The conflict in Chechnya continues to take a huge toll on
civilians. The October 2002 hostage
crisis in Moscow, which left 129 dead, has been followed by
reports of abuses by Russian and rebel forces in Chechnya, and accelerated efforts by Russian
authorities to force displaced people living in tent camps in Ingushetia back
to Chechnya. Russian authorities have also significantly
restricted access to the region, blocking access for international monitors,
including those from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
government claims that the armed conflict in Chechnya is over and that the situation is
normalizing. Therefore, it argues, an OSCE presence is no longer needed and
displaced people face no serious obstacles to return. But as attested by the Moscow hostage-taking itself and subsequent
incidents described below, the armed conflict grinds on and civilians continue
to face life-threatening conditions.
Concerned by these
developments, Human Rights Watch conducted an eleven-day research mission to
Ingushetia, from December 10-21, 2002. Through interviews with some sixty-two
people, we documented a pattern of threats and intimidation by migration
authorities to compel the approximately 20,000 displaced people living in the
six remaining tent camps to return to Chechnya. We
also gathered eyewitness accounts of conditions in Chechnya, including forced disappearances,
extrajudicial executions, looting, and arbitrary detention.
This report first
documents the Russian government’s attempts to forcibly return displaced people
to Chechnya, and then examines new evidence of
continuing humanitarian law violations by Chechen and Russian forces inside Chechnya. The
international community should act now to ensure that Russia does not return displaced people to Chechnya against their will, and to reinstate the
OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya. More international scrutiny in the region,
not less, is needed.
Two incidents in
late 2002 that caused enormous loss of civilian life demonstrate vividly that
the armed conflict in Chechnya has not ended. On October 23, about fifty
Chechens took hundreds of civilians hostage in a Moscow theater, an act that, as already noted,
resulted in the deaths of 129, mostly due to the effects of a debilitating gas
that Russian special forces used in their rescue operation. On December 27,
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. At
the same time, abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya—forced disappearances, extrajudicial
executions, looting, and arbitrary detention—have continued unabated.
Since the end of
1999, Russian officials at various times have attempted to convince internally
displaced people to return to their homes inside Chechnya. But in May 2002, Russian and Ingush
officials for the first time announced detailed plans to close the tent camps
in Ingushetia—unsightly counterevidence of Russian claims that the war had
ended—and to return the displaced persons living in them to Chechnya. They began to implement the plan in May, but
in the aftermath of the Moscow hostage crisis, they moved forward with unprecedented speed and
temperatures, using a combination of threats and incentives, officials have
attempted to force the 23,000 people who at that time remained in seven tent
camps back into an active war zone. In
one case they succeeded: the Aki-Yurt camp, which housed some 1,700 displaced
Chechens, was forcefully closed in early December 2002 after the international
community had been temporarily barred access to it.
residents of the remaining six camps told Human Rights Watch that they did not
want to return due to the unsafe conditions in Chechnya, but pressure on them was unrelenting. The pressure has been effective: according to
the Federal Migration Service (FMS), between November 21 and December
24, 2002, 2,663 tent
dwellers returned to Chechnya. Although Russian officials claim that returns
to Chechnya are “voluntary,” Human Rights Watch research
shows that this is not the case.
have constantly harassed displaced persons; threatened them with arrest on
false charges, with withdrawal of food allowances, and with cutting of gas and
electricity supplies during winter months; and at times forced the removal of
displaced persons from their tents. The forcible closure of Aki-Yurt tent camp
and the aggressive attempt to push displaced persons to return to the active
war zone in Chechnya amounts to forcible return and is a clear
violation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
in Ingushetia told Human Rights Watch that tent dwellers have the option of
remaining in Ingushetia or returning to Chechnya. Yet no displaced people interviewed by
Human Rights were aware of this choice. Human Rights Watch also found shelters
that allegedly will be provided to tent dwellers in Ingushetia to be
uninhabitable, occupied, or simply nonexistent. Moreover, the promises of
shelter and assistance in Chechnya intended to serve as incentives to return in
some cases have proven illusory, due to the severe shortage of adequate shelter
in Chechnya. Failing to provide shelter, or compelling
displaced persons to live in uninhabitable shelter also violates the Guiding
Principles on Internal Displacement.
A number of the
people interviewed by Human Rights Watch had recently returned from Chechnya and were able to provide details on events
there. Although Human Rights Watch is
not in a position to confirm or refute reports of a sharp increase in forced
disappearances and extrajudicial executions following the October hostage
crisis in Moscow, it is clear that serious abuses have
As noted above,
Chechen rebel forces carried out two dramatic attacks on civilians in late
2002, causing enormous loss of life. In the last months of 2002 rebel forces
also intensified their campaign against civil servants working for the
pro-Moscow administration of Chechnya. As detailed below, these forces are
believed to be responsible for seven assassinations, several assassination
attempts, and nine abductions of civil servants since November 15.
For more than three
years, Russian forces in Chechnya have committed extrajudicial executions,
forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, and looting, largely
without being held accountable for their actions. Simply being a male of fighting age appears
sufficient grounds for detention, and those detained are invariably beaten and
abused. The November killing of Malika Umazheva, a former civil servant who on
many occasions spoke out courageously against abuse, marks the clearest case to
date in which Russian forces committed an extrajudicial execution for
retribution. This case is documented in
Often Russian forces
commit abuses during zachistki, or sweep operations, which involve the
closing off of streets or even entire villages for house-to-house searches.
Increasingly, Russian forces also appear to be carrying out more targeted night
operations, in which masked troops raid particular homes, execute targeted individuals,
or take them away, never to be seen again.
documents nine recent cases of extrajudicial execution and twelve cases of
On December 31, ten
days after our mission ended, the mandate of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya expired. Negotiations over renewing the OSCE
mandate had collapsed after Russia insisted that the mission end its human
rights monitoring and political mediation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs resisted efforts to grant a temporary
extension of the mandate while negotiations continued, and on December 31
announced that the Assistance Group had to close. The Assistance Group had
contributed to documentation of human rights violations, receiving victims of
human rights violations at its offices in Znamenskoe and making on-site visits
to gather information about abuses. It also provided valuable information to
the OSCE about the situation in Chechnya through its confidential bi-weekly reports
to OSCE member states.
Russia has also stopped key United Nations human rights monitors from
visiting the region. It has not granted requests to visit Chechnya made by the special rapporteur on torture
and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary, and summary executions.
In September it postponed a joint visit for the special rapporteur on violence
against women and the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on
displaced persons, citing, ironically, security concerns.
Human Rights Watch
is calling on the international community to press Russia to stop forced returns, to hold its troops
accountable for violations of humanitarian law violations, and to renew the
OSCE Assistance Group’s mandate. We call
on Chechen forces to cease attacks on civilians, and to hold accountable those
involved in such attacks. These concerns should be reflected in the resolution
adopted on Chechnya at the forthcoming session of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. During its fifty-ninth
session, which begins in March, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
should adopt a resolution on Chechnya pressing the same concerns. A more detailed list of recommendations is
set forth at the conclusion of this report.
Since the beginning
of the second Chechen conflict in 1999, hundreds of thousands of Chechens have
fled the fighting in Chechnya for relative safety in neighboring
Ingushetia. Displaced Chechen civilians, at times nearly outnumbering the
entire population of Ingushetia, have been housed in tent camps, as well as in
train compartments, private housing, and “spontaneous settlements”—crumbling,
abandoned factories and collective farms.
As of the end of November 2002, the lead humanitarian agency in
Ingushetia, the Danish Refugee Council, counted 106,000 registered Chechen
displaced persons living in Ingushetia.
Of that total, an estimated 23,000 lived in six tent camps, another
27,000 lived in spontaneous settlements, and the remaining 56,000 lived with
host families in private housing.
The closure of the
camps for the displaced in Ingushetia, under the circumstances documented in
this report, is itself a form of arbitrary displacement in violation of the
right to choose one’s own residence, provided for in the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 12(1)), and the European Convention on
Human Rights, Article 2(1) Protocol IV).
Under no circumstances may the limits be imposed on a discriminatory
basis. Furthermore, the closure of the
camps without any offer of adequate alternative shelter is a clear violation of
Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural
During the early
stages of the second Chechen war, then-Ingush President Ruslan Aushev regularly
intervened to ensure that the Chechen-Ingush border remained open and that
displaced Chechens in Ingushetia received humanitarian assistance and were not
pressured to return. However, the willingness
of the Ingush authorities to host large numbers of Chechen displaced persons
slowly eroded, and in April 2001, Ingush migration officials discontinued the
registration of new displaced persons from Chechnya. The April 2002 election of Murat Ziazikov—a
former Federal Security Service (FSB) general who is viewed as more pro-Moscow
than his predecessor—to the Ingush presidency provided Russian officials with
the opportunity to more forcefully pursue the closure of the Chechen camps for
Just weeks after
Ziazikov assumed office, federal authorities announced a detailed plan that
envisioned the closure of all the camps and the return of all displaced persons
by the end of September 2002. The agreement had been reached at Ziazikov’s
first post-election Kremlin meeting with pro-Moscow Chechen leader Ahkmad
Kadyrov. Officials continued to reassure the
international community that all returns would be voluntary, and began to exert
pressure on camp dwellers throughout the summer. By September, however, no camps had been
The campaign to
close the tent camps entered a new, aggressive phase in late October 2002,
following the massive hostage-taking incident in Moscow. On
November 18, the Russian Health Ministry’s epidemiology department issued a
statement that an inspection of the tent camps had found insufficient heating,
aging tents, unsanitary conditions, and overcrowding in the tent camps and
ordered the closure of five of the tent camps—Bella, Sputnik, Alina, Satsita,
and Aki-Yurt—and eight other makeshift settlements. On
November 15, an intergovernmental agency called the “United Headquarters for
Creating Conditions for Returning People from Tents in the Republic of Ingushetia” (hereinafter, United Headquarters) was
formed, consisting of Russian, Ingush, and pro-Moscow Chechen officials.
