Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 20

On May 15, the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a 24-page report that documented what it termed the Russian government’s botched investigation of a mass dumping ground for bodies discovered in February of this year. The report claimed that the Russian authorities had literally buried evidence of extrajudicial executions. Noting that senior European Union and United Nations officials were preparing last week to hold meetings with President Putin in Moscow, and that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell would also be meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Washington, Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division, stated: “This week is a key opportunity for leaders to get some answers from the Russian government about the mass grave, and to demand a serious investigation” (Human Rights Watch, May 15).

On the following day, May 16, the chief prosecutor of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, Viktor Dakhnov, announced that “No evidence confirming these allegations [by Human Rights Watch] was found in the course of the investigations.” There was absolutely no evidence, he underlined, indicating that the fifty-one victims found at the dumping site had been killed by federal forces (Reuters, May 16). In a similar vein, the Procurator General of Russia, Vladimir Ustinov, likewise refuted the claim that Russian federal forces had been involved in the murders. “We have no evidence concerning the involvement of the federal forces in these murders,” he stated categorically (Russian agencies, May 17).