I went further down the street. On Mazaeva 142, I saw seventy-two-year-old Magomed Gaitaev's body. His glasses were hanging on a fence. He was lying in a pool of blood. A dog was licking the blood. He had wounds on his head and chest.
The conscripts said they had an order to kill everyone. "Behind us are Orel OMON, we don't know what they'll do with you."
As soldiers spread through Aldi, they engaged in an orgy of killing, arson, and rape. Human Rights Watch has eye witness testimony describing the murder of eight people; in each case the witnesses identified the killers as Russian contract soldiers. We also have detailed testimonies describing thirty-two other bodies found on February 5. Each instance has been compiled from testimony from at least two sources, and in most instances the killings are confirmed by multiple witnesses. At least sixty people were summarily executed that day, although that figure should in no way be considered exhaustive.28
Human Rights Watch has been able to confirm the executions of at least sixty civilians by Russian forces on February 5. Fifty-two of the victims were men, eight were women. Forty-four of the victims were forty years of age and over, and the average age of the victims that day was forty-seven. The oldest victim, a woman named Rakat Akhmadova, was eighty-two, the youngest, Khassan Estamirov, was one year old.
It is unclear what precisely motivated these units to commit the mass murder of Aldi civilians. Some believe that the soldiers had been involved in heavy fighting, perhaps around Minutka Square, where fighting raged for morethan two weeks before it fell to Russian forces on January 31. According to this interpretation, Russian forces sought to avenge the heavy losses endured through the previous two weeks.29 It is absolutely clear, however, that the violence in no way can be construed to have served a military purpose. There are no reports whatsoever of any Chechen fighter activity in Aldi that day or previously, there was no evidence of fire fight during which civilians may have perished, nor are there any accounts of spontaneous armed resistance to the Russian soldiers in Aldi by the civilian population, individually or collectively. On the contrary, while Aldi's residents may not have welcomed the arrival of Russian soldiers per se, they clearly believed that it signified the end of the fighting, something that many had been waiting for several months.
In perpetrating the massacre at Aldi, Russian forces unquestionably committed acts that amount to war crimes. Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions, which applies to internal armed conflicts, strictly forbids summary executions.30 Protocol II additional to the Geneva Conventions also protects civilian immunity in internal armed conflicts and specifically prohibits violence to life protected persons.31
Killings on Matasha-Mazaeva Street and Environs
Matasha-Mazaeva Street runs the length of Aldi and is the central street of the village. Judging by the eyewitness accounts, it appears the Russian soldiers walked down this street first and then spread out through the village. This perhaps explains why the majority of the victims killed that day were those staying on Matasha-Mazaeva Street.
The killing of Akhmed Abulkhanov, Zina Abdulmezhidova, and Khussein Abdulmezhidov
At about 3:00 p.m., soldiers shot sixty-eight-year-old Akhmed Abulkhanov and his neighbors, sixty-year-old Zina Abdulmezhidova and her forty-seven-year-old brother, Khussein Abdulmezhidov. The three were shot in the Abdulmezhidov's yard on Third Tsimliansky Lane. A group of soldiers had come to Abulkhanov's house at 145 Matasha-Mazaeva Street demanding money. Abulkhanov went to the Abdulmezhidovs' to borrow some; dissatisfied by the small amount, the soldiers, who had accompanied Abulkhanov, shot him and the Abdulmezhidovs.
Throughout the day on February 5, multiple groups of soldiers came to the home of Akhmed Abulkhanov at 145 Matasha-Mazaeva Street in central Aldi. Abulkhanov's daughter-in-law, Luisa Abulkhanova, described to Human Rights Watch that she began to hear shooting around 9:00 a.m. that day, and that a group of soldiers that came to the house shot the family dog. According to Abulkhanova, in response to the family's complaints the soldiers retorted "you should thank us for not shooting you."32 Later that morning, around 11:00 or 12:00, she and Abulkhanov looked out from their yard into the street and saw the dead bodies of their neighbors. "We were scared to go into the street. But we just thought that we should drag the bodies into the yard," she told Human Rights Watch.33
Around 3:00 p.m., Abulkhanov asked another group of soldiers that came to the house for permission to bury the bodies; they refused, saying that he could recover the bodies that night. Soon after, another group of soldiers, the seventh that day, came to the Abulkhanov house, put all the family members against a wall, and demanded money. Abulkhanova told Human Rights Watch:
They were more scary-they came in shouting and yelling . . . . They shouted and swore [at us] to get out. I think that they were contract soldiers-their faces were very dirty and it was difficult to recognize them. They were wearing white snow uniforms . . . . My father-in-law handed them his documents but they threw them into the yard. We were put against the wall in the yard; my father-in-law, mother-in-law, their niece and twelve-year-old son, Islam, and myself. They continued swearing and took the twelve-year-old boy aside, saying he was a future fighter.