Although they later
denied it, migration officials set out a strict timeline for the closure of the
tent camps. For example, on November 23,
Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen officials informed residents of the Alina tent
camp that the Aki-Yurt tent camp would be closed by December 1, and that all
other camps would be closed by December 20, 2002. Although the officials met their deadline for
the closure of the Aki-Yurt camp, international protests and logistical
difficulties forced them to abandon the December 20 deadline. On January 14,
Ingush Deputy Prime Minister for Refugee Affairs Magomet Markhiev announced the
camps would be closed by spring 2003.
Every day, about
thirty representatives from the United Headquarters and the Federal Security
Service (FSB) make the rounds at each of the major tent camps in Ingushetia,
going from tent to tent explaining the advantages of moving to Chechnya and the disadvantages of remaining in
Ingushetia. They continuously pressure families to sign the “voluntary return”
forms provided by the United Headquarters officials and promise those who sign
five months of humanitarian supplies. They also promise returnees space in new
temporary accommodation centers (TACs) that are allegedly being built in Chechnya, offer twenty rubles per person per day to
those who plan to rent housing in Chechnya, and offer free transportation back to Chechnya.
commonly warn residents that vital gas and electricity supplies will be cut off
to the camps. They have emphasized to displaced people that the camps would
soon be closed, and that tent dwellers would be better off leaving immediately
rather than awaiting a forced closure of the camps. In several cases, officials
have threatened those reluctant to leave with arrest on false drug and weapons
possession charges. According to numerous witnesses, the major message
migration officials and especially Chechen government representatives have
tried to convey to the displaced is that their choice is between immediately
leaving “voluntarily” or being forcibly evicted at a later date. One interviewee summarized this message, as
he understood it: “If you don’t leave voluntarily we’ll kick you out.”
In late October,
Russian federal troops set up permanent positions near all of the major tent
camps, reinforced with armored personnel carriers with heavy weapons. In some cases, armed Russian soldiers began
accompanying United Headquarters officials on their tours of the tents, and
began intimidating displaced families into signing the voluntary return forms.
Some displaced persons told Human Rights Watch that the sudden appearance of
heavily armed Russian troops in the camps added further to the pressure they
felt to return.
families reported that migration officials had removed them from the food
ration lists in order to force them to abandon their tents, and in one case
simply kicked a family out of their tent without offering any alternatives. A resident of the Bella tent camp told Human
Rights Watch that migration officials came to her several times, asking whether
she wanted to go home. When she refused to sign a voluntary return form, the
officials threatened to harm her son, saying, “I’ll talk to you separately in a
special way—you have a son.” On November
18, she found out that her family had been removed from the list of registered
displaced persons and had lost its food rations. When she went to complain to
the migration service, her file said that she and her family “left for
Tver.” At the time of Human Rights
Watch’s visit she was still trying to reregister in the camp without success.
As a result of such
pressures, some families left the camps amid subzero temperatures. They told
Human Rights Watch that the constant pressure from migration authorities was
the primary reason for their decision to leave, and that they feared the
consequences of staying: uncertain security and miserable living conditions.
Some families were worried about the health of their young children if the gas
and electricity to their tents were cut off, as happened in Aki-Yurt. “Magda
M.,” a resident of the Sputnik camp, told Human Rights Watch:
we asked FMS representatives about guarantee of security in Chechnya, they answered that they could not guarantee
security even in Ingushetia. According to them it could be worse in Ingushetia.
I asked: “If we do not want to return, it means that you will force us to do
that?” They replied: “No, we will not use force. But gas and electricity will
be cut off in the camp.
Once a family signs
a voluntary return form, there is no way back, even if the family is unable to
find alternative accommodation in Chechnya. When returnees come back to Ingushetia they
cannot register as internally displaced persons or get reinstated in tent
camps, and they are ineligible for government humanitarian assistance. “Petimat
P.” who lives in the Bella camp with her husband and three children—one of whom
is an infant—signed a voluntary return application in December 2002 but then
was unable to find shelter in Chechnya (her house had been destroyed). She told
Human Rights Watch what happened when she came back to Ingushetia and attempted
to retract her application:
refused. They also threatened me that our tent would be dismantled. ... I asked
[the Chechen Refugee Committee] to leave me here until May. But they refused.
They said: “If you have submitted application already you are excluded from the
list and will not receive any aid here.
Human Rights Watch
researchers visited dozens of displaced families in all of the remaining tent
camps in Ingushetia, and almost all of them gave the same reason for refusing
to return to Chechnya: they fear for their lives, and the lives of
their children. Such fears are
well-founded. Chechnya remains an active war zone where, as
described below, human rights violations by both Russian and Chechen forces
continue. The incident causing greatest loss of civilian life since the first
year of the war occurred as recently as December 27, 2002, when, as described above, Chechen rebel
forces bombed the main government building in Grozny, causing seventy-two deaths and wounding 210
officials routinely dismiss displaced persons’ security concerns. The dire
security situation inside Chechnya merited barely a mention in the government’s
May 2002 return plan. When Human Rights Watch representatives
raised security concerns inside Chechnya with a leading official of the United
Headquarters, they received a derisive response: “The situation in Chechnya is not much more dangerous than in Moscow, where people are also kidnapped, abducted,
killed, and taken as hostages on a daily basis.” When Human Rights Watch mentioned specifically
that Chechen displaced families were concerned about the safety of young men,
the official suggested that young Chechen men “are not in the camps, they are
all in Chechnya, fighting and killing Russian soldiers.”
In fact, many young Chechen males do live in the tent camps. It is exactly this blanket generalization,
shared by many Russian soldiers—that all young Chechen males are fighters—that
endangers the lives of the displaced, particularly young Chechen males, who
return to Chechnya.
Neither the Ingush
Migration Service nor the Chechen government agency responsible for internally
displaced persons gathers information on human rights violations from sources
other than law enforcement agencies. Nor do migration authorities focus
specifically on human rights abuses as part of their assessment of the overall
security situation for returnees.
persons Human Rights Watch spoke with were well informed about security
conditions inside Chechnya. In December, many had traveled home to
celebrate one of the major Muslim holidays, the end of Ramadan.
Those interviewed by Human Rights Watch gave detailed, sometimes first-hand,
accounts of numerous abusive sweep operations, large-scale looting, and other
abuses committed by Russian soldiers that they had witnessed during the holiday
period and before. One displaced woman said that after she applied for
relocation, her brother was killed in the village of Chechen-Aul, after being detained during a sweep
described four apparent “disappearances” that resulted from a sweep operation
that took place on December 5-6 in a village close to Grozny, where she went to visit her family on
One individual who
works in a displaced persons camp told Human Rights Watch that he was caught in
a sweep operation in Starye Atagi on December 6-7 at his mother’s home, and had
to bribe his way out of detention.
A woman in her
mid-thirties told Human Rights Watch that she got caught in crossfire when she
returned to Grozny on December 9 to receive seventy rubles of
government support for her child: “I returned the same day without getting the
allowance,” she said.
former tent camp resident who returned to Chechnya went to Ingushetia specifically to dissuade
her former neighbors from leaving the safety of Ingushetia. “Heda H.,” who left Bella camp in 2001, came
back to the camp in December 2002:
matter that I am in a tent here, at least I’ll be calm. . . . They are always
shooting and take people away. [In Chechnya, they] shoot all night, every night. I came
here to let people know that they deceive us. When we agreed to return, we were
promised “golden mountains.” All their promises are lies.
officials have repeatedly claimed that dismantling of the tent camps is for the
benefit of the displaced persons, because conditions in the camps are
substandard. In response to charges that they are compelling people in tent
camps to return to Chechnya, they claim that they are forcing no one to return,
but rather that they give each displaced person the choice of alternative
shelter in TACs in Chechnya or in Ingushetia, or subsidies to rent housing in
Chechnya. As described below, Human Rights Watch tested these claims through
site visits. Many of the sites in
Ingushetia that officials listed as TACs were non-existent or
uninhabitable. In many cases, official
promises of shelter and assistance in Chechnya have also proven illusory.
Human Rights Watch
received from a Federal Migration Service official a list of eighteen temporary
resettlement alternatives in Ingushetia, with an alleged capacity to
accommodate 224 families, and visited twelve of the sites in the Karabulak and
Of those twelve, ten
were non-existent, uninhabitable, or occupied. Some consisted of concrete walls
without windows, roof, electricity, or gas.
Another facility had a roof, but no walls. Even two of the better facilities appeared
inferior to the tents in which displaced people are currently residing, and
these two facilities were filled to capacity.
Headquarters officials do not appear to be informing camp residents about the
choice, even in the remote future, of moving to TACs in Ingushetia. Human
Rights Watch interviewed dozens of camp residents, asking them specifically
whether they were aware of housing alternatives in Ingushetia. All replied that
they had been informed only about options in Chechnya, not Ingushetia. None of the camp residents
interviewed by Human Rights Watch was aware of the existence of the FMS list of
resettlement alternatives within Ingushetia.
Some returnees to Chechnya have found that the promises migration
officials make of compensation, shelter, and humanitarian assistance to
encourage returns are unfulfilled. Since so many homes have been destroyed due
to the bombing and shelling, many people rely on TACs for shelter. But an
assessment of nine TACs in Chechnya done by Vesta, an Ingush nongovernmental
organization subcontracted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) to monitor conditions in TACs, found only two of the buildings near
completion, although one still did not have gas, electricity, toilets, or a
sewage system (The use of this building was also problematic because the
workers who repaired the building had not been paid in months and refused to
let it be occupied before they were paid).
A third building was “seriously damaged,” with the fourth and fifth
stories destroyed: “Its builders warn it is still dangerous to go into the
building.” A fourth building, designated to house 2,500 persons was “a
framework of a building only.” A fifth,
designated to house more than 800 people, had no heating, gas, electricity, and
was completely uninhabitable: “At the moment of monitoring, construction work
had been suspended. … The precise number of rooms is unknown due to the danger
of entering the building.” A sixth was
being restored, but had no water or electricity. The seventh TAC had no water supply, had not
yet been repaired, and was already in use as a teacher’s training
institute. A eighth TAC, slated for more
than 1,000 people had not yet begun to be renovated, and had no water,
electricity, or gas. The ninth TAC could
not be located by the NGO or the Chechen state committee on refugee affairs.
