ABUSES BY CHECHEN FORCES
In 2002 Chechen rebel forces carried out two dramatic attacks on civilians, causing enormous loss of life. The October 2002 hostage taking in a Moscow theater perpetrated by about fifty armed Chechens resulted in the deaths of 129 civilians, mostly due to the effects of a debilitating gas that Russian special forces used in their rescue operation. On December 27, 2002, Chechen forces blew up the main government building in Grozny, killing at least seventy-two civilians and wounding 210. Chechen forces also are believed to be responsible for a continuing pattern of assassinations of village administrators and other civil servants working for the pro-Moscow government in Chechnya.
Human Rights Watch researchers have repeatedly attempted to collect information outside Chechnya on the assassination campaign but found Chechen civilians reluctant to speak about abuses by Chechen fighters. Many said they feared retaliation by the fighters if it became known they had given testimony to a human rights organization. While during prior missions Human Rights Watch was able to gather some first-hand testimony on rebel abuses, during this mission this was not possible. We therefore cite cases reported in the media during the period covered by this briefing paper:
· On December 27, Nadezhda Pogosova, the deputy prosecutor of Shali district, and Alexei Klimov, the deputy prosecutor of Shatoi district, were abducted.23
· On December 25, Mukhadin Musalov, the head of the Sharoi district administration, was killed.24
· On December 18, Imran Khusiev, the head of the Tsotsin-Yurt administration, was killed, along with his two bodyguards.25
The unpublished government reports also list assassinations of at least three public officials committed by Chechen rebels. On January 1, 2003, about ten rebel fighters shot dead two Chechen police officers who worked as guards for the Chechen republic administration.26 On February 26, 2003, about five rebel fighters captured and killed another local officer, Usman Mollaev.
23 "Chechen Rebel Attacks Claim 3 Lives," Associated Press, January 9, 2003; "2 Pro-Moscow Officials Abducted in Chechnya," Interfax, January 9, 2003.
24 Chechen Committee for National Salvation, "Press Release 244: Head of Shatoi District Administration Murdered," January 7, 2003.
25 "One More Administration Head Killed in Chechnya," RIA Novosti, December 19, 2002.
26 Under international humanitarian law police who directly participate in the war effort are legitimate military targets. Other police, such as traffic police, are not. The unpublished government reports are not detailed enough to determine whether these killings were humanitarian law violations.