Unofficial sources have told relatives that the eight men are held at the Russian military base in Khankala. The procuracy denies they are held there.”
Confirming previous reports from various sources that the violence in Chechnya is now been spreading to Ingushetia, the joint statement noted “dozens of reports of ‘disappearances’ in 2004 alone,” as well as “a number of summary executions in recent months and attacks against civilians resulting in deaths and serious injuries.” In one recent case, “a Russian military helicopter opened fire on a passenger car parked at a riverbank near the Ingush village of Sleptsovskaya in what appeared to be a deliberate attack against unarmed civilians. When the four passengers ran from the vehicle, the helicopter targeted them with rockets. One of the passengers, twenty-year-old Musa Khamkhoev, was killed on the spot. Two other passengers, both teenagers, suffered serious wounds and were taken to the local hospital. One of them, sixteen-year-old Ibragim Khashagulgov, died from his injuries a week later.”