Two residents of the
Satsita tent camp who were members of a delegation of displaced persons sent to
Chechnya to check conditions in TACs found a severe
shortage of space in them. On November 27 they went to Grozny, where they spoke to Ruslan Kaplanov, head
of the Chechen Migration Service, and other officials responsible for settling
returnees. The two delegation members, interviewed separately, each told Human
Rights Watch that they were not shown TACs, but were instead given the
addresses of several TACs that were not ready for occupation. One of the
delegation members said, “We have the list of TACs with the number of vacant
rooms, which can be occupied by refugees. In the entire republic there are
eighty-eight vacant rooms.” On
the doors of Kaplanov’s office at the Chechen Migration Service they found an
announcement saying: “Due to the lack of space in temporary accommodation
centers, we are not accepting requests for TAC placement and allowances.”
Another member of
the delegation told Human Rights Watch:
said that he had nothing to show us, because they had just started rebuilding
the damaged buildings. He was open with us because he had no choice. We wanted to see the actual places. He said
that they’d just started reconstructing the building on Maiakovskii Street for 1,000 returnees. But even when they
complete the works, the windows would not be made of glass but would be covered
with plastic sheeting, there would not be heating, not to mention water or sewage.…
We saw crowds of people there with applications, documents. These people were
promised accommodation in spring and deceived.”
Other promises of
assistance to returnees in Chechnya went unfulfilled. The same two delegation
members from the Satsita camp told Human Rights Watch that they had met people
in Grozny who previously lived in the tent camps and
had not received food rations or other assistance for the past three months.
According to the witness, the former displaced persons asked them to pass the
following message to those who remain in camps: “You’ll regret it if you
believe [migration officials] and come here—you’ll cry like we do.”
Similarly, Heda H.,
who had left the Bella tent camp in 2001, told her former neighbors in December
one cares about us wherever we go. My house is completely destroyed, and I
haven’t received any compensation. They haven’t even given food rations for
three months… I came here especially to tell the officials, “Why are you
deceiving people like you deceived us?’ They just . . .walked away from me. I asked to register
again in Ingushetia, but they replied they wouldn’t include me into the food
ration list or give me a tent.
told Human Rights Watch, “I did not receive returnees’ food assistance for five
months. I received only a coupon to get food, but I have not received [any
food]. The Chechnya Refugee Committee cheated me, saying that I would receive
money, and funds for repair of our truck. But they did not do it.”
The forced closure
of the Iman tent camp in the northern Ingush village of Aki-Yurt demonstrates the determination of Russian
authorities to close the tent camps in Ingushetia. Since officials exerted the same patterns of
pressure on that camp’s 1,700 residents as they are now exerting on residents
of the remaining six camps, the Aki-Yurt closure also illustrates what these
camp dwellers may soon expect.
According to former
Aki-Yurt camp residents, trouble began in spring 2002, when their camp
administrator was replaced with a more pro-Moscow administrator, a change
replicated at all the tent camps in Ingushetia around the same time. In September 2002, the head of the Ingush Migration
Service office for Malgobek district, where the Aki-Yurt camp was located, came
to the camp and informed its residents that the camp would be closed “for the
sake of the residents” because the conditions in the tents were inhuman.
“Isa Isaev” (not his
real name), one of the former residents, explained to Human Rights Watch how
the pressure on the refugees steadily intensified. First, representatives of the Ingush
Migration Service began visiting the tent families on a daily basis, using a
combination of threats and promises to induce the refugees to return to Chechnya.
Then, two representatives of the Chechen government came to register
every resident of the camp, with their addresses in Chechnya, and threatened to give away their homes in Chechnya if they did not return. Access for
humanitarian agencies to the Aki-Yurt camp became more restricted, and the
Chechen representatives and Ingush officials said that all aid to the camp
would soon be cut. Isa Isaev told Human Rights Watch, “They were threatening people from the camp,
saying that all humanitarian aid would be transferred to Chechnya and nothing would come to the camp. Some people had no food left.” Then, following the Moscow hostage crisis, armed Russian soldiers began
accompanying the Ingush and Chechen officials, and also began threatening the
soldiers went from tent to tent with their guns, asking people what their plans
were and when they planned to move out. … When the Russian soldiers came, more
people started to move out. Soldiers
began coming to each tent in the morning and the afternoon. The soldiers gave each family the [voluntary
return] form—they came together with the migration officials. The next time, they would ask if we had
completed the form, and if not, when we would complete them.
The Russian, Ingush,
and Chechen officials who were in charge of dismantling of the Iman camp made
sure to do so out of the gaze of the international community. Toward the end of November—when the pressure
on the remaining displaced persons turned to the outright use of
coercion—international humanitarian organizations and United Nations officials
were temporarily banned from even entering Iman camp. U.N. and other
humanitarian officials were completely banned from entering December 1 and 2.
At the same time,
gas and electricity to the Imam camp was cut.
In the midst of winter, living in uninsulated tents in subzero
temperatures, the withdrawal of gas and electricity meant that the remaining
displaced people were quickly forced to abandon their now-unheated tents. As one displaced person explained, “When they
cut the gas, people had no choice. For
three days, people stayed without gas.
Then they moved to other places.” A few desperate displaced families decided to
stay on, but were soon forced out of their tents by riot police. One of the
camp dwellers told Human Rights Watch how soldiers came to cut down his tent on
December 3: “I didn’t dismantle my tent.
Two people came and cut the ropes and knocked the tent down…. It
happened on December 3. The two guys
were military men.” Another tent was hooked to a Russian military
vehicle that pulled the tent down. Another former resident of the Iman camp
recalled similar violence when Chechen riot police forced him to pull up his
tent on November 29:
After half of all
the tents were removed, the soldiers began threatening the remaining people,
telling them to move the tents. I was
one of the last people to remove my tent.
I did it only after [an official of Ingush migration services] came to
me with the soldiers. He gave me an hour
to remove my tent.
In those final days
of the Aki-Yurt camp, the soldiers in the camp began openly threatening the
remaining residents. One woman refused
to dismantle her tent and began arguing with the soldiers. The soldiers turned to her husband and yelled
at him: “Make her shut up or beat her!
Aren’t you a man?” The family then dismantled their tent. The woman summed up the experience of many in
say that everyone voluntary left the camp, submitted applications and signed
applications. Actually, they forced them
out. Federal soldiers came and asked,
“Well when will you leave?” “We are not going to leave.” “We’ll be waiting for you in the headquarters
in fifteen minutes.” And dare not to
go! We are afraid for our sons and
husbands. So we left our homes for their
sake. They can invent any reason to find
fault with our men.
By the time
international officials were allowed to return to the camp, they were presented
with a fait accompli, as shown by a December 3 UNHCR statement:
of late afternoon yesterday [on December 2], only three tents remain standing
in Aki-Yurt, sheltering the last handful of displaced people awaiting departure
Several large tents used by NGOs for activities also remained, and the
Ingush authorities had asked the NGOs to dismantle them.
At the time of Human
Rights Watch’s mid-December visit to the area where the Iman camp once stood,
seventeen families continued to live in fourteen mud huts on the land. They
were using the wooden floors of the abandoned tents as firewood, since the
authorities had cut gas and electricity. The officials continued their pressure
campaign to try to force the remaining displaced people to abandon their homes. One of the remaining camp residents related
to us how a high-ranking Ingush migration official had ordered her to abandon
her home just days prior: “He came straight to my house and said, ‘This house
will be taken down. If you don’t want
your children to find themselves living outside, move to another place.’” Another remaining camp resident living in a
mud home told Human Rights Watch that he was being visited almost daily by
Ingush police and migration officials who were telling him to vacate his home. During some of the visits, the officials
threatened to plant drugs or guns in the home and arrest him. At the time of the Human Rights Watch visit,
officials were not offering alternative accommodation to the remaining
Although the Iman
camp has been dismantled, most of the displaced people who lived in it have not
returned to Chechnya, fearing the insecurity there. Out of an estimated seventeen hundred camp
residents, only 558 registered for assistance in Chechnya, according to the United Nations. The majority are believed to be staying with
host families and in informal settlements in Ingushetia.
families choose to remain in Ingushetia—preferring to tolerate the deprivations
of tent camps and the prospect of eviction rather than endanger their own lives
and the lives of their children by returning to Chechnya. While human rights violations by both
parties to the conflict have endangered civilians since the war began, the
sharp rise in the civilian death toll in late 2002 due to bombings and
assassinations attributed to Chechen forces has heightened these risks. Little
has changed in the dynamics of the Chechnya conflict itself, with the Russian government
insisting the conflict is winding down but media reporting an average of
twenty-five Russian soldiers killed each week. These deaths result primarily
from ambushes, bombings, and mine explosions by Chechen forces, rather than
from classic military engagement.
hostilities in Chechnya amount to an internal armed conflict under
international humanitarian law, particularly article 3 common to the 1949
Geneva Conventions. In situations of armed conflict, abuses such as attacks on
civilians, extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, and destruction of civilian
property, are all violations of the Geneva Conventions.
In many cases of
forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, the armed men responsible
take precautions to conceal their identity. They are often masked, their
uniforms do not have identification marks, and the license numbers on their
military vehicles are smeared with mud. Federal troops routinely ignore decrees
intended to improve transparency during operations.
Chechen rebels also use the confused climate of an active war zone to hide
responsibility for their crimes. In many
cases, though, responsibility can be determined by the circumstances of the
case: when abuses happen during federal forces’ security checks, or during
security raids on individual homes, or when they are perpetrated by masked men
speaking unaccented Russian and who make use of armored vehicles but do not
carry out other tasks associated with security checks (house searches, for
example). In cases when civil servants working for the
pro-Moscow administration of Chechnya are murdered, responsibility most likely
lies with Chechen rebel forces.