My father-in-law said "Guys, what are you doing?" The soldiers struck him in the heart with a rifle-butt-my father-in-law has a heart condition. They started asking for wine, money, and gold. The women took off their earrings and gave them to the soldiers. We said we didn't have any wine in the house. They then demanded money-they didn't believe we didn't have any. My father-in-law said that he would borrow money from a neighbor. One soldier went with Abulkhanov to the Abdulmezhidov home [on Third Tsimliansky Lane], where he was able to borrow 300 rubles. The soldiers were not happy with 300 rubles and shot him and Zina and Khussein Abdulmezhidov in their yard.34
A Human Rights Watch researcher interviewed two other witnesses who saw the body of Akhmed Abulkhanov. The bodies of Zina Abdulmezhidova and Khussein Abdulmezhidov are depicted alongside Abulkhanov's in a home video, filmed by an Aldi resident on February 9, of the victims of the February 5 killings.35
Abulkhanova described how, in a separate incident, but at about the same time, a soldier threatened to execute Zina Abdulmezhidova's daughter-in-law, Malika Labazanova, about forty-five years old, in a nearby yard. She told Human Rights Watch what she learned from Malika:
There were two soldiers in the neighbors' yard. One of them wanted to see the house-he asked Malika Labazanova . . . After he checked the house, the soldier wanted to shoot her. She kneeled, begging him not to do it. He replied, "These bullets belong to you, lie down and don't move" and fired into the air. He said that if the commander learns that he didn't kill her, he [the commander] will kill "both you and me."36
The killing of Kaipa, Avalu Sugaipov, Abdulla and Salamu Magomadov, and two unidentified men
Kaipa, whose surname and permanent address is unknown, had been staying, together with her nine-year-old daughter, at Avalu Sugaipov's house at 152 Matasha-Mazaeva Street. Beginning in February, Sugaipov also hosted two men who had no identification papers and who were not from Aldi. At some point at midmorning, soldiers shot all of them-except Leila, the nine-year-old girl-and set the house on fire.
Raisa Soltakhanova, a thirty-nine-year-old hospital cook and Aldi resident, lived at 183 Matasha-Mazaeva Street, directly across from the Sugaipovs' home. During the shelling of Aldi, she had taken shelter with Sugaipov, Kaipa, Leila, and the Magomadovs, among others, in a neighbor's cellar. Soltakhanova told Human Rights Watch that they all emerged from the cellar at around 6:00 a.m. on February 5 and went to their respective homes. By 9:00 a.m., she reported, soldiers had made their way through Matasha-Mazaeva Street from Okruzhnaia Street, and had arrived at her house. She told Human Rights Watch:
My mother and I were putting up plastic sheeting when the soldiers came at 9:00 a.m. The soldiers were wearing black scarves, some had knitted hats. They were wearing camouflage uniforms. They came from the beginning of the street breaking the gates of unoccupied houses by shooting out the locks. They tried first with their feet; if it didn't yield, they then shot it out.
A soldier ran into my yard. He shouted, "They are angry, they are killing everyone, go into the house." He was short with small eyes, about twenty-five years old. He had the same uniform as the others. It seemed like he was a conscript soldier. He made my mother and me go into our house and closed the door.37
Another soldier then arrived and told Soltakhanova and her family to go outside. Raisa described to Human Rights Watch what they saw:
My mother, two sons and I went out into the yard and we saw Magomadov's house...on fire. My two sons were crying when they saw the fire. There was one soldier in the yard, another brought nine-year-old Leila from Avalu's house, she had a can of beef in her hand.
I asked Leila where her mother was. She said that she had been killed. Then I asked where Avalu was; she said that he had also been killed.38
Soltakhanova went to Sugaipov's home at about midday to see for herself what had happened. She found Kaipa lying face down in a pool of blood, and saw the right-hand building in his family compound in flames. She described to Human Rights Watch what she saw: "Kaipa's eyes were open, she was covered in blood. The two unknown men were lying on the steps. One had been shot in the eye."
According to Soltakhanova, Leila described to her what the soldiers had done:
Leila said first her mother was killed, then the two men were killed as they left. Avalu was killed inside the hall. He said, "What are you doing? Why are you killing people?" He was shot, then something inflammable was put on the lower part of his body. The house burned down. We were unable to put out the flames. We took the bodies into the next house.39
Asiat Chaadaeva, a thirty-two-year-old nurse who attempted to help many of the victims on February 5, also went to Sugaipov's house soon after the killings. She confirmed Soltakhanova's account of the scene at Sugaipov's home:
When I entered the yard, I saw Kaipa's body lying by the gates, almost cut in two, face down in a pool of blood. She was on her knees, bent over. The left part of her head was smashed. The bullet wounds were in an arc on her left side. The body almost split in two when I tried to lift it.
Another man, over forty-five, had a large hole in his eye and cheek. He was lying on the stairs, his feet were on the stairs and his head was on the ground, face down. His head had also been burned, his boots and legs were still burning.
In the hall of the house, we found Avalu's body. He was lying on his back, his arms raised . . . . His body was burned beyond the fourth degree.
Chaadaeva told Human Rights Watch what Leila had told her about the ordeal:
The girl cried, "Don't kill me!" and came out from under the bed. A soldier put a scarf over her head and took her under his arm [apparently so she would not see the bodies]. She saw her mother, lying in a pool of blood. The soldier put her down in the street near the neighboring house and gave her a can of beef. He told her to wait there.40
Chaadaeva stated that Leila stayed with her for a week after the killings until her relatives came to take her away. She stated that Leila needed injections every night in order to sleep.
