THE PLIGHT OF PEOPLE DISPLACED BY THE CHECHNYA CONFLICT
The Russian government continues to exert undue pressure on internally displaced people in Ingushetia to return to Chechnya. In January 2003 the government stopped threatening displaced persons into filling out "voluntary return" forms and refrained from forcibly closing all tent camps in Ingushetia in the winter months.27 Instead, officials have resorted to other coercive measures, such as deregistering displaced persons, thereby depriving them of access to housing and social services in Ingushetia.
In the last three months, Ingush and Chechen officials have arbitrarily removed hundreds of displaced persons from registration lists in Ingushetia, resulting in their eviction from government-sponsored accommodation. Without the financial resources needed to rent accommodation, most of these people have few options but to return to their homes in Chechnya. Human Rights Watch interviewed twelve displaced people from various camps and spontaneous settlements in Ingushetia who had been arbitrarily deregistered. Most of these people had repeatedly but unsuccessfully petitioned migration authorities for reinstatement of status; some were reinstated after paying substantial bribes.28 The human rights group "Vesta," a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees subcontractor, informed Human Rights Watch that it had received about a thousand such complaints from displaced persons.29
Law enforcement operations
In recent months, Ingush police have intimidated displaced people in a number of spontaneous settlements by conducting law enforcement operations there that strongly resemble abusive operations Russian forces conduct inside Chechnya. On January 6, 2003, Ingush police detained four men at Satsita tent camp, later returning the mutilated dead body of one of them, Visadi Shokarov (b.1972), to the settlement. Police claimed Shokarov had died in a car accident while being transferred from one detention facility to another. However, a Human Rights Watch researcher who saw the body noticed bullet wounds on his legs, casting doubt on the official version of events.30 After Shokarov's detention, his brother, Visit Shokarov, went to the local police station to inquire about his fate. Two policemen took Visit Shokarov inside and he has not been seen since.31 In another example, police rounded up dozens of young men in the Radiozavod and ORS settlements in Malgobek on February 10, 2003, without so much as checking their identity.32 Although most were later released unharmed, the displaced people interpreted the incident as a warning that Ingushetia would no longer be safe for them.
Obstruction of the building of alternative shelter in Ingushetia
In February 2003, the Ingush government ordered a halt to the construction of alternative shelter for displaced people who currently inhabit squalid tents or overcrowded rooms in spontaneous settlements. Under a project sponsored by the international community, including the European Union, and pre-authorized by Ingush authorities, humanitarian organizations were to build new living spaces for 3,000 displaced families. However, at a point when new living quarters for 180 families in the "Rassvet" settlement in Sleptsovskoe had already been built and construction of rooms for another 200 families had started, the Ingush authorities ordered the halt to construction, citing violations of local building codes and threatening to take down what had already been built.33
27 In early December 2002 the government closed a tent camp in Aki-Yurt, leaving some 1,700 displaced Chechens without shelter in subzero temperatures, and announced that five other tent camps, as well as other spontaneous settlements, would be closed shortly. However, after an international outcry over the closure of the camp in Aki-Yurt, the Russian government announced it would not proceed with the closure the other camps in Ingushetia as planned.
28 Human Rights Watch interviewed displaced persons in the MTF Altievo and Logovaz settlements and Tanzila camp in Nazran, Ingushetia.
29 Human Rights Watch interview with Musa Jabrailov, "Vesta" lawyer, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 22, 2003.
30 The Human Rights Watch researcher saw the body and interviewed the relatives on February 14, 2003.
31 Human Rights Watch interview with Vakha Shokarov, the men's father, Satsita camp, Ingushetia, March 22, 2003.
32 Human Rights Watch interview with Saidamin Rasaev, Radiozavod settlement, Malgobek, Ingushetia, March 22, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with "Movsar M.," Ors settlement, Malgobek, Ingushetia, March 22, 2003. "Movsar M." is a pseudonym.
33 For more details see "Order to Destroy Shelters for Displaced Chechens Constitutes New Obstruction of Rights," Médecins Sans Frontières press-release, March 26, 2003 at http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/pr/2003/03-26-2003b.shtml (accessed on March 31, 2003).