In a small number of
cases, it is impossible to say with certitude whether Russian forces or Chechen
rebels were responsible for a particular “disappearance.” For example, on the
evening of December 2, at about , a group of about twelve armed and masked
men in white camouflage uniforms came to the home of fifty-two-year-old Ramzan
Gichikaev, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Ministry of Property in Chechnya and an author of a new pro-Moscow Chechen
constitution. The men
gave only short orders in unaccented Russian, telling everyone to get down on
the floor and remain quiet. The men did not appear to speak or understand
Chechen, according to the relatives who were in the home at the time. They
allowed Gichikaev to get dressed, and then took him with them, leaving the area
on foot. When the family tried to follow the abductors, they were shot at and
had to abandon their effort.
It is unclear
whether Russian soldiers or Chechen fighters were responsible for the
disappearance of Gichikaev. Russian officials and some of his Chechen
colleagues believe that Gichikaev was disappeared by Chechen fighters because
of his role in the pro-Moscow administration. But some of his close relatives believe that
Russian soldiers were responsible, pointing to the fact that the abductors
spoke fluent Russian and did not appear to understand Chechen.
As noted above, Chechen
rebel forces carried out two dramatic attacks on civilians in late 2002,
causing enormous loss of life. In October they took nearly 800 people hostage
in a Moscow theatre, which resulted in the deaths of
more than one hundred people. A December 2002 bomb attack on the government
building in Grozny left seventy-two people dead and another 210
wounded. In the last months of 2002 rebel forces also intensified their
campaign against civil servants working for the pro-Moscow administration of Chechnya. These forces are believed to be responsible
for seven assassinations, several assassination attempts, and nine abductions
of civil servants since November 15.
Chechen forces are
obligated to respect the principles of humanitarian law found in Article 3
Common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which applies during internal
armed conflicts, but Chechen leaders have failed to unequivocally condemn
attacks by their forces on civilians, which violate these provisions.Although Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov
and people in his entourage have half-heartedly condemned the hostage-taking in
Moscow and the bombing of the government building in Grozny, they have
frequently suggested that abuses by Russian troops somehow excused these
crimes, thus sending at best a mixed message to rebel fighters. For example, on
January 2, 2003, Agence France-Presse quoted Maskhadov as saying that he did
not support suicide attacks but could not control the suicide bombers, whom he
said were driven to desperation by the Russian army:
suicide bombers were unable to come to terms with the humiliation that their
people were dealt by the Russian troops… They saw no other choice but to
sacrifice their lives… So if anyone thinks that these people can be stopped—by
Maskhadov, Putin, or anyone else—they have another think [sic] coming. They
cannot be stopped… They will only be stopped when (Russian troops) stop
humiliating the Chechen people.
Chechen leaders have
sent similarly mixed messages about the assassinations of civil servants, on
the one hand denying any involvement but on the other suggesting these civil
servants were “traitors” who deserved their fate.
Chechen rebel leaders and news agencies routinely refer to any Chechens working
with the Russian government as “national traitors.”
23, 2002, around
fifty armed men took about 800 people hostage at a theatre in Moscow during a performance of a musical play,
“Nord Ost.” The gunmen demanded an end to the war in Chechnya, immediate negotiations with Chechen leader
Aslan Maskhadov, and the withdrawal of Russia’s troops from Chechnya. They
threatened to kill all the hostages if their demands were not met. Under the
leadership of Movsar Baraev, the nephew of a notorious Chechen warlord who was
killed in June 2001, the gunmen held their hostages for three days, and killed
several of them. On the morning of October 26, Russian special forces stormed
the theater, after pumping an anesthetic gas into the main hall to incapacitate
the hostage-takers. As a result of the operation, 129 hostages died, most due
to the effects of the gas.
At about on December 27, Chechen rebel forces carried
out a suicide truck bombing at the headquarters of the pro-Moscow Chechen
government in Grozny, one of the few fully reconstructed
buildings in Grozny. Media have reported that the suicide
bombers wore Russian military uniforms and had forged Russian documents, which
enabled them to make their way through several checkpoints in the vicinity. Two
massive blasts destroyed the building, killing at least seventy-two people in
the building and wounding another 210. On a regular day, an estimated 150 to
200 civilians work in the building.
international media reported seven assassinations of civil servants, several
more attempted assassinations, and nine abductions between mid-November 2002
and early January 2003. The circumstances surrounding these cases point to
Chechen rebel responsibility—Chechen forces have long branded such civil
servants as traitors, and the incidents did not occur in the context of sweep
operations or appear to involve Russian-speaking accomplices. But Human Rights Watch has not been able to
verify culpability for any of the individual cases, nor have we been able to
determine which, if any, of the internally divided rebel groups might have been
responsible for the attacks. In recent years, 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 have therefore included the following cases reported in the media:
27, 2002, unknown
individuals abducted Nadezhda Pogosova, the deputy prosecutor of Shali
district, and Alexei Klimov, the deputy prosecutor of Shatoi district, in
northwest Chechnya as they traveled from Grozny to the Stavropolprovince of Russia. As of this writing, their fate remained
unidentified masked gunmen, wearing camouflage clothing, shot Mukhadin Musalov,
the head of the pro-Moscow Sharoi district administration, while he was working
in his yard. Musalov died several days later from his gunshot wounds.
night of December 24, 2002, unidentified gunmen killed Saidemin Adizov,
a leading member of the pro-Putin “Unity” political party, in an ambush in the
October district of Grozny. The deputy
head of the Unity party in Chechnya, Ruslan Yamadaev, stated that Adizov’s
murder was the thirteenth of a Unity party member, and complained of a
“campaign of terror” against his party activists.
night of December 18, 2002, unidentified gunmen killed the head of the
pro-Moscow administration in Tsotsin-Yurt, Imran Khusiev, together with his two
bodyguards. Khusiev had served as head of administration for only two months,
following the assassination of his predecessor, Turko Dikaev, also at the hands
of unidentified gunmen.
7, Usman Masaev, the first deputy head of administration in Chechnya, narrowly survived an ambush in the village of Mairtup, located eighteen miles east of Grozny, when three unidentified gunmen opened fire
on his car with submachine guns and grenades. His driver and bodyguard were
wounded in the attack. Masaev was
November 28, unidentified gunmen abducted the head of the pro-Moscow
administration in the village
of Kharsenoi, Akhmed Abdulkerimov, together with two
other villagers who were at Abdulkerimov’s house at the time of the attack.
early hours of November 20, unidentified Chechen gunmen killed fifty-year-old
Said-Pasha Salikhov, a traditional religious leader, and his son Turpal-Ali
Salikhov, a Chechen riot police officer, in the courtyard of their home in the village of Stary Atagi.
November 18, unknown assailants gunned down three ethnic Russian civilians,
Vasily and Vera Kotikov, both aged sixty-seven, and their forty-one-year-old
son, in the Kirov suburb of Grozny. The son worked for the Interior Ministry’s
Department of Chechen Affairs.
November 16, a group of masked gunmen stopped the car of Chechen Transport
Minister Said Ali Ediev and took the minister and two aides away. The minister and one of his aides were
released a short time later, but the other aide was abducted. Pro-Moscow Chechen officials blamed Chechen
fighters for the abduction.
November 15, a group of twelve masked gunmen abducted Movladi Borshchigov, the
deputy head of the pro-Moscow administration in Samashki village, from his
For more than three
years, Russian forces in Chechnya have committed extrajudicial executions,
forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, and looting without
being held accountable for their actions.
These are violations of Russian’s obligations under the Article 3 Common
to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which applies during internal armed
conflicts. They have become a familiar,
ugly part of daily life for people in Chechnya. Simply being a male of fighting age appears
sufficient for grounds for detention, and those detained are invariably beaten
and abused. Often they “disappear” or
are later found executed. The November killing of Malika Umazheva, a former
civil servant who spoke out fiercely against abuse, marked the clearest case to
date in which Russian forces committed an extrajudicial execution for
Often Russian forces
commit abuses during zachistki, or sweep operations, which involve the
closing off of streets or even entire villages for house-to-house searches.
Increasingly, Russian forces also appear to be carrying out more targeted night
operations, in which masked troops raid particular homes, execute targeted
individuals, or take them away, never to be seen again.
In the weeks
following the Moscow hostage crisis, several sources reported a
sharp rise in forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Chechnya.
Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya, complained publicly in mid-November 2002
about the rise in forced disappearances in the month following the hostage
seizure, although he was careful not to directly blame Russian forces:
the night, unknown armed individuals take people away and they go missing. According to our information, forty-eight
people went missing in the past few days… No one is personally [held]
responsible for systematic incidents when people go missing. Nine people have been taken away from my
native village of Tsenteroi this week.
And it is impossible to find out where they are now. I can’t look my fellow villagers in the eyes.
Members of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, were similarly
outspoken during a special meeting on Chechnya in November 2002. Chechen representative Aslanbek Aslakhanov
told the Duma session that he had “grounds to open a criminal case for abuse on
every single mopping-up operation. The
problem is that we allowed them [Russian forces] to work with the ‘bandits’
using ‘bandit’ methods.” Arkadii
Baskaev, a Duma representative and former general who fought in the first
Chechnya campaign was similarly damning, suggesting that Russian military
abuses were forcing Chechen men into the ranks of Chechen rebel groups and that
Russian soldiers “go there [to Chechnya], rob and come back…All the temporary
troops must be withdrawn from there.”
Taus Jabrailov, a deputy to Akhmed Kadyrov, stated that “kidnapping has
become more frequent,” citing thirty-one disappearances over the previous ten
days. Even the deputy prosecutor general, Sergei
Fridinsky, told the Duma that “no one would deny that human rights are being
violated” in Chechnya, although he said that only “about fifteen” criminal
investigations had been opened against Russian soldiers for abuses committed
during mopping-up operations.
Around the same
time, a group of pro-Moscow Chechen officials wrote to President Vladimir V.
Putin to urge him to intervene personally to put an end to rising abuses by
Russian forces in Chechnya, saying:
the days following the terrorist attack in Moscow, the activities of federal units in Chechnya have resulted in a drastic deterioration of
the political situation in the republic.
Military units use armored vehicles on a massive scale to abduct civilians
in the dead of the night.
The murder of Malika
Umazheva was the first clearly retaliatory murder of its kind in Chechnya.