Following her discovery of the killings at Avalu Sugaipov's home, Soltakhanova then went to check on Abdulla and Salamu Magomadov. The Magomadovs' home-which consisted of a two-story house and another, small house in the yard-was located across the street and three houses away from Soltakhanova's. The burning Magomadov home was plainly visible from Soltakhanova's. Soltakhanova told Human Rights Watch that when she arrived at the Magomadovs' she saw that both buildings were burning. "I didn't see any bodies in the yard. I called out for them, but there was no reply. I thought that the soldiers had taken them away. I later learned that their bodies had been burned in the cellar."41
Asiat Chaadaeva described finding the remains of Abdulla and Salamu Magomadov several days later:
Pensioner Salamu and Abdulla Magomadov were burned along with their house on 162 Mazaeva.42 Their house burned for two to three days. We found the jaw bone of Salamu-his lower jaw had his false teeth. We found a knee-bone, spine, and scalp nearby and put the bones into a pan.43
The killings of Gula Khaidaev and Rakat Akhmadova
Russian soldiers shot seventy-six-year-old Gula Khaidaev and his cousin, eighty-two-year-old Rakat Akhmadova, outside his home at 162 Matasha-Mazaeva Street.
Four witnesses interviewed by a Human Rights Watch researcher saw Khaidaev's body shortly after he was killed. Asiat Chaadaeva described seeing his body lying with a head wound on Matasha-Mazaeva Street on February 5, passport in hand; she also said that she saw Akhmadova's body on Matasha-Mazaeva Street and that she had been shot in the neck and in the chest.44 Raisa Soltakhanova also came across Khaidaev's body and reported that she dragged it into the yard of his home and covered it with slate. She also said he had been shot in the head and that his home had been set on fire.
On February 26, Khaidaev's daughter-in-law, Malika Khaidaeva, returned to Aldi from Ingushetia to check on him. She learned about what had happened from neighbors who said they witnessed the killings. Khaidaeva told Human Rights Watch what her neighbors had told her:
At 8:00 a.m., my father-in-law's cousin, Rakat Akhmadova, went to visit him. She was shot dead along the way. Gula heard her screams and ran out of his house and was himself shot dead. Our neighbors witnessed the killings. The neighbors said that the ring-bearing fingers on Rakat's hands were severed, her gold teeth extracted and a gold chain she usually wore around her neck was missing.
The soldiers wore scarves on their heads-they were contract soldiers. The neighbors are in shock; they don't want to leave.45
The killing of Shamkhan Baigiraev
On February 5, soldiers detained Shamkhan Baigiraev, a thirty-two-year-old man, at his home at 42 First Matasha-Mataeva Lane; they subsequently executed him. When Russian OMON troops returned to Aldi on February 10, they discovered his half-burned body in a cellar on Voronezhskaia Street, across the road from the school. One Aldiresident, Akhmed A. (not his real name), who recovered Baigiraev's body from the cellar, believes Baigiraev was detained because soldiers who detained him found it suspicious that his driver's license was issued in May 1999, during Chechnya's period of de facto independence. Imran I. (not his real name), who buried Baigiraev, told Human Rights Watch that Baigiraev "didn't have his documents when the soldiers came checking. He was taken away, despite the pleas of his relatives. The soldiers took him away just to check. His mother went to the kommandatura [command post] to try to find him."46
Akhmed A. told Human Rights Watch what he had learned from Baigiraev's mother about the circumstances of Baigiraev's detention:
Soldiers took Baigiraev-his mother and younger brother, Issa, were at home-and led him [away]. His mother followed them, the soldiers fired into the air and scared her away. All she noticed was that they led him away to the right.47
According to Akhmed A. and Imran I., on February 10 Russian soldiers returned, began detaining Chechen males, and found Baigiraev's body in the cellar on Voronezhskaia Street. After learning about the body from the soldiers, villagers set about removing it. Among those detained on February 10 was Issa Baigiraev, Shamkhan's younger brother. Akhmed A. told Human Rights Watch:
. . . later, another group of soldiers came with trucks and APCs48 and rounded up all the men they could find. They picked up sixteen men, including Issa Baigiraev. His mother started screaming, saying last time, her elder son was taken away and now they were taking her younger one. Then one of the soldiers went up to her brother-in-law's wife and said that the half-burned corpse of Shamkhan was in Anderbek Khamadov's house. His driver's license was there. He received the license in May 1999-when soldiers checked his papers, a soldier said there was no authority in 1999, and that was the reason for his arrest. Akhmed took out the body from the cellar with others.49
Issa Baigiraev and the other fifteen men were released that day.
