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It is axiomatic that one of the most effective means of preventing ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty lies in the diligent examination by the relevant authorities of all complaints of such treatment brought before them and, where appropriate, the imposition of a suitable penalty. This will have a very strong deterrent effect. Conversely, if the relevant authorities do not take effective action upon complaints referred to them, those minded to ill-treat persons deprived of their liberty will quickly come to believe they can act with impunity195

Russian authorities have acknowledged that many people in Chechnya are "missing," but they do not directly acknowledge the crisis of forced disappearances. Echoing sentiment commonly expressed by high-level Russian officials, Viacheslav Chernov, the Chechnya republic procurator, said in January that federal forces could not always be implicated in "disappearances" that occur during night raids. While he acknowledged the "large mass" of investigations opened regarding such "disappearances," he noted that "other armed people, dressed in camouflage and masks are on the move in armored vehicles."196 The involvement of service personnel, he said, could be determined only by the investigations. Gen. Moltenskoi asserted that forced disappearances were "isolated incidents," that the involvement of military servicemen in "disappearances" was "rare," and that whenever such claims were made, investigations were opened and conducted jointly between the military procuracy and Chechnya republic procuracy.197 But in the overwhelming majority of cases, procuracy investigations are perfunctory at best. New initiatives established to facilitate cooperation between the procuracy and other governmental and civic organizations, with a view toward making the accountability process transparent, have regrettably had little impact.

On March 27, 2002, Gen. Moltenskoi issue a decree to improve the conduct of servicemen in Chechnya. The decree acknowledged that "unlawful actions by military servicemen toward civilians have had an extraordinarily bad impact on the process of stabilization in the republic, and has completely reversed the efforts by the military command regarding guaranteeing security, law and order, and favorable conditions for economic renewal."198 Among other things, the decree required all police and Ministry of Internal Affairs troops to give their first and last names while on search-and-seizure operations. It did not require the same for Ministry of Defense, Federal Security Service, or other personnel who may be involved in detaining individuals or searching private homes. The decree also required all vehicles, including military transport vehicles, to clearly display registration numbers.199

Procuracy Investigations and Prosecutions

The Russian procuracy has an obligation to investigate unlawful arrests and detention and other offenses by Russian security forces, and to prosecute those responsible.200 In a March 2001 report on "disappearances" in Chechnya, Human Rights Watch identified three main obstacles to the effectiveness of the procuracy. First, civilian procuracy officials lacked the authority to investigate abuses by the Russian military.201 Second, they were not diligent about conducting investigations, and in the case of the military procuracy, investigations were rarely carried out at all. The third obstacle was identified as the attitude of the procuracy towards relatives of the "disappeared"-specifically, that access by relatives to procuracy officials was blocked or highly restricted and that even when relatives gained access, they frequently received a hostile and uncooperative reception from procuracy officials.

In the majority of cases documented in this report, complaints were made first to the local civilian procuracy in the district where the incident took place, and in some cases were brought later to the civilian procurator or the Chechnya republic procurator. Complaints were also sometimes also brought to the military procuracy for the Northern Caucasus Military District (the branch responsible for overseeing military operations in Chechnya), although access to such military procuracy officials was often difficult. It is clear from the reports by relatives of the "disappeared" and the documents they provided that the problems identified in the March 2001 report remain.

Despite an increase in the number of investigations opened and other apparent changes, Russian security forces continue to enjoy widespread impunity for enforced disappearances. Civilian procuracy officials continue to lack authority to investigate abuses by military personnel, and are likewise powerless to prevent the regular transfers of units of the security forces out of Chechnya, which hinders investigation. In several cases, it was apparent that transfers of servicemen implicated in "disappearances" were designed expressly to frustrate investigations.