Until September 2002, Umazheva served as head of administration for
Alkhan-Kala, a village on the outskirts of Grozny that has been the scene of repeated, abusive
sweep operations. Unlike many other
village administrators, Umazheva had been very outspoken about abuses by
Russian forces in her village, worked with human rights defenders to document abuses,
and repeatedly confronted the Russian military about them. This earned her the personal rancor of
high-ranking Russian military officials, including General Anatoly Kvashnin,
chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, who accused her on
state television of corruption.
On September 9, 2002, Umazheva was removed from her post by pro-Moscow officials on the
pretext of “systematic nonperformance of duties.” Prior to her murder, she successfully
challenged her dismissal in court. She was to have resumed her post on December
On the night of
November 29, the electricity was out in Alkhan-Kala, and the Umazheva family
went to bed around
According to an eyewitness, soldiers in masks came to the Umazhev home
and took Umazheva to the shed. Minutes later, shots rang out; Umazheva’s
relatives then found her lying in a pool of blood. A person who was sleeping in
Umazheva’s house when the Russian soldiers came in at gave detailed testimony to Human Rights
Watch about what happened:
around ] I
heard someone yelling [in Russian], “On the floor, bastards! Don’t move!” . . . They surrounded the house in a few
seconds. They were in each room and
yelled, “Everyone down on the floor, beasts!”
Their outfits alone, the masks and guns, could terrify anyone.
saw five soldiers. They were in each
room and threw things out of the wardrobes.
They messed up the whole house.
They knocked [name omitted] down on the floor and beat him.
[Umazheva] . . .asked, “Do you know whose home this
is?” The soldiers replied, “Yes we do.
What is your name.” “My name is Malika.”
“So. We’ve come to the right
place.” And they cursed.
ordered her to go with them and open the shed [located in the yard.] They
wanted to see if there were any Wahabbists in it. …
soldiers also said at first that she would come back…. When I wanted to follow her, a soldier
pushed me back with his gun, swearing. …
we rushed out, barefoot, the soldiers were running out into the street. The one who was guarding us jumped out of the
house immediately after the shots and we’ve never seen him again. They all ran to the highway. [Our neighbors] say that APCs and UAZ [jeeps]
were waiting for them not far from our house. …
ran towards the shed . . . [Umazheva] lay in a pool of blood just in
front of the shed. She wanted to open
the shed and they shot her in the back, three shots near the heart and a shot
behind the ear. She was bleeding. Hope
dies last, and I didn’t want to believe she was dead.
have attempted to blame Chechen fighters for Umazheva’s killing, but her family
is convinced the murder was carried out by Russian forces. Several factors
point to Russian involvement: her prominent role in documenting human rights
abuses, the fact that the soldiers who came to her home spoke unaccented
Russian, and the presence of Russian military vehicles in the vicinity of her
house, to which the soldiers apparently fled after killing Umazheva.
previous encounters with federal forces indicated their suspicions about
her. According to her relatives, a group
of Russian soldiers came to Umazheva’s house on November 15, explaining that
they had captured three “Wahhabis” (Chechen religious fighters) and ordering
Umazheva to accompany them to identify the three men. According to one eyewitness, Umazheva refused
to go, accusing the soldiers of trying to endanger her life by branding her as
an informer, saying: “If I go with you today, I’ll be dead tomorrow. They [Chechen fighters] will kill me and
claim I was an informer.” Her relatives surrounded her and began
screaming and crying, and the Russian soldiers ultimately withdrew after
searching the home for weapons. Umazheva
mentioned to her relatives that she was concerned about the death threats she
had been receiving, telling several relatives just a week before her death that
“a general from Khankala was hunting her.”
The Memorial Human
Rights Center also carried out a detailed investigation into the killing of
Umazheva. Its investigation concluded: “it is obvious that Malika Umazheva was
killed by those who repeatedly threatened her, i.e. representatives of the
[Russian] Federal Forces. … The murder of Malika Umazheva has become the next
in a series of acts of terror unleashed by the armed forces of the Russian Federation against the civilian population of the
Five men from Chechen-Aul. On the night of October
22 to 23, 2002,
Russian forces carried out a large-scale raid in Chechen-Aul, a village
located some twenty kilometers south of Grozny, going from home to home looking for
Chechen men and arresting a total of eight men. The masked Russian
soldiers arrived in a Russian military URAL truck and UAZ jeeps. Two of the men were released after four
days, having suffered beatings. The
executed bodies of five of the detained men were discovered on November 9
in a field near the village of Vinogradnoe, bearing signs of abuse: Ali
Magomadov, aged thirty-six; Umalt Abaev, aged twenty-four; Ismail Umarov,
aged twenty-eight; Magomed Shakhgeriev, aged sixteen; and Rustam
Zubkhajiev, aged twenty. A New
York Times correspondent was present in Chechen-Aul when the bodies
were brought home, and noted that “their faces were bruised and torn. Some necks bore traces of rope marks.” A sixth person detained that night,
twenty-eight-year-old Salakh Yunusov, has “disappeared.”
Two men from Chechen-Aul. At about on November 28, Russian forces returned
to Chechen-Aul. The soldiers went
to the homes of two brothers, twenty-six-year-old Ismail Gaisumov and
thirty-five-year-old Issa Gaisumov, and took them away to a nearby
field. The family told Human Rights
Watch that they heard gunshots from that direction, and the next morning
the bullet-riddled bodies of the two brothers were found.
Staropromyslovski district of Grozny. On the night of November 14,
a group of twelve masked soldiers in gray camouflage uniforms came to the
home of fifty-two-year-old Khosh-Ahmed Zainutdinov, who worked in the
Reconstruction Department of the pro-Moscow mayor of Grozny.
In front of his relatives (who later provided eyewitness testimony
to Human Rights Watch), the soldiers grabbed Zainutdinov as soon as he
came to the door, threatened his relatives, and then left on foot. The next morning, Zainutdinov’s
bullet-riddled and bruised corpse was found in a nearby vegetable
garden. The family is convinced
that Russian soldiers were responsible, because the abductors spoke
fluent, unaccented Russian, wore uniforms identical to those worn by
Russian special forces, and left behind a racist slogan on the gate of the
home unlikely to be used by Chechens refering to themselves, saying
“Chernomazym Salam!” (which would translate roughly as “Greetings,
Darkies!,” a racist reference to the dark complexions of some Chechens).
Ismail Yakhiaev, Chiri-Yurt. In
mid-November, Russian forces carried out a large-scale sweep operation in
the village of Chiri-Yurt, located in southern Chechnya.
Ismail Yakhiaev, aged twenty-eight, was sitting in the yard of his
home, talking to a Chechen fighter who had a radio with him. Yakhiaev
attempted to flee, but soldiers detained him and took him away in an APC
as villagers watched from their homes. The next day, the body of Yakhiaev
was discovered near the nearby village of Dachu-Borzoi, with broken ribs and a broken leg, and
numerous gunshot wounds in his back. The killing of a person in custody,
whether he is a civilian or a fighter, is a grave violation of the laws of
Since the beginning
of the second Chechen war, Russian forces have been responsible for hundreds of
forced disappearances, cases in which they take into custody people who are
never heard from again. In such cases, relatives’ inquiries to
Russian authorities as to the whereabouts of their detained family members are
met with denials that the “disappeared” persons were ever in custody. The
unacknowledged detention of civilians places them outside the protection of the
law, making them vulnerable to extrajudicial execution and torture. On several occasions, mass graves containing
the bodies of detained Chechens who “disappeared” in Russian custody have been
discovered in Chechnya.
In all of the cases
documented below, the families of the disappeared made strenuous efforts to
locate their missing relative, contacting Russian military officials, various
Chechen procurators, the Chechen administration and police, the FSB, and any
other official they believed could have information. In addition, many families traveled all over Chechnya in an attempt to visit known detention
facilities and locate the missing. In
the cases listed below, all of those attempts proved fruitless.
Human Rights Watch
received press reports of dozens of disappearances that occurred in the two
months prior to its field mission. We were able to document eight incidents
involving seventeen individuals:
Issa Abumuslimov. At about on December 11, a group of masked men
in camouflage uniforms came to the home of Issa Abumuslimov, a
fifty-two-year-old engineer who was bedridden after breaking his leg when
a wall collapsed on him three months earlier. The soldiers tied up Abumuslimov’s wife
and looted the home before taking away Abumuslimov on their APC, a vehicle
used solely by Russian forces. His wife, Raisa Abumuslimova, told Human
Rights Watch that she believed the men to be Russian contract soldiers (kontraktniki,
usually older than conscript soldiers, who fight in Chechnya under
contract), because they spoke fluent Russian, and were older than
Three men from Oktyabrski district of Grozny.
Shortly before on December 10, a group of five masked
soldiers in white camouflage uniforms entered the home of Issa Dokaev,
aged thirty-three, in the Oktyabrski district of Grozny. The soldiers tied up Dokaev and two
house guests, Issa Dubaev, aged twenty, who worked as a policeman in the
pro-Moscow Chechen militia, and Ruslan (last name unknown), aged forty,
who worked in the passport office of the pro-Moscow administration. The soldiers, who had arrived on foot,
then attempted to start Dokaev’s car, but finally abandoned that effort
and took the three detainees away on foot. Dokaev’s relatives believe the
soldiers were Russian because they spoke pure, unaccented Russian, and
ordered them to speak Russian after they addressed one of the guests in
Chechen, because the soldiers could not understand Chechen.
Five men from Novye Atagi. At about on November 5, 2002, a large group of Russian troops in
APCs arrived in the village of Novye Atagi for a sweep operation. The soldiers went to several homes in
the village, beating up civilians and taking away five villagers who have
since “disappeared.” The names of
the five men are Khamzat Debizov, aged twenty-eight; Akhmat Kasumov, aged
twenty-three; Mohammed Kasumov, aged twenty-six; Bislan Taisumov, aged
nineteen; and a twenty-year-old man from the Arsanukaev family.
Three men in Grozny.
