In an attempt to change the statistics related to the armed underground movement in the North Caucasus, which damage the image of its republics, the authorities are turning a blind eye to human rights violations in the region.
Fifteen years after the start of the Chechen campaign in the fall of 1999, the armed underground movement of militants remains the principal problem in the region. To solve it, the authorities are usually willing to turn a blind eye to unlawful actions by government agencies. Anyone who does not share the government’s view of Islam can be declared a supporter or member of the underground armed militant movement.
Groups that track human rights violations are unable to change anything. Only a handful of cases out of thousands receive proper justice (https://kavkasia.net/Russia/2013/1369419169.php). Recent reports of beatings of North Caucasus residents show that this has long been a practice of the law enforcement agencies. Such massive human rights violations in the region would not be possible without Moscow’s consent.
The police often go to great lengths to improve their statistics. For example, a resident of the village of Dolakovo in Ingushetia’s Nazran district, Alikhan Kulbuzhev, recently attempted to commit suicide after being questioned by the police and he remains hospitalized. On March 28, Kulbuzhev’s spouse reported his kidnapping (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/240184/).
Prior to Kulbuzhev’s suicide attempt, the suspect told his relatives that the police had “tortured him, put a plastic bag on his head, poured liquid in his mouth, beat him in the back around the kidney area, demanded that he confess to killing his daughter, which he did under torture.” The police did not explain how they managed to make him confess and why he was allowed to go home after the confession. After he was taken down from a rope, the suspect was hospitalized in intensive care with a fracture of the cervical spine.
Andzor Akhokhov, who was detained in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria along with others involved in a protest against the Olympics in Sochi on February 7 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4arGZKnTpM), complained to the Investigative Committee on March 11, saying that while he was detained, he was tortured and pressured by the law enforcement agencies. The Russian government refused to recognize the Circassians in the program of the Olympics in Sochi, which is the historical homeland of the Circassians, and then suppressed Circassian protests (https://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/02/11/103132.shtml).
Practically everyone who participated in this peaceful demonstration was beaten up by the police. Medical experts at the Kabardino-Balkarian republican hospital treated Akhokhov when he was brought there by ambulance several days after he was detained. Neurosurgeons diagnosed Akhokhov with a traumatic head injury, concussion and brain contusion. The experts also said that after his release on February 21, Akhokhov underwent a medical examination of his back and was diagnosed with rib fractures and back trauma (https://kabardino-balkaria.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/240180/).
In Chechnya, meanwhile, Ruslan Kutaev was arrested in the village of Achkhoi-Martan on February 20. An estimated 30 armed men participated in his arrest on charges of “illegal drug trafficking.” The armed force consisted of the guards of Ramzan Kadyrov, police officers and people without any insignias on their uniform. Kutaev was taken to the police station in Grozny on February 21 at about 1 a.m. Kutaev told his lawyer that prior to taking him to the police, he had been taken to the Chechen president’s administration in the center of Grozny, where he was put in a cell, stripped naked, beaten and tortured with electric shocks, and that his torturers also threatened his relatives (https://amnesty.org.ru/node/2839).
Ruslan Kutaev is accused of discrediting the ideas of the Chechen leadership about the deportation of the Chechen people in 1944. The anniversary of the mass deportation uncomfortably coincides with the Defender of the Fatherland Day, originally known as Red Army Day. For Chechnya’s leaders, it is unthinkable not to celebrate that day since otherwise they could be accused of disloyalty to Moscow (https://www.novayagazeta.ru/inquests/62495.html). There has been no further information about Kutaev’s fate.
In Dagestan, even lawyers are persecuted (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/170363/). This happened to one of the best known lawyers in the republic, Sapiyat Magomedova, after Malik Kambulatov, who had been illegally arrested, passed her a message about torture. “From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., I was tortured,” Kambulatov’s message said. “In particular, they used electric shocks and demanded that I confess to the handgun that they had slipped into my belongings and plead guilty. They put a plastic bag on my head and fastened it with tape, so that I could not see their faces. I cannot stand this torture anymore. If I plead guilty, I ask you not to pay attention, because I did it under torture” (https://pravozashita05.ru/kambulatov/). This is one of thousands such cases in Dagestan that rights activists are familiar with but can do nothing about.
The website of the Dagestani organization Pravozashchita (Protection of Rights) is itself a cri de coeur about the government’s disregard for law when it comes to those who do not count as “right-minded” citizens, who do not blindly believe in Vladimir Putin and what is done in the country on his behalf, who are not integrated into “Kremlin Islam,” who decide how and what to believe in Islam and do not recognize the Kremlin’s appointees in the region as the most honest people and the truest patriots of Russia. Even the slightest doubts in these postulates may cause problems for people.
Moscow is trying to transform North Caucasians into something like average Russians, who should be interested in nothing other than the price of vodka. All those who transgress these limits become potential targets of the Russian police and security services.