Investigations carried out by civilian procurators are often perfunctory, and are frequently suspended due to an "inability to identify the perpetrator." Few investigations lead to prosecutions. The military procuracy generally remains unwilling to investigate abuses involving military personnel, and where it does so, investigations rarely lead to prosecutions. There has been some improvement in the attitude of the civilian procuracy: relatives are now able to meet officials in order to bring complaints and investigations are opened in all but a handful of cases. In practical terms, however, these changes have had little impact in curbing impunity, since the overwhelming majority of cases are still left unresolved.

Lack of Authority

The civilian procuracy's lack of authority over the conduct of military personnel remains an obstacle to accountability for "disappearances" in Chechnya. The Procuracy General partially addressed this by issuing Decree No. 46 on July 25, 2001, which gives the civilian procuracy oversight (but not formal authority) over the conduct of military operations involving civilians. The decree is supposed to require the presence of representatives from the civilian procuracy during sweep operations. It holds out the promise of greater accountability, but to date its impact remains marginal. It does not, for example, affect the procuracy's oversight during targeted raids, which, particularly when they occur at night, are increasingly the medium of "disappearances." While the number of "disappearances" during sweep operations has declined slightly from 2000-2001 levels, "disappearances" during targeted raids have risen since July 25. There is no evidence that procuracy officials were either informed prior to, or present during, any of the raids that resulted in thirteen of the "disappearances" that took place after July 25 documented in this report.

This report also documents four cases of multiple "disappearance" during sweep operations since July 25, 2001. While in many cases procuracy and other civilian officials are present during sweep operations in communities, as provided for in Decree No. 46, their effectiveness has been limited by direct threats from military servicemen, or at times by sheer logistics: there are insufficient procuracy officials to provide adequate oversight.202 Memorial found that in most cases villagers were not aware of the presence of procuracy officials during the sweep operations, and that even when such officials were present, for example, during the December operations in Argun and Tsotsin-Yurt, they could not function effectively because they were either threatened or otherwise impeded by military commanders.203 According to the Council of Europe, procuracy officials did not accompany federal forces during a November 12, 2001 sweep operation at the University of Grozny, during which "unidentified armed forces wearing black masks... [committed] violations of human rights and illegal detentions were reported."204

Even where the civilian procuracy has jurisdiction over the units allegedly responsible, they face a major obstacle to the conduct of their investigations-the transfer out of Chechnya of implicated servicemen during the investigation. The "disappearance" of Zelimkhan Murdalov (detailed above) illustrates this phenomenon. The case involved allegations against OMON riot police from Khantemansiisk and therefore fell under the jurisdiction of the civilian procuracy. Despite the direct involvement of the Chechnya republic procurator, the OMON members alleged to have been involved in Murdalov's "disappearance" were transferred back to their home unit before procuracy officials could question them. Some of the case files also went missing. Although a low-ranking suspect was eventually arrested in January 2002, the officers in charge at the time of the "disappearance" escaped arrest. A further example occurred during the investigation into the "disappearance" of Saidmagomed Mutsukaev (detailed above). Mutsukaev "disappeared" while in custody at the Shali police station. When civilian procuracy officials initiated criminal proceedings against the officer in charge of the station and his deputy, both men were transferred back to their home areas, effectively stalling the case.

Lack of Diligence

Even allowing for the shortcomings in its mandate and noncooperation of military and police units, it is difficult to conclude that the civilian procuracy is serious about ensuring accountability for "disappearances" of persons detained by federal forces. In the majority of the "disappearances" documented by Human Rights Watch in the present report, petitions by relatives resulted in the opening of a formal investigation, but most were subsequently suspended. To the best of our knowledge, only one official has been arrested in relation to a "disappearance" documented in this report.

The lack of diligence is evident even in the procuracy's own statistics. Between May and December 2001, the civilian procuracy in Chechnya opened 102 cases (not limited to forced disappearances).205 By year's end, forty-eight investigations had been suspended and twenty-five remained under investigation. A further fifteen had been sent to military procurators. A total of seventeen prosecutions on all charges had been brought. In twelve of those cases the court proceedings were still underway and three had been closed. Only one case resulted in a conviction (the offense with which the person was convicted is unknown).