On the afternoon of November 3, a Chechen police officer and his
two friends “disappeared” in Grozny. They were last seen eating lunch at a
café in Grozny, which they left at to return to their homes in a village
south of Grozny.
On that day, a Russian military helicopter was shot down over
Khankala military base, around the same time the three men left Grozny for their home village, located near
the base. The police officer’s
superiors first informed the family that he was being detained at the
Khankala military base, but later denied that they had any knowledge of
Bislan Shabazgeriev and Aiub Ezerbiev.
On November 1, 2002, twenty-five-year-old Bislan Shabazgeriev and his friend Aiub
Ezerbiev traveled from the small village of Avtury, located in southern Chechnya, to the nearby town of Shali to place a telephone call to his
mother, who had recently been operated on in Rostov.
On their way home, the taxi was stopped at a checkpoint near the
entrance to Avtury, normally manned by a mixed group of Russian and
pro-Moscow Chechen soldiers. The
soldiers originally detained all five people in the taxi, but released
three after a beating. Shabazgeriev
and Ezerbiev were never seen again.
Rasul Imaev and the destruction of his
family’s home. At on October 27, a group of Russian
soldiers came to the home of fifty-two-year-old Baiant Imaeva in Grozny, beating her unconscious with their gun
butts. They took away her
twenty-three-year-old son, Rasul Imaev, who had lost his leg during a
shelling incident in February 2000.
When Imaev’s sister tried to approach the FSB for information about
her missing brother, the FSB official threatened to “disappear” her also. On November 13, Russian soldiers
returned to Imaeva’s home, tied her and two female relatives up, and
destroyed the family home with explosives.
Bislan Saparbiev. Twenty-two-year-old Bislan Saparbiev was
an internally displaced person living in the Sputnik tent camp in
Ingushetia. In September 2002, he
got married and returned to Grozny to obtain new passports for himself and
his wife. On October 9, a group of masked Russian soldiers in the
Zavodskoi district of Grozny took Saparbiev away, saying they were going
to “register” him. He has not been seen
Disappearance of Ramzan Rasaev. On September
Russian forces carried out a large-scale sweep operation in Chechen-Aul,
detaining many men from the village and checking their documents in a
nearby field. All of the men were
released that same day, except for thirty-year-old Ramzan Rasaev. Rasaev, who like most of the other men
had been detained at his home, was taken in a Russian military APC to the
field where the document check was taking place, and was last seen being
brought to a tent set up by the Russian soldiers.
Russia has resisted establishing a meaningful accountability process for
abuses by its troops in Chechnya. Although the Chechnya procuracy has opened hundreds of
investigations into allegations of abuse, investigators have failed to take
basic steps to secure evidence. As a result, most investigations are soon
suspended, perpetrators are almost never identified, and few cases have made it
to the courts. The recent verdict on Col. Yuri Budanov, who was released of
criminal responsibility for the killing of a Chechen woman, demonstrated that
even cases that do reach the courts face enormous obstacles to justice.
Human Rights Watch
research has consistently found that investigations into the vast majority of
serious abuses by Russian soldiers fall far short of international standards.
In many cases, we found that, while opening criminal cases, investigators
failed to even question plaintiffs or eyewitnesses. Officials routinely
suspended these investigations a few months later stating that all possible
investigative steps had been taken but it had proven impossible to identify the
perpetrators. This trend was most pointedly illustrated by the Russian
government’s disclosure of its investigative steps into the forced
disappearance of Said-Khussein Imakaev to the European Court of Human Rights.
Russian troops detained Imakaev in December 2000. After his mother filed a
complaint with the local procuracy, investigators questioned two individuals,
one of whom was the mother, and wrote three letters to police and security
officials requesting information about the case. When the latter replied that
they had no information, officials suspended the investigation. The
investigation was reopened (and more witnesses questioned) only eighteen months
later, after the Russian government had learned Imakaev’s parents had filed an
application regarding his “disappearance” with the European Court of Human
In 2001, the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was instrumental in
exposing the ineffectiveness of investigations into abuses by Russian soldiers,
when it requested the Russian government to submit a detailed list of
investigations into crimes committed during the Chechnya conflict. This list, submitted in April
2001, confirmed that the vast majority of serious abuses were not under active
investigation but had in fact been suspended.
In January 2002, the PACE requested the Russian government to provide another
detailed list of criminal cases by April 2002, but the latter made available
only a summary of criminal cases under investigation that had little analytical
value. A November 2002 letter from the Chechnya procuracy to the OSCE
Assistance Group listing the status of dozens of investigations into enforced
disappearances and other abuses shows that officials routinely suspend
investigations into serious abuses after only two months (the minimum time
period for a criminal investigation required by law).
figures confirm just how small the odds are that Russian soldiers who commit
abuses against Chechen civilians will face punishment for their crimes.
According to government figures released in January 2003, only forty-six
military servicemen had been convicted for abuses in Chechnya since the start of the armed conflict.
Roughly half were convicted on charges of murder or rape; the length of their
sentences was not specified.
These figures contrast sharply with the thousands of serious human rights
violations documented by human rights groups, including hundreds of
extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. According to a government
website, www.infocentre.ru, in 2002 twenty-six servicemen were brought under
investigation for crimes against civilians.
This brought to 162 the total number of criminal cases currently open against
servicemen. Of these, ninety-seven investigations have been completed, and
fifty-seven sent to a court. Fourteen cases pertain to murder, eighteen to
theft, eight to traffic violations, three to improper handling of a weapon, and
two to rape.
Even when officials
initially take the appropriate investigative steps to secure material evidence
of the crime and establish the identity of the perpetrator, significant
obstacles still stand in the way of justice. In the case of Col. Budanov, who
stood accused of murdering a young Chechen woman, investigators initially
launched a good-faith investigation, questioning relatives of the victim and
numerous eyewitnesses, and appointing a full forensic examination on the
victim’s body. Several months later, however, officials began to undermine the
case. They first inexplicably dropped a rape charge against Col. Budanov even
though an original forensic examination report stated she had been raped vaginally
and anally in the hours prior to her death. Budanov was subsequently referred
for a psychiatric forensic examination to a psychiatric institution that is
notorious for its role in persecuting dissidents in Soviet times. This
institution found on two occasions that Col. Budanov had been “temporarily
insane” at the time of the murder. Although psychiatric assessments conducted
immediately after his arrest had found he was sane at the time of the murder, a
military court released Col. Budanov of criminal responsibility based on the
later psychiatric assessments.
displaced persons with adequate food, water, shelter, and medical assistance.
In particular, provide former residents of the Iman camp with adequate shelter;
comprehensive sources to assess the human rights situation and security inside Chechnya, and use this assessment to determine
whether it is safe to encourage the return of displaced persons. As long as
conditions in Chechnya are unsafe for returns, provide decent
a full and objective investigation into forced disappearances, extrajudicial
executions, and other abuses committed in Chechnya, and prosecute all military
and police personnel, government officials and their agents found responsible
requests for invitations to the U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions,
the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the special
rapporteur on torture, and other relevant U.N. special mechanisms. Ensure that
these thematic mechanisms have full access to the sites of sweep and other
search-and-seizure operations, regular and ad-hoc detention facilities, sites
of mass or makeshift graves, and official documents relevant to their mandates;
without further delay with the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE) to submit a comprehensive, detailed list of
investigations into abuses committed in Chechnya;
an independent national commission of inquiry that would ensure the effective
investigation and prosecution of those responsible for violations of
international human rights and humanitarian law. Its composition and operation
should conform to international standards for national commissions of inquiry
established in 2000 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights;
implement the U.N. Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced
Disappearances, in particular article 10, which requires keeping detainees in
officially recognized places of detention; maintaining accurate information on
detainees and their places of detention; and promptly informing family members
of the place of detention.
publicly available regularly updated figures on the number of individuals
arrested and charged for security-related crimes in Chechnya, with information on the nature of their
alleged crimes and the places of their detention. Maintain accurate registers
of detainees’ names and places of their detention, and make such registers
readily available to detainees' family, counsel, and other legitimately
all direct attacks on civilians, and hold accountable those responsible for
such attacks. Declare publicly that Chechen forces must not resort to such
attacks in the future under any circumstances.
publicly to respecting the basic principles of international humanitarian law,
and instruct all forces to do so, in particular those principles applying to
the protection of noncombatants civilians during armed conflict.
particular the U.S. government and those of E.U. member states, should advance
the recommendations contained in this report in all available multilateral fora
and in their bilateral dialogues with the Russian government. In particular,
they should ensure that a strongly worded resolution is introduced and adopted
at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights; press for the Russian government to
make available a detailed list of investigations into abuses committed in Chechnya; and seek the redeployment of the OSCE
Assistance Group and access for key U.N. thematic mechanisms to Chechnya.
should adopt a resolution condemning ongoing violations of human rights and
humanitarian law by both Chechen and Russian forces. The resolution should call
on Russia to cease compelling displaced persons to
return to Chechnya while conditions are unsafe and to ensure
that no other tent camps will be closed. To address the lack of accountability
for abuses in the armed conflict, the PACE should request that the Russian
authorities make available to it a comprehensive and detailed list of all
investigations into abuses by servicemen in Chechnya and the status of these investigations. The
resolution should further call for the extension of the mandate of the OSCE
Assistance Group to Chechnya and access to Chechnya for relevant U.N. special mechanisms, as
well as urge the Russian government to authorize the publications of all
reports of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
general of the Council of Europe should instruct the experts seconded to the
office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Human Rights in Chechnya to closely monitor the investigation into
the murder of Malika Umazheva and other egregious cases of extrajudicial
executions and forced disappearances in Chechnya. He should further instruct the experts to
determine whether such investigations fully comply with the standards for
investigations into alleged human rights violations developed in the case law
of the European Court of Human Rights.
Other Council of Europe agencies should provide resources and expertise to
assist in the analysis. The Council of Europe should inform the Chechen
procuracy, the Procuracy General, the Russian president, as well as the general
public, of any failure to uphold those standards;
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, the U.N.
