Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 38

Belying the authorities’ denials of continuing human-rights abuses in Chechnya, a massive zachistka security sweep paralyzed the town of Novye Atagi southeast of Grozny last week. According to an October 16 report on the website, the town’s mayor Abdula Datsaev said that its 8,000 residents were blockaded for three days. Those with jobs elsewhere were unable to get to work, and students were unable to reach their universities.

According to Datsaev, all 1500 private houses in the town were searched during the period from October 12 to October 14. A temporary detention center, surrounded by barbed wire, was set up for males of ages 14 to 60. Datsaev said that only the intervention of a commission reporting to Alu Alkhanov, president of the republic’s pro-Moscow administration, brought the security sweep to an end.

Timur Akiev, a representative of the Memorial human rights center, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the security sweep “violated not only constitutional norms and human-rights guarantees, but also regulations issued by the [federal] command on the procedures for conducting such operations.” He said that the federal servicemen entered people’s homes without identifying themselves and conducted searchers while the homeowners were absent. “There were several cases of petty theft,” he said, “such as the disappearance of money, tape players and the like.”

According to Akiev, many of those detained for questioning were beaten. All were eventually released, but one was unable to get his passport back.