Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 23

On July 26, the Nobel-prize-winning humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres) issued a warning concerning what seems to be an impending human rights catastrophe in Chechnya. “Moscow has announced,” Erwin van’t Land of MSF wrote, “that the estimated 200,000 displaced [Chechen IDPs currently taking refuge in Ingushetia] are to return home before winter. All tent camps are to be dismantled and temporary accommodation centers for returnees have been opened on the outskirts of Grozny. The authorities state publicly that any return will be voluntary, but in practice deny the Chechens any choice other than to return home. In Ingushetia… complicated systems of registration and re-registration are driving a rapidly increasing number of people into obscurity. Day by day, life becomes more unbearable for the displaced [in Ingushetia]. Facilities continue to deteriorate.”

“While the pressure on Chechens to return home increases,” MSF continued, “and the authorities state that all tent camps have to be dismantled before winter, many of the displaced are being driven into invisibility. The temporary accommodation centers in Grozny are already overcrowded. There is no sewage, hardly any water and, with the scorching heat of the Caucasus summer, the risk of disease is extreme. Grozny is not a safe place, as is the case for large parts of Chechnya. War continues between the Russian army and the rebels. The authorities have stated that any return to Chechnya will be voluntary. It seems, however, that many of the displaced are given hardly any choice but to relocate” (, July 26).