Special Rapporteur on Torture, the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or
Involuntary Disappearances and the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
should continue to pursue the visits mandated by UNCHR resolution 2001/24. The
High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary General should lend their support
for these bodies in seeking invitations and in gaining access to Chechnya;
Commission on Human Rights should adopt a strong resolution on Chechnya at its 59th session. The
ongoing violations of human rights humanitarian law by both parties to the
conflict. The resolution
should call on the Russian authorities to immediately stop arbitrary detention
and to observe existing international and Russian legal standards; to end the
use of torture and ill-treatment; to put an end to the pattern of enforced
disappearances; and to end extrajudicial executions. It should call on Chechen
rebel leaders to apprehend fighters who were involved in planning the
hostage-taking in Moscow and the Grozny bombing and hand them over to competent
law enforcement officials in Russia or elsewhere so that they can be brought to
justice; and to stop assassinating Chechen civilians who cooperate with the
on accountability. The
resolution should call on the Russian authorities to ensure investigators
conduct meaningful investigations into all reported crimes by Russian troops
against civilians in Chechnya or Ingushetia, and the prosecution of the
perpetrators; it should call on the Russian authorities to present the
international community with a list of all current and past investigations into
such abuses and indicate their current status; it should renew its call for a
national commission of inquiry to document abuses by both sides to the
conflict; finally, should Russia fail to make progress on accountability, the
resolution should call for an international commission of inquiry to document
abuses and produce an official record of them.
on Russia to desist from coerced returns of internally
displaced persons and to ensure their well-being. The resolution should strongly condemn Russia’s efforts to force internally displaced
persons to return to Chechnya, including through such indirect means as
withdrawal of services and infrastructure. It should call on the Russian
authorities to stop moving any displaced persons to parts of the conflict zone
where their safety and security cannot be guaranteed and where international
humanitarian agencies do not have free and safe access.
for visits to the region by key U.N. thematic mechanisms. The resolution should renew calls for visits
by the special rapporteur on torture, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, the special rapporteur on violence against
women, and the special representative to the secretary general on internally
ØCall for renewal of the OSCE Assistance
Group’s mandate. The
resolution should call on the Russian government to agree to the renewal of the
Assistance Group’s mandate that expired on December 31, 2002.
Permanent Council should continue its vigorous negotiations with the Russian
government toward renewing the Assistance Group’s original mandate,
particularly those aspects relating to human rights monitoring and
This report is based
on a research mission conducted in Ingushetia in December 2002 by Anna Neistat,
director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch; Alexander Petrov, deputy
director of the Moscow office; and Peter Bouckaert, senior emergencies
researcher. It was written by Peter Bouckaert.
It was edited by Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division, Diederik Lohman, senior
researcher, Joseph Saunders, deputy program director, and Dinah PoKempner,
general counsel. Veronika Leila Szente Goldston, advocacy director for the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, also edited
this report. Invaluable editorial assistance was provided by Emily Letts,
associate for the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights
Watch. Human Rights Watch also thanks our Ingushetia colleagues, without whom
we would not have been able to conduct the research for this report.
We are deeply
grateful to the Memorial Human Rights Center for their contributions to this
report and their collegiality, in Moscow and in Ingushetia.
Most of all, we wish
to express our gratitude to those who agreed to share their stories with us,
despite their fears of possible consequences. Many braved genuine danger to
travel to Ingushetia to be interviewed by Human Rights Watch researchers. We
hope that this report will contribute to ending the abuses faced by them and
their loved ones, and bringing those responsible for forced disappearances and
other abuses to justice.
Rights Watch gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Steve Silberstein.
Human Rights Watch
Europe and Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of
people around the world.
We stand with victims and activists to bring offenders to justice,
to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom and to protect people
from inhumane conduct in wartime.
We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers
We challenge governments and those holding power to end abusive
practices and respect international human rights law.
We enlist the public and the international community to support
the cause of human rights for all.
The staff includes Kenneth
Roth, executive director; Michele Alexander, development director; Rory
Mungoven, advocacy director; Carroll Bogert, communications director; John T.
Green, operations director, Barbara Guglielmo, finance director; Lotte Leicht,
Brussels office director; Patrick Minges, publications director; Maria
Pignataro Nielsen, human resources director; Joe Saunders, interim program
director; Wilder Tayler, legal and policy director; and Joanna Weschler, United
Nations representative. Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the board. Robert L.
Bernstein is the founding chair.
Its Europe and
Central Asia division was established in 1978 to monitor and promote domestic and international
compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. It is affiliated with the International
Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, which is based in Vienna, Austria.
Elizabeth Andersen is the executive director; Rachel Denber is the deputy
director; Veronika Leila Szente
Goldston is the advocacy director; Alexander Anderson, Matilda Bogner, Julia
Hall, Bogdan Ivanisevic,
Diederik Lohman, Darian Pavli,
Acacia Shields, and Jonathan Sugden are researchers; Anna Neistat is the Moscow office director; Alexander Petrov is the deputy Moscow office Director;Julie Chadbourne, Demetra Kasimis, and
Marie Struthers are consultants;
Liudmila Belova, Giorgi Gogia, Emily Letts, Dorit Radzin, Leslie Smith, and Ole
associates. Peter Osnos is the
chair of the advisory committee
and Alice Henkin is vice chair.
Web Site Address: http://www.hrw.org
Listserv address: To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail message
to email@example.com with "subscribe hrw-news" in the
body of the message (leave the subject line blank).
Rights Watch letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, dated November 14, 2002, available at
http://hrw.org/press/2002/11/russian-idps-ltr.htm (retrieved January 16, 2003).
Panasiuk, quoted in “Bolee 2,5 tysiach pereselentsev vernulis iz Ingushetii v
Chechniu” [“More than 2,500 Displaced Persons Have Returned from Ingushetia to Chechnya”], www.infocentre.ru, December 24, 2002 (retrieved January 17, 2003). Infocentre.ru is a Russian
Principle 15 states that internally displaced persons have “the right to be
protected against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where their
life safety, liberty and/or health would be at risk.” Although non-binding, the
U.N. Guiding Principles reflect international humanitarian and human rights
laws which are binding, including the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, the Gevena Conventions, and other treaties to which Russia is a
party. Particularly relevant for
displaced persons in Chechnya
obligations under these instruments to provide adequate food and housing and to
protect displaced persons’ right freely to choose their residence. Resolutions
of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly have
described the Guiding Principles as a comprehensive framework for the
protection of internally displaced persons. Regional bodies in the Americas,
Africa, and Europe have endorsed
or acknowledged the Guiding Principles with appreciation. In particular, the
OSCE and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) have
widely endorsed and promoted the Guiding Principles throughout their work. The
Council of Europe has also endorsed the Guiding Principles through its
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography. Individual governments have begun to
incorporate them in national policies and laws and some national courts have
begun to refer to them as a relevant restatement of existing international
law. For more information see: Commission
on Human Rights: “Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on
internally displaced persons, Mr. Francis Deng Specific Groups and Individuals:
Mass Exodus and Displaced Persons 16 January 2002,” E/CN.4/2002/95.
Principle 18 of the Guiding Principles states:
At the minimum, regardless of
the circumstances, without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide
internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to: essential food and
potable water, basic shelter and housing, appropriate clothing, and essential
medical services and sanitation.
Russian authorities’ attempts to control the location
of the internally displaced, whether inside Ingushetia or Chechnya,
violates their right to choose their own residence, provided for in the
ICCPR (Art. 12(1)), as well as other
human rights treaties. Although the ICCPR does permit derogation
(that is, limits) on this right during times of public emergency or armed conflict, those limits must be provided
for in law, and include only those limits strictly required by the situation at
hand. Since many of the displaced people Human Rights Watch interviewed
for this report were coerced into leaving the camps for displaced persons in
Ingushetia, their right to choose their own residence has been severely
 In 2000
and 2001, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions
expressing concern about the Chechnya conflict and calling on the Russian
government to, among other things, establish an independent national commission
of inquiry to investigate human rights violations by both sides of the
conflict, and to facilitate visits to the breakaway republic by five U.N.
thematic mechanisms: the special rapporteur on torture, the special rapporteur
on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, the special rapporteur on
violence against women, the special representative of the secretary general on
internally displaced persons, and the special representative of the secretary
general on children in armed conflict. In 2002, a similar resolution was
narrowly defeated. The Russian government has failed to establish an
independent commission of inquiry and, as of this writing, only one U.N.
thematic mechanism, the special representative of the secretary general on children
in armed conflict, had visited Chechnya.
Danish Refugee Council’s data is summarized in Vesta, “Sub-project monitoring
report for the period November 1, 2002
to November 30, 2002.”
Vesta is an Ingush nongovernmental organization subcontracted by the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to monitor conditions in
temporary accommodation centers (TACs)
“Paper on Asylum Seekers from Russian Federation
in the Context of the Situation in Chechnya,”
Weir, “Chechens Wary of Homecoming: President Putin Orders Refugees to Go Back
to War-Torn Chechnya
by End of September,” Christian Science Monitor, June
Health Ministry, Order 799, dated November
Isayev, “Tent Refugee Camps in Ingushetia Slated for Liquidation by December
20,” Prague Watchdog, November 23, 2002.
“Refugee Camps in Ingushetia to be Closed by Spring,” Interfax, January 14, 2002.
Rights Watch interviews, Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December 11, 2002.
example, “Fatima F.,” a resident of the Alina camp, told Human Rights Watch:
“The military located near the camp asked my husband several times whether he
changed his mind about returning. They said that after December 20 our camp
would be taken down,” Human Rights Watch interview with Fatima F., Alina camp,
Ingushetia, December 14, 2002. “Fatima F.” is a pseudonym.
Rights Watch interview with “Satsita S.,” Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December 11, 2002. “Satsita S.” is a
 Human Rights Watch interview with “Magda M.,”
Sputnik tent camp, Ingushetia, December
17, 2002. “Magda M.” is a
Rights Watch interview with “Petimat P.” Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December 19, 2002. “Petimat P.” is a
last point in the twenty-point plan defers “provision of security for
returnees” to a “separate plan,” and entrusts this to A.P. Ezhkov, the deputy
director of the Federal Security Service. No further information is given about
security. “Plan of Activities of Federal
Bodies of Executive Power, Government of the Republic
of Chechnya, Government of the Republic
of Ingushetia, on final measure for
return of IDPs from Ingushetia to Chechnya.”