The killing of Rizvan Umkhaev and Issa Akhmadov
Issa Akhmadov, thirty-five, was an Aldi resident who had been released from prison in Russia in mid-1999, reportedly under a general amnesty. He lived on the corner of Matasha- Mazaeva and Kamskaia streets. His friends told Human Rights Watch that since his release, he had not obtained any identity documents, likely due to the fact that the Chechen administration following the first war had not issued passports.50 Akhmadov reportedly worried that he would be detained once soldiers arrived in Aldi for not having identity documents and so asked seventy-year-old Rizvan Umkhaev to stay with him, in the belief that Umkhaev's age and concomitant status as an elder would afford him some protection. Umkhaev's daughter, Raisa Soltakhanova explained to Human Rights Watch, "He asked my father to stay with him since Rizvan was an old man and he was likely to be respected."51
Asiat Chaadaeva, a thirty-two-year-old nurse from Aldi, was one of the first to arrive at the scene after the soldiers had left Matasha-Mazaeva Street and discovered the men's bodies. According to Chaadaeva, Umkhaev had his passport in his hand, suggesting that he had been ready to show it to the soldiers. She told Human Rights Watch:
I saw Rizvan Umkhaev's body. He had been shot in the chest. There were five or six bullet holes. He was lying on the road on Mazaeva Street. We couldn't wrest the passport out of his hand later due to rigor mortis. There was also the body of a young man, about thirty-five.52
Raisa Soltakhanova and her sister, Luisa Umkhaeva, arrived at about the same time. Soltakhanova told Human Rights Watch:
I then went to Issa's house, which is next to Sultan Timirov's. In the yard I saw Issa's and my father's bodies. They were also face down. I thought that my father had been shot in the face because of the blood. My sister showed me the wound from the top of the head. Issa was also shot in the upper head, he had similar wounds. My father had his passport in his hand.
There was a small store room in the yard which was not burning. My sister and I quickly put the bodies in there. It was too difficult to take the passport, we left it in his hand. My mother was waiting for us at home.53
The killing of Sultan Timirov
Sultan Timirov, about fifty, lived at 170 Matasha-Mazaeva Street. Human Rights Watch is still investigating the circumstances of his death. Several witnesses saw his corpse lying his yard. It had been decapitated and was torn apart by multiple bullet wounds. Aldi residents searched several days for Timirov's head, but never found it. One of Timirov's next-door neighbors, Akhmed A., told Human Rights Watch that they "identified the body [as Timirov's] by his clothes and documents."54
Asiat Chaadaeva, who also saw Timirov's corpse, said that it had been "split into several parts. The bullets went up his spine, we couldn't pick up his body-it was in pieces. My brother, who also saw the body, thought that it had been blown off by a rifle-launched grenade."55
These and other witnesses stated that Timirov's house had been set on fire and was still burning when they discovered his body.
The killing of Magomed Gaitaev
Russian contract soldiers shot dead seventy-two-year-old Magomed Gaitaev in front of his home at 140 Matasha-Mazaeva Street. Musa M. (not the man's real name) witnessed the killing. He told Human Rights Watch that he watched from the gates of a nearby house on Matasha-Mazaeva Street as Gaitaev fell after the soldiers had shot him.56 A second witness, Akhmed A., who helped bury Gaitaev, stated that he had been shot in the mouth and that the lower part of his face was missing.57 Raisa Soltakhanova, who also saw the body, confirmed that he had been shot in the mouth. She told Human Rights Watch:
My sister's brother-in-law, Magomed Gaitaev, . . . was staying in Aldi alone; I went to see him. He had been shot in the mouth, his body was lying outside the gates. He had working gloves on-he was always working, sweeping the yard, repairing something. His roof was damaged on the third [ofFebruary], he was repairing it that day. His jaw was broken, he was possibly shot in the side of the mouth. We brought his body into the house.58
The killing of Ruslan Mezhidov
Soldiers killed twenty-one-year-old Ruslan Mezhidov, who had been registered as an internally displaced person in Ingushetia and returned to Aldi on January 24 to assist his mother and sister also to leave Chechnya. According to Aina Mezhidova, his mother, the exit routes out of Grozny were blocked in early February, leaving Ruslan trapped in Aldi.
Mezhidova witnessed the murder of her son. She reported to Human Rights Watch that soldiers came to her house on Matasha-Mazaeva Street at 3:20 p.m., after she had returned from the cellar on Second Tsimliansky Lane,59 and shot her son dead at close range. The same soldiers knocked her unconscious. Mezhidova told Human Rights Watch:
I went to 140 Matasha-Mazaeva and waited in the house. [Soldiers] asked us to go into the street and wait for the [other] soldiers there. My son stepped out first and the soldiers shot him.
I tried to stop my son, so I could go out first. He didn't listen and went out first. The soldiers said, "Come out with your hands in your pockets." He was shot from two meters near his eye. The bullet exited the back of his head, smashing it. I rushed to my son and a soldier hit me with the butt of his rifle in the neck. I fell unconscious . . . for forty-five minutes.60
Mezhidova stated that her neighbors later took her in at a different cellar. That evening, Mezhidova's house was burned down, she believes by the same contract soldiers who shot her son and other Aldi residents.
The killing of Lom-Ali Idigov
Lom-Ali Idigov, about thirty-five, was killed when Russian soldiers forced him into a cellar on Irtyshskaia Street and then tossed a grenade in. Idigov's brother Musa, about forty, was injured in the blast.