Because details regarding the nature of crimes investigated and prosecuted are lacking, it is impossible to determine whether these efforts marked an improvement over the period from 1999-April 2001, when 79 percent of all "disappearances" cases initiated were suspended.206 In January, Vladimir Kalamanov asserted that when procuracy officials suspended a case this signified nothing more than that they were "awaiting more facts, or waiting for things to add up, or to find new graves." 207 While some suspended cases regarding human rights violations have been reactivated, the procuracy suspends many cases before it takes basic steps, such as questioning witnesses.

The civilian procuracy's inadequate response to investigations into "disappearances" of Chechens applies even to those cases where the body of the victim is found or the person is confirmed to have been in custody prior to their "disappearance." The intensity of procuracy investigations into the "disappearance" of Said-Magomed Dikiev, Muslim Batsiev, Abdul-Vakhab Yashurkaev, and eight other villagers from Argun during a March 2001 sweep operation (see above) was unaffected by the discovery of Muslim Batsiev's body and those of three of the other "disappeared" men in a temporary burial site. The fact that the bodies were moved to the site by the Ministry for Emergency Situations makes the lack of progress all the more damning.

The military procuracy demonstrates a similar lack of diligence in their investigation of abuses involving allegations against service personnel. Their own statistics indicate that as of early March 2001, 118 investigations had been opened for all offences against civilians, which can range from petty theft to murder.208 It is important to note that military procuracy statistics are cumulative, so the figure of 118 represents the total of all investigations from 1999 to 2001 rather than just figures for 2001. While no breakdown for the March figure was available as of December 2001, sixty of the 110 investigations opened had been completed. Thirty-seven of the completed investigations led to prosecutions, which included eleven prosecutions for murder and one for causing harm through physical negligence.209 The December statistics indicate that eighteen convictions were secured, including those of two officers. The offences with which the defendants were convicted and the terms of their sentences are not specified, so broader conclusions cannot be drawn. Previously, the majority of the offenses for which servicemen were convicted were either unrelated to attacks on civilians or the sentences received were light.210

The lack of commitment by the military procuracy to serious investigations of crimes against civilians is even more starkly revealed by their response to the "disappearance" of Mair-Ali and Lema Shavanov (detailed above). The case is unusual only for the remarkable diligence shown by Birlant Shavanova, the men's mother, in submitting repeated written petitions to the military and civilian procuracy. Shavanova submitted petitions to the local military procuracy at Khankala twice, both of which were forwarded to the military procuracy in Shali. Both petitions were subsequently forwarded to the civilian procuracy on the ground that there was no evidence of the involvement of federal forces. Shavanova submitted a third petition to the Procuracy General of the Russian Federation, which was forwarded to the military procuracy for the North Caucasus military district, and then to military procuracy in Khankala. Shavanova also submitted a petition to the Chechnya republic procuracy. While the civilian procuracy eventually advised her that a criminal investigation had been opened (and nothing more), Shavanova received no notification or response from military procuracies at any level. The only "action" taken by the military procuracy in relation to the case was to deem it outside its jurisdiction and to pass it off to the civilian procuracy.

Inadequate Public Access and Uncooperative Officials

In the majority of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch in the present report, relatives were able to obtain access to representatives of the civilian procuracy at a local level in order to bring their complaints. Human Rights Watch received fewer complaints about the demeanor of individual procuracy officials toward relatives and in most cases investigations were at least formally opened. This represents a clear improvement in the problems of access and uncooperativeness reported by relatives of the "disappeared" documented in the March 2001 report. Nonetheless the key indicators of progress in establishing accountability for "disappearances"-the resolution of cases and the successful prosecution of those responsible -remain unchanged.

