Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 16

The Civil Support Committee released information on April 19 concerning new abductions in Chechnya. According to Kavkazky Uzel, the committee reported that on April 18 in the Nozhai-Yurt district settlement of Sayasan, fighters from a unit called “Groza” (the unit’s affiliation was not identified) abducted Ilman Eisievich Umaev (b. 1974), his wife Madina, his father Eisa Andizovich Umaev (b. 1954) and his cousin Anzor Amkhadovich Umaev (born in either 1972 or 1973). The committee reported that the “Groza” fighters arrived at Ilman Umaev’s home on the outskirts of Sayasan at around 5AM, burst inside and shot Anzor, who was sleeping, in the leg, after which a neighbor who heard shooting went to the center of the village to get Eisa Umaev. By the time they reached Ilman Umaev’s house, the raiders had already forced Ilman, his wife Madina and the wounded Anzor outside, dragging the latter along the ground. They severely beat Eisa and also took him into custody. At around 4:00-4:30 PM that day, relatives of the Umaevs reported that they had found the bodies of Anzor and Ilman at the intersection of the roads leading to Nozhai-Yurt, Sayasan and Beno. Locals reported that they saw people, apparently security forces, photographing the bodies, which had been dressed in military uniforms to give the impression that they were rebel fighters who had been killed in action. According to the Umaev relatives, Eisa Umaev and Ilman’s wife are being held in the village of Beno.

According to Kavkazky Uzel, Ilman Umaev fought on the side of the separatists from 1999 to 2003. In 2003, unknown Chechen-speaking gunmen wearing ski masks abducted his older brother, leaving Ilman the only remaining son in the family. He quit the armed struggle and swore on the Koran that he would no longer participate in it. He was accepted into Akhmad Kadyrov’s bodyguard unit, but quit after a short time. Umaev has three small children. His father Eisa, according to relatives, was never involved with either side of Chechnya’s armed conflict.

Ilman’s cousin, Anzor Umaev, fought on the side of the separatists in the first Chechen war, during which he lost an eye and was partially paralyzed on his right side (he walks with a limp and has no use of right arm). As a result of being wounded he also suffers from memory loss and bradyphrenia. In 2001 or 2002, while on the run from the authorities, Anzor traveled to Azerbaijan, from where he planned to travel to Turkey for treatment, but was arrested and convicted of involvement in “illegal armed formations.” In 2004, after three years in a Siberian prison camp, he was amnestied and returned to Chechnya.

Citing the Memorial human rights center, Kavkazky Uzel reported on April 14 that Lecha Sultanovich Tazabaev, who was living in a dwelling inside the “Okruzhnaya” temporary accommodation center set up for returning refugees in Grozny’s Oktyabrsky district, was kidnapped there on April 12 by three armed men in camouflage uniforms apparently belonging to “a local power structure” who arrived in a BMW. According to eyewitnesses, the car pulled up to the Tazabaevs’ residence, where they were first met by Lecha Tazabaev’s mother. When he came outside after the armed men began arguing with his mother, one of the intruders asked for his name and, upon his answer, said that he was the one for which they were looking. The armed men forced Tazabaev into their car and drove away. Tazabaev’s relatives received no answers when they inquired about his whereabouts at the republican Interior Ministry and prosecutor’s office. On April 13, residents of the “Okruzhnaya” temporary accommodation center planned to block a nearby road to protest the abduction, but agreed not to after members of the Oktyabrsky police force and officials from the office of the Chechen Republic’s human rights ombudsmen assured them that Lecha Tazabaev would be returned to his home. That did not happen, however, and residents held a protest demonstration on the evening of April 13.

As Kavkazky Uzel noted, Tazabaev’s abduction followed the April 9 detention of Bilat Chilaev, a driver for the Chechen office of the Civil Support Committee, who was seized by masked members of an unknown power structure while leaving the village of Sernovodsk, where local law enforcement agencies were conducting a massive manhunt for people involved in the April 8 murder of three village residents, including an official of Chechnya’s Anti-Terrorist Center. A Grozny resident, Aslan Israilov, was seized along with Chilaev (see Chechnya Weekly, April 13). According to Memorial, officials of Chechnya’s Interior Ministry told Civil Support Committee Chairwoman Svetlana Gannushkina that Chilaev would be released “today or tomorrow,” but the two abductees’ whereabouts remain unknown. Gannushkina told Interfax on April 14 that she had sent appeals to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International asking for assistance in determining Chilaev’s fate.

Commenting on Chilaev’s disappearance, Memorial noted: “Such a thing takes place against the backdrop of constant statements by the republican and federal authorities that the power departments are fighting against the kidnapping of people and have achieved significant success in this matter.”

Meanwhile, the Prava cheloveka v Rossii (“Human Rights in Russia”) website, Hro.org, on April 13 quoted Dmitry Grushkin of Memorial as saying that 30 residents of Chechnya had been killed and 45 abducted since the start of this year. Of these, 21 were freed, three were found dead, 13 disappeared without a trace and eight were found to be in police custody, Grushkin said. Memorial’s estimate of the number of people abducted this year falls in between that of Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, who recently put the number at 14, and the Nazran-based Council of Non-Governmental Organizations, which gave a figure of at least 207 people (see Chechnya Weekly, April 13).