Luisa Umkhaeva told Human Rights Watch that Musa Idigov told her about the murder. According to Umkhaeva, Idigov said that Russian soldiers came to the Idigov's home at 3 Irtyshskaia Street, and asked the brothers where their cellar was. Upon learning that there was no cellar in their house, the soldiers took the brothers to a neighbor's house-at 5 Irtyshskaia Street - pushed them into that cellar and threw in two grenades. These grenades killed Lom-Ali outright, while Musa Idigov suffered only a concussion.61
In a separate interview, Akhmed A., who buried Idigov and fifteen other February 5 victims found on or near Matasha-Mazaeva Street in a temporary grave, gave an account that confirmed what Umkhaeva had told Human Rights Watch. The burials were conducted on February 9.62
The killing of Khavazh Rasaev
V. (name withheld), a thirty-eight-year-old Aldi resident, saw the body of Khavazh Rasaev, aged about forty-seven, lying on Matasha-Mazaeva Street. V. told Human Rights Watch that Rasaev had three bullet wounds: one to the head and two to the chest. V. stated that Rasaev was shot about fifty meters from V's home. V. told Human Rights Watch:
There were many groups of soldiers. When I heard the shots, I decided not to go home. I stayed at Third Tsimliansky Lane. When Rasaev was shot, I was standing at the intersection of Uralskaia Street and Tsimliansky Lane at about 8:30 a.m. [about 100 meters from where Rasaev was shot] I heard shooting and decided not to go home.63
The killing of Avalu and Bilal Arsamirzoyev 64
On February 5, soldiers shot two brothers, fifty-four-year-old Avalu Arsamirzoyev and forty-nine-year-old Bilal Arsamirzoyev, on or near Matasha-Mazaeva Street. Luisa Abulkhanova, a neighbor, saw their covered bodies lying in the street. She said she learned from other local residents that a further member of the Arsamirzoyev family, eighteen-year-old Bakar, survived by hiding in a small cellar under the kitchen.65
The Area of Voronezhkskaia Street
The killing of Alvi Ganaev, his two sons, Aslanbek and Sulumbek, Ramzan Elmurzaev, Vakha Khakimov, Umar, and Abdurakhman Manaev
Alvi Ganaev (about sixty) and his two sons, Aslanbek (about thirty-four) and Sulumbek (about twenty-nine) were killed by Russian soldiers between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 on the corner of Voronezhskaia and Khoperskaia streets. They apparently were on their way home (they lived at nearby 85 Brianskaia Street) from repairing a roof. Two female members of the family-Malika, about fifty, and Luisa, about thirty-nine-were wounded. Twenty-six-year-old L. witnessed the killings and heard Malika Ganaeva screaming for help. He had taken shelter in a cellar on Brianskaia Street.
Fifteen soldiers came-contract soldiers. There were fifteen on each street-my house is the tenth from the corner. As we came out with our passports, the soldiers opened fire. My neighbors at the beginning of the street, a father and two sons from the Ganaev family, were killed. Two women from the family were wounded. Malika was wounded in the ear.
I was outside, I heard the gunfire and saw them falling and heard Malika screaming, "Please help!" We all ran back to our cellars. The soldiers ordered the people out of the cellars warning that they would throw grenades in. The soldiers swore, saying, "Get out you sons of bitches, we'll kill you all, we have orders." We heard grenades exploding in the cellars up the street. This occurred between 11a.m. and none.66
Aina Mezhidova told Human Rights Watch that she saw the bodies of Alvi Ganaev and his two sons.67
The killing of Ramzan Elmurzaev
Both Aina Mezhidova and Asiat Chaadaeva, in separate interviews with Human Rights Watch, said that the same soldiers who killed the Ganaevs later shot and fatally wounded Ramzan Elmurzaev as he helped to drag the bodies of the Ganaevs from the street to a nearby yard. Asiat Chaadaeva said that soldiers shot Elmurzaev in the stomach and that he died from internal bleeding in the early hours of February 6.68
Yusup Musaev stated that he heard the shots that fatally wounded Ramzan Elmurzaev as he was carrying bodies away that afternoon (see below). Yusup stated that, "At that time I was in the yard, but I heard the shots, but didn't think about it-by then gunfire was a normal sound."
The discovery of the bodies of Vakha Khakimov and Abdurakhman, Suliman, Yakub, and Umar Musaev
On the morning of February 5, sixty-year-old Yusup Musaev was at a neighbor's house at 122 Voronezhskaia Street. Two of Yusup's nephews, fifty-one-year-old Yakub Musaev and thirty-five -year-old Suliman Musaev, had also been present but left the house that same morning. Yusup Musaev told Human Rights Watch:
Aba Maasheva, she is about eighty-years-old and has two nephews, was frightened and came to our house with her fifteen-year-old grandson. She said next to house number 112 there were two dead bodies.69
A few minutes later, Musaev told Human Rights Watch, about seven Russian soldiers in camouflage uniforms came to the house and forced Musaev and three others, including the fifteen-year-old boy, to lie face-down in the snow for half an hour while they searched the house. The soldiers warned Musaev not to leave to check on the dead bodies, reportedly saying "if you leave, you'll end up lying next to them."
Musaev said that for the next two to three hours, there was continual gunfire, and for that reason he did not dare leave. However, at about 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., Musaev decided to look for his relatives. He walked through the yards of houses and through back ways, emerging on the corner of Voronezhskaia and Khoperskaia Streets. There, he told Human Rights Watch, he saw four bodies in a pile, with one other body in the entrance of 112 Voronezhskaia Street and yet one more nearby. He said that the four bodies in the pile were Alvi, Aslanbek, and Sulumbek Ganaev (see above), along with his cousin, Abdurakhman Musaev. The body of another of Yusup's cousins, Umar Musaev, was lying in the doorway with the body of Vakha Khakimov lying nearby; they had all been shot.