The attitude of the military procuracy remains poor and access to military procuracy representatives is still limited. Their approach to witness protection is indicative. After the "disappearance" of Adam Makharbiev from a checkpoint in Gekhi (detailed above) relatives petitioned the military procuracy in Khankala to conduct an investigation. One of Adam Makharbiev's cousins, Lema Makharbiev, was detained at the same time but later released. After Lema told investigators that while in custody he had heard Adam's voice during his detention, he was called on by the military procuracy to give evidence of what he heard. However, officials at the military procuracy refused to provide Lema with any guarantees of safety in exchange for his evidence. Given Lema's ordeal, and the fact that his testimony would likely have implicated Russian military officials, the unwillingness of the procuracy to offer Lema protection had the effect of silencing him.

The Office of the Special Representative

The effectiveness of the office of the special representative remains limited, primarily by its narrow mandate. Vladimir Kalamanov, the special representative, was appointed in February 2000 as the special representative of the president of the Russian Federation for human rights in the Republic of Chechnya; beginning in April 2000, the Council of Europe has seconded three experts to work in his office.

The special representative has offices across Chechnya, including in Znamenskoe, Grozny, and Gudermes. Like an ombudsman's office, Kalamanov and his staff receive complaints from citizens and approach the relevant authorities in order to try to resolve them. In nearly every case documented for this report relatives contacted Kalamanov's office to report the "disappearance" of their loved ones.

According to the special representative, between March 1, 2000 and December 1, 2001, the office received 7,138 formal applications.211 Of those applications, 1,053 concerned "missing" persons, of whom 223 were found alive, and thirty-seven found dead. The office also states that it has secured 191 amnesties, and the release of fifty-nine persons (although it is not clear if any of those amnestied or released were among the persons registered as "missing"). The statistics indicate that the limits of the office's effectiveness-more than 75 percent of the "missing" person cases (793) remain unsolved. As noted above, the office makes no distinction between cases where a person simply "goes missing" and those where there is evidence that the person was forcibly detained and "disappeared" at the hands of federal forces. This has the regrettable effect of disguising the scale of the phenomenon of forced disappearance, and may also interfere with the efficacy of the office's inquiries.

The limited authority of the special representative remains a major flaw. The office has no authority to carry out investigations and cannot compel cooperation from the military or government ministries. On March 26, 2001, the special representative established a Joint Working Group together with the procurator-general of the Russian Federation and the Chechnya republic procurator to coordinate information and ensure that the procuracy is aware of all outstanding cases involving "disappeared" and missing persons.212 This joint working group met nine times between March and December 2001, and has emerged as a forum for raising general human rights problems and specific cases of abuse, such as forced disappearances. The Council of Europe experts have used the Joint Working Group to, among other things, request progress reports on individual investigations, and raised the problem of military personnel concealing with mud their license plate or other identifying numbers. But Human Rights Watch has been unable to discern any change in the conduct of investigations, or in the conduct of the military, as a result of these meetings.

In some cases, the special representative has also proved reluctant to criticize Russian authorities. A notable exception came in February 2002, when it was reported that Vladimir Kalamanov had acknowledged that Decree No. 46 had not been complied with during large-scale sweep in Argun, Tsotsin-Yurt, and Bachi-Yurt and the absence of procuracy officials during the sweeps naturally led to human rights violations.213 Given the office's limited powers, the making of public statements could prove an effective tool, if the office chose to utilize it.

195 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment, "Public Statement concerning the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation," July 10, 2001.

196 See, "Transcript of a Meeting With Representatives of Human Rights Organizations and Representatives of State Authorities of the Republic of Chechnya, January 12, 2002.", accessed April 9, 2002.

197 Ibid.

198 Decree No. 80 of the Command of the United Group of Forces in the Northern Caucasus Region of the Russian Federation, on Measures to Enhance Efforts by Local Governmental Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies of the Russian Federation in the Fight Against Unlawful Actions and Accountability for Officials for Violations of Law and Law and Order in the Conduct of Special Operations and Targeted Operations in Settlements in the Chechen Republic. Issued March 27, 2002, Khankala.