Thirty-one-year-old Zhanna Mezhidova also saw the body of Khakimov, whom she identified as living on Second Almazny Lane. She told Human Rights Watch:
I saw the body on Voronezhskaia. His name is Vakha . . . about forty-three-years-old. He had been repairing the roof. He was shot in the chest and was covered in blood. The men did not allow women to examine the body and took it into the house so cats and dogs wouldn't didn't eat it.70
Yusup Musaev stated that he carried away the bodies of Umar, Abdurakhman, and Khakimov with others back to his house on Voronezhskaia Street, while relatives of the Ganaevs' carried away their bodies. He told Human Rights Watch that he buried Umar and Abdurakhman Musaev in the courtyard of 118 Voronezhskaia Street.
In the late afternoon, Musaev noticed that the house of his brother, Ibragim Musaev, 116 Voronezhskaia Street, was on fire. He told Human Rights Watch that "we tried to put out the fire, but we failed, it was too late. By then it was getting dark, and my nephews were missing, so we went home."
At about 8:00 p.m, three of Musaev's neighbors came to his house. They said that they had just found the bodies of Musaev's nephews, Suliman and Yakub Musaev near 22 Khoperskaia Street and had dragged them to 122 Voronezhskaia Street. Yusup told Human Rights Watch:
I went to see, and took matches so I would be able to see their bodies. They had been shot. Then all of us went out. We were trying to collect bodies, because we were worried the cats and dogs wouldget to them. I took my nephews back to house number 112. We had no one to dig graves for them, ....and so until February 12 we didn't bury them, but dug a pit and put them there, because we knew they would have to be reburied anyway. We cleaned them a little bit first.71
Podolskaia Street: The killing of five members of the Estamirov family
Russian soldiers shot dead five members of the Estamirov family at 1 Podolskaia Street, about ten minutes' walk from central Aldi: sixty-seven-year-old Khasmagomed Estamirov, his son, thirty-seven-year-old Khozh-Akhmed Estamirov, the latter's wife, twenty-nine-year-old Toita Estamirova, who was eight months pregnant, her one-year-old son, Khassan Estamirov, and Khasmagomed Estamirov's cousin, fifty-year-old Saidakhmed Masarov. Human Rights Watch researchers spoke at length to the surviving members of the family who were not in Chechnya at the time of the killings. They related in detail what two other relatives who discovered the killings had in turn told them. They said the latter are too afraid to leave Chechnya to speak about what happened. The daughter of Khasmagomed Estamirov, Leila Yandareva, traveled to Chechnya to attend the reburial of her family members' bodies. She gave Human Rights Watch researchers copies of the reburial photographs.
V. (name withheld) is a family member who discovered the bodies and told his brother, Sultan S. (not the man's true name) what he saw. Sultan S. related this account to Human Rights Watch. According to Sultan S., V. stated that on February 4, the Estamirov's Russian neighbors were killed when their house took a direct hit at approximately midday during the last hours of the shelling of Aldi.72 Sultan S. said that, believing the fighting to be over, the Estamirov family was happy on February 5 that they had managed to survive. That morning, conscript soldiers came to their home and checked their passports. These conscripts reportedly warned that the group of soldiers following them was extremely severe-"they are like beasts"-and advised the Estamirovs to be very careful.
That afternoon, V., along with four other male friends went to the central Minutka district of Grozny to search for food and water. On the way back, V. asked his companions to accompany him to check on the Estamirov home. V. reportedly stated that upon coming closer to Aldi, they heard gunshots. As they approached Podolskaia Street, they saw the Estamirov house in flames and a Russian army armored personnel carrier leaving the corner of Podolskaia. They discovered that the entire two-story house and the family car were in flames.
V. found the bodies of his father, Khasmagomed, brother, Khozh-Akhmed, lying close together in the yard. V. reportedly told Sultan S. that Khasmagomed Estamirov had many bullet wounds to his chest. The bodies were burnt but recognizable, with bullet wounds still visible. According to Sultan S., V. then saw the bodies of Toita Estamirova and her one-year-old son, Khassan, under the awning in the yard. V. allegedly stated that Khassan had two or three bullet wounds to the head, while Toita had bullet wounds to the stomach and chest. V. found the body of Said-Akhmed Masarov, half-burning, lying across the doorway to the house.
V. allegedly told Sultan S. that with the help of his companions, he put out the flames on the bodies and quickly dug a temporary grave, fearful that the soldiers would return. Sultan stated that V. has since suffered a nervous breakdown and remains in Grozny, too afraid to travel. The family told Human Rights Watch that three days after one of their relatives gave an interview to the Russian service of Radio Liberty on March 8, soldiers returned to Podolskaia Street looking for them.
A second family relative, B. (name withheld), with whom Leila Yandareva also spoke, gave a description of the killings that closely corresponded to the account provided by Sultan S.
Tsimlianskaia Street and environs
The killing of Khampash Yakhiaev, Musa Yakhiaev, and Elena Kuznetsova
At around 1:00 p.m., soldiers killed forty-two-year-old Khampash Yakhiaev and his cousin, forty-eight-year-old Musa Yakhiaev, and an eighty-year-old Russian woman whose name is believed to be Elena Kuznetsova, as they emerged from a cellar on Second Tsimliansky Lane.
Fifty-three-year-old Aina Mezhidova witnessed the murders, and described to Human Rights Watch the appearance of the soldiers as being between thirty-five and forty years of age, with some wearing headscarves and others in masks. She stated that they were all wearing either grey or green military camouflage uniforms.
At approximately 1:00 p.m., Mezhidova was with the Yakhiaevs, Kuznetsova, and a Chechen woman named Koka and her daughter Nurzhan, in the cellar on Second Tsimliansky Lane. Mezhidova told Human Rights Watch what happened when the soldiers arrived:
Six soldiers came into their yard. . . . Koka left first. She greeted the soldiers, saying "Good morning." Koka thought that the soldiers would respect her age, so she went first, but a soldier swore and hit her with his rifle and kicked her and she fell back down into the cellar. I saw her fall back into the cellar.
When Koka fell, [Kuznetsova] went out [as well as] Khampash and Musa. The soldiers checked their passports. Khampash asked why the soldiers swore at an old woman and why they hit her. Then the soldiers killed all three. I was just about to come out of the cellar when I saw a soldier killing Khampash. I ran back into the cellar and left through a second exit. Khampash was shot in the head from close range. Khampash was killed first, then Musa and then [Kuznetsova]. She had lived in Aldi for forty years.73
Khampash Yakhiaev's mother-in-law, Zina Yakhiaeva, saw the bodies of the three victims that same day. She told Human Rights Watch:
On the fifth . . . I entered my son-in-law's house. I saw the bodies of my son-in-law and his friend, Musa, lying under the awning. My son-in-law's hands were bound with wire, he had been shot in the head, shot straight in the face, in the eyes. A young man took photographs. Musa had the same wounds, his head was smashed.
There was a Russian woman . . . with them in the cellar . . . .The soldiers killed her and burned her body in the cellar. There is a bad smell coming from the cellar. She was first shot and then burned . . . Their heads were smashed-they had multiple bullet wounds to the head.
Nurzhan, Musa's cousin and Koka, Musa's aunt, gave me the men's passports. They found them in the men's mouths. The passports were clean, I think they were first shot and then the soldiers put their passports in their mouths.74
Having left the cellar, Aina Mezhidova then ran to Matasha-Mazaeva Street to tell other people about what she had just witnessed. On the way to her house, she saw the dead bodies of several other Aldi residents. She told Human Rights Watch:
I then ran to Matasha-Mazaeva to tell people what had happened. I ran by the body of Koka [who was about forty], a drug store salesperson on Matasha-Mazaeva. She had been shot in the stomach, her intestines were hanging out. Then I saw Akhmed Abulkhanov outside his home on Mazaeva [Street].75
The killing of Lema Akhtaev and Issa Akhmatov
Thirty-two-year-old Lema Akhtaev and forty-one-year-old Issa Akhmatov had been staying at the home of thirty-seven-year-old Ramzan Tsanaev, believed to be on Fourth Tsimliansky Lane. Aldi residents believe they found the burned remains of both men in the house next door, which had been torched.
Akhmed A. told Human Rights Watch that Tsanaev was not at home when the soldiers came to his house. He stated that when Tsanaev returned, he found the Akhtaev's and Akhmatov's passports on the kitchen table.76
Asiat Chaadava had previously treated Akhtaev for a shrapnel wound from shellfire and Akhmatov for an axe wound to his finger. As she learned about what was happening in Aldi that day, she grew concerned about both men and asked her brother, Timur, to go see how the two men were doing. She told Human Rights Watch what Timur told her upon his return:
Ramzan told Timur that Lema and Issa were taken away by soldiers....77 Timur [disagreed], and said the soldiers didn't take anyone away and that we had to look for them in burned houses. We went to a house next door which was burned and started to take off the rubble. We didn't find anything that day, but there was a smell of burnt flesh.
Timur went there on February 6 and found the bodies. He found keys from a safe and recognized these as Lema's. He continued digging and found a piece of a burned body, the lower part of the spine with some flesh attached. This was Lema's. Nearby he found a skeleton and parts of bones.78
Killings in Chernorechie
Chernorechie is an adjacent neighborhood to Aldi, linked by a road that runs over the reservoir dam. Chernorechie was shelled much more heavily than Aldi, and a number of families sent their elderly relatives to Aldi to shelter. Groups of OMON police and federal troops conducted passport checks in Chernorechie on February 5 and also summarily executed civilians there. Human Rights Watch has information concerning five victims of summary execution from Chernorechie that day.