199 The decree also reinforced elements of Decree No. 46, by requiring that sweep and targeted operations involve the local military commandant, head of the local civilian administration, a representative of the village elders, and a representative of the military procuracy. Like Decree No. 46, Decree No. 80 requires a commander, upon completing a sweep or targeted sweep, to sign a report including, among other things, a list of those detained during the operation and of all arms and ammunition seized. The list must also be signed by other local officials.

200 For serious crimes, the Russian procuracy combines the investigative functions performed by police in other countries with the more familiar prosecutorial functions of a public prosecutor. Procuracy officials have the discretion to initiate, suspend, or terminate investigations. Less serious crimes in Russia are investigated by the police.

201 The procuracy consists of a civilian and military branch, and, although the entire service is headed by the Procurator-General of the Russian Federation, the two branches are otherwise entirely separate. The military procuracy is responsible for investigating crimes committed by those serving in the armed forces, such as the army, as well as by those serving in the Ministry of Internal Affairs' armed forces and Spetsnaz forces. Crimes committed by other Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel (including OMON riot police) fall under the jurisdiction of the civilian procuracy.

202 In "Armored Filth," Anna Politkovskaia describes how officers threatened two procurators who oversaw a sweep operation in the village of Avtury in November 2001. The procurators were able to arrange the release of seventeen of twenty-five villagers, and were able after the sweep to retrieve some of the property soldiers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs' DON-2 division had looted.

203 See RFE/RL interview with Tatyana Kasatkina of Memorial, January 8, 2002, (accessed March 11, 2002).

204 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Political Affairs Committee, "Report: Conflict in Chechnya," Doc. 9319 (January 16, 2002), paragraph 24.

205 All statistics from: Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Political Affairs Committee, "Report: Conflict in Chechnya," Doc. 9319 (January 16, 2002), paragraph 34.

206 In April 2001, the Russian government made available to the Council of Europe a list of 359 investigations into crimes against civilians in Chechnya. Just under one-third, or 116, concerned "disappearances"; 79 percent of these investigations had been suspended by April 2001.

207 Transcript from January 12, 2002 meeting.

208 "V Chechne za prestuplenia protiv mirnogo naselenia privlecheno k ugolovnoi otvetstvennosti 55 voennykh" (Fifty-five military servicemen are being prosecuted for crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya), Interfax news agency, March 3, 2002.

209 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Political Affairs Committee, "Report: Conflict in Chechnya," Doc. 9319 (January 16, 2002), paragraph 34.

210 In September Rossiskaia Gazeta, the State Duma newspaper, published Russian government information regarding eleven out of fifteen convictions, which at that point was described as a comprehensive accounting. Of the eleven, six had either been amnestied or paroled, and five were serving sentences-one for looting, two for murder, one for attempted murder, and one for mishandling a weapon. See www.rg.annons/anons/arc 2001/0920/3.shtm (accessed September 20, 2001). A May 2001 analysis by Memorial of military procuracy statistics on convictions revealed that in cases involving excessive force against civilians, defendants were given conditional discharge, suspended sentences or an amnesty on all but one occasion. Memorial "The Status of Investigations into Crimes against Civilians Committed by Representatives of Federal Forces on the Territory of the Chechen Republic during the Course of Military Action 1999-2001." (May 2001): Accessed March 2002.

211 All statistics cited in: Council of Europe, Information Documents, "Supplementary Data and information on the work of the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for ensuring Human Rights and Civil Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic," SG/Inf (2001) 41 Addendum II (December 14, 2001).

212 Not to be confused with the Joint Working Group on Chechnya comprised of members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Federation of Russian.

213 Council of Europe, "Addendum on the sixteenth interim report by the Secretary General on the presence of the Council of Europe's experts in the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for ensuring Human Rights and Civil Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic - Additional Information provided by the Secretary-General," SG/Inf (2002)2 Addendum (February 20, 2002), paragraph 8.)

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