The killing of Salman ("Avkhan") and Amkhad Bishaev 79
On February 11, residents of Chernorechie found the bodies of a father and son, fifty-four-year old Salman, and Amkhad, aged twenty-eight. The pair were last seen alive on February 5, when Russian soldiers detained a number of men in that area. Salman's sister, forty-two-year-old Elizaveta Bishaeva, found the men's documents in the family's home on Kislovodskaia Street in Chernorechie the day they disappeared. She told Human Rights Watch that she had been looking for her brother and nephew for several days, searching through houses, traveling to the Russian military base at Khankala, asking at the local military command post at the Thirty-Sixth District, and also traveling to Urus Martan. Bishaeva told Human Rights Watch she discovered her brother's and nephew's bodies at 3 Kislovodskaia Street the day she returned to Chernorechie:
I found them after I had come back from Urus Martan. They were in the first house, on Kislovodskaia at the corner with the main street. Our house is two or three down, on the other side of the street. They were shot there. They had put aluminum roofing sheeting on top of them, to hide them. My sisters had checked that yard three times.80
Bishaeva said that three women she did not know well discovered the bodies. Bishaeva told Human Rights Watch that these women:
. . . didn't look, but one of the women came to me and said a corpse had been found. When I came close the two other women didn't want to let me in, they were afraid something might happen to me. We called my nephews, and we all ran over there, at the same time. My nephew saw his cap, and took off the [sheeting] . . . .They were holding each others' arms. They probably shot my nephew first, my brother's expression was very scared. They had pulled or beaten out my brother's gold teeth. Then later, when they washed the body, they saw his leg was broken, he had been beaten severely.81
Khavazh Kedirov, a fifty-three-year-old Aldi resident, confirmed the killing of Salman and Amkhad Bishaev and discounts the theory that they could have been killed by shellfire. He told Human Rights Watch that:
A father and son who lived in my neighborhood-Avkhan and his son-went missing on February 5. Their documents were still in their house along with their clothes . . . .On about February 11, their bodies were found in the backyard on a neighboring street-their bodies were under rubble. They had been shot. I saw the bodies, but I didn't take part in the washing. The father's gold teeth had been pulled out . . . .Avkhan was not killed by shrapnel . . . . there was no shelling on the evening of the fourth [of February]-these people were still alive in the evening. I spoke to them when I went to get some water on the evening of the fourth.82
Later, with the help of relatives, Bishaeva took the bodies of her brother and nephew for burial in Aldi.28 See appendix A for a list of confirmed deaths. See appendix B for a list of unconfirmed deaths. 29 This theory is supported by similar civilian killings, albeit on a lesser scale, in the village of Alkhan-Yurt in December 1999 and in the Staropromyslovsky district of Grozny in January 2000. In each case, the killings were preceded by heavy fighting in the area. See, "No Happiness Remains: Civilian Killings, Pillage and Rape in Alkhan-Yurt," and "Civilian Killings in the Staropromyslovsky District of Grozny," a Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol.12, no. 2(D), February 2000. 30 Common article 3 obliges states: In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: 1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) Taking of hostages; (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. 2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict. The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention. The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict. 31 Protocol II article 4 states: 1. All persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, whether or not their liberty has been restricted, are entitled to respect for their person, honour and convictions and religiouspractices. They shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction. It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors. 2. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the following acts against the persons referred to in paragraph I are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever: (a) violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment; (b) collective punishments; (c) taking of hostages; (d) acts of terrorism; (e) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form or indecent assault; (f) slavery and the slave trade in all their forms; (g) pillage; (h) threats to commit any or the foregoing acts.
32 Human Rights Watch interview, March 3, 2000, Nesterovskaia, Ingushetia.
35 Human Rights Watch is in possession of a copy of the videotape. The victims' names and street addresses as given in the videotape correspond with eyewitness testimony taken by Human Rights Watch from more than thirty witnesses and close relatives of the victims.
37 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 17, 2000.
40 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
41 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 17, 2000.
42 Other sources claim the Magomadovs lived at 158 Matasha-Mazaeva Street.
43 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
44 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
45 Human Rights Watch interview, Sleptsovsk, Ingushetia, March 1, 2000
46 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 27, 2000.
47 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 5, 2000.
48 APC, Armored Personnel Carrier.
50 Human Rights Watch interview with Akhmed A., Karabulak, Ingusehtia, March 5, 2000.
51 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 17, 2000.
52 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
53 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 17, 2000.
54 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 5, 2000.
55 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
56 Human Rights Watch interview, Sleptsovsk, Ingushetia, March 6, 2000.
57 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 5, 2000.
58 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 17, 2000.
59 There, she witnessed the murders of Isaev, Yakhiaev, and the Russian woman. See below.
61 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 17, 2000.
62 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 5, 2000.
63 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 27, 2000.
64 Bilal was also known as Suliman.
65 Human Rights Watch interview, March 3, 2000, Nesterovskaia, Ingushetia.
66 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak refugee camp, Ingushetia, March 3, 2000.
67 Human Rights Watch interview, Sleptsovsk, Ingushetia, March 18, 2000.
68 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
69 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, May 12, 2000.
70 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 18, 2000.
72 Human Rights Watch interview with Sultan S., Nazran, Ingushetia, March 19, 2000. The victims were fifty-year-old Tolik Smirnov, his forty-seven-year-old wife, Olga, and their daughter Valya, aged about twenty-five. V. said Tolik Smirnov's seventy-year-old mother, Nadia, happened to be out at the time and so survived.
73 Human Rights Watch interview, Sleptsovsk, Ingushetia, March 18, 2000.
74 Human Rights Watch interview, Republican Hospital, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 4, 2000.
76 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 5, 2000.
77 Zelenka, literally, "little green," refers to a green antibiotic ointment, commonly used in first aid in Russia.
78 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 23, 2000.
79 Salman was known among family and friends as Avkhan.
80 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazran, Ingushetia, May 15, 2000.
82 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 5, 2000.