On file with Human Rights Watch.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December
holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan in Arabic is called Eid al-Fitr but in Chechnya
is called Uraza Bairam.
Rights Watch interview with Zara Dakaeva, Yandare, Ingushetia, December 11, 2002.
Rights Watch interview, Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December 18, 2002. The interviewee also told us
that in October 2002, Russian forces detained her brother, together with
several others, during a passport check. She described the faces of those
released along with her brother as “swollen and bruised,” allegedly from
Rights Watch interview with “Abubakar Abubakarov,” Bella tent camp, Ingushetia,
December 11, 2002. “Abubakar Abubakarov” is a pseudonym.
Rights Watch interview with Fatima F., Alina tent camp, Ingushetia, December
Rights Watch interview with “Heda H.,” Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December
11, 2002. “Heda H.” is a pseudonym.
“Monitoring report on the situation and readiness of new TACs in Grozny,”
November 15, 2002. Human Rights Watch
re-translated the quoted text from the original Russian version.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 11, 2002. The interviewee wants to
announcement, signed by the Directorate on Migration for the Russian Federation
Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Chechen Republic, is on file with Human
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 11, 2002. The interviewee requested
Rights Watch interview with the two delegation members, who requested
anonymity, Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December 11, 2002.
Rights Watch interview with Heda H., Bella tent camp, Ingushetia, December 11,
 Human Rights
Watch interview with “Isa Isaev,” Ingushetia, December 17, 2002.
UNHCR briefing notes, December 3, 2002: “Over the last two days (December 1-2),
UNHCR and U.N. international field staff were not allowed to enter the camp,
under the pretext that their visit would give displaced people there false
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 17, 2002. The interviewee
Rights Watch interview with “Musa Musaev,” December 12, 2002. “Musa Musaev” is a pseudonym.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 12, 2002.
Rights Watch interview with Isa Isaev, Ingushetia, December 17, 2002. Isaev
told Human Rights Watch:
There is still psychological
pressure on us. They tell us they can
cause problems, find guns and drugs in my house. This was the Ingush Migration Service. Representatives from the police came many
times, and each time they gave us deadlines, saying by noon tomorrow we need to
leave. The migration service threatened
that the police would find guns or drugs the last time they came, it was
yesterday—they come every day.
UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Action in the North Caucasus Information Bulletin, 16
November-15 December 2002,” available at www.reliefweb.int (retrieved January
is a state party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its two additional
Protocols. Common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which applies to
“conflicts not of an international character” (i.e. internal armed conflicts),
requires that persons taken into custody, whether civilians or captured
combatants, be treated humanely in all circumstances. Such persons may never be subjected to
murder, mutilation, cruel treatment or torture, or the passing of sentences and
carrying out of executions without a proper trial by a regularly constituted court.
The applicability of international humanitarian law to the conflict in Chechnya
has been recognized by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, in resolutions of
2000 and 2001. United Nations, Situation in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation,
E/CN.4/RES/2001/24, April 20, 2001, and United Nations, Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in
Any Part of the World, E/CN.4/2000/L.32, April 12, 2000. It is debatable whether Protocol II
additional to the Geneva Conventions is at the present time applicable to the
armed conflict in Chechnya because of the limited control that Chechen forces
exercise over territory in Chechnya. For this reason, this paper relies on
common article 3 for its analysis of international humanitarian law. It also
relies on the ICCPR. It is notable that Russia has not filed formal documents
as required under the ICCPR to derogate from obligations under the ICCPR.
example, Decree 80, issued March 27, 2002 by the commander of the United Group
of Forces in Chechnya.
rebels do not have such vehicles. Chechens and other people from the Northern
Caucasus commonly speak Russian with a distinct accent. The masked soldiers in
the cases documented below spoke with no such accent.
 Musa Muradov,
“Author of Chechen Constitution Abducted,” Komersant, December 4, 2002.
Rights Watch interview with a witness to his detention involved in the search
for him, Ingushetia, December 16, 2002.
Muradov, “Author of Chechen Constitution Abducted.”
 Letter from Aslan Maskhadov to Holly Cartner,
then executive director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights
Watch, dated May 28, 2001. Human Rights Watch also met with Ilias Akhmadov, the
foreign minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, on April 3, 2001. He also
denied any involvement by Chechen forces under Maskhadov’s command in the
killings of Chechens who cooperate with the Russian government.
Bagrov, “Chechens Mourn as Death Toll Rises to 83,” Associated Press, December
“Chechen Rebel Attacks Claim 3 Lives,” Associated Press, January 9, 2003; “2
Pro-Moscow Officials Abducted in Chechnya,” Interfax, January 9, 2003.
Committee for National Salvation, “Press Release 244: Head of Shatoi District
Administration Murdered,” January 7, 2003.
“Pro-Kremlin Head Killed in Chechen Capital,” Associated Press, December 25,
2002; “Unity Faction Believes Their Chechen Representative Killed for Political
Reasons,” RIA Novosti, December
25, 2002. Some sources have suggested that the murder of Adizov may have been
related to a blood feud that began when Chechen militants killed Adizov’s
father in 1994, when the latter was chairman of the Chechen council of elders
and refused to endorse a jihad against Russia. See: Musa Muradov, “Blood Feud
Seen Possible Motive for Grozny United Russia Leader’s Murder,” Kommersant, December 26, 2002.
More Administration Head Killed in Chechnya,” RIA Novosti, December 19, 2002;
“The Fourth Administration Leader of the Village of Tsotsin-Yurt Killed,” Chechen
Times, December 19, 2002.
Bagrov, “Top Chechen Official Survives Ambush,” Associated Press, December 8,
Bagrov, “Gunmen Abduct Chechen Official, Two Neighbors,” Associated Press,
November 29, 2002; “Head of Village Administration Abducted in Chechnya,” RIA
Novosti, November 29, 2002.
“Well-known Religious Public Figure Killed in Chechnya,” Interfax, November 20,
Chechen Civilians Killed; Rebel Death Toll Rises,” Agence France-Presse,
November 18, 2002; “Russian Family Killed in Chechnya,” Interfax, November 18,
Bagrov, “Russian Official Killed in Chechnya,” Associated Press, November 16,
“Pro-Moscow Official Abducted in Chechnya,” RIA Novosti, October 15, 2002.
Rights Watch counted fifty-nine for the period between October 23 and December
10, 2002. Based only on the number of interviews we conducted with victims of
abuses and the number of abuses they reported for the November-December period,
Human Rights Watch’s eleven-day mission could neither confirm nor refute this
“Kadyrov Seeks Probe Into Missing Persons Cases in Chechnya,” Interfax,
November 15, 2002.
Yevgenia Borisova, “Deputies Lambast Abuses in Chechnya,” Moscow Times,
November 15, 2002.
the Army Stop Abusing Civilians, Pro-Russian Chechens Tell Putin,” Agence
France-Presse, November 20, 2002.
Umazheva was a critical source for Human Rights Watch’s February 2002 report,
“Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances, and Extrajudicial Killings During
Sweep Operations In Chechnya,” A Human
Rights Watch Report, vol. 14, No. 2 (D). Human Rights Watch interviewed her
and also worked with her on other reports about abuses in Chechnya. For a profile of Umazheva’s work, see Anna
Politkovskaya, “Malika po imeni Danko. Ee Bolshe Net,” Novaia gazeta, [The New Gazette] (Moscow), December 5,
2002. For an example of Umazheva’s
outspokenness on human rights issues during her tenure as head of administration
in Alkhan-Kala, see Maura Reynolds, “Chechens Report Abuses Despite
Safeguards,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2002.
Russian human rights organization Memorial investigated General Kvashnin’s
accusations against Umazheva, and found them unfounded. See “Press Conference with Oleg Orlov,
Memorial Human Rights Center Chairman, on Chechnya,” Federal News Service, May
 Human Rights Watch Interview with “A.,”
December 13, 2002. All details about
this witness have been omitted.
 Russians use the term “Wahabbi” as a
derogatory term for Islamic “fundamentalists.”
Rights Watch interview with “A.,” Ingushetia, December 13, 2002.
Tavernise, “Chechnya is Caught in Grip of Anti-terror Wrath,” New York Times,
November 12, 2002.
Rights Watch interviews with three separate witnesses who requested anonymity,
December 12, 2002.
Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ingushetia, December 12, 2002.
Russian expression “chernomazyi” translates literally to “smeared with
black.” It is a derogatory term for the darker-skinned people of Central Asian
and the Caucasus, as well as Africans.
Rights Watch interview with Islam Suleimanov, Ingushetia, December 15, 2002.
particularly Human Rights Watch, “Last Seen: Disappearances in Chechnya,” A
Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 14, no. (4D), April 2002; Human Rights
Watch, “Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances, and Extrajudicial Killings
During Sweep Operations In Chechnya,” A
Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 14, No. 2 (D), February 2002; and Human
Rights Watch, “The ‘Dirty War’ in Chechnya:
Forced Disappearances, Torture, and Summary Executions,” A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 13, no. 1(D),
 For one
such case, see Human Rights Watch, “Burying the Evidence: The Botched
Investigation Into A Mass Grave in Chechnya,” A Human Rights Watch Report,
Vol. 13, No. 3 (D), May 2001.
Families do sometimes manage to locate missing relatives in detention
facilities, and then often are forced to buy them out of captivity, even if no
charges against them exist. For an
overview of detention abuses in Chechnya, see Human Rights Watch, “Welcome
to Hell” Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Extortion in Chechnya (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2000).
Rights Watch interview with Raisa Abumuslimova, Ingushetia, December 14, 2002.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 18, 2002.
Rights Watch interview with Malika Debizova, Ingushetia, December 19, 2002.
 We have
withheld the names of the three men and the village at the request of the
witness for this case.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 12, 2002.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 15, 2002. The witness requested
Rights Watch interview with Baiant Imaeva, Ingushetia December 15, 2002.
In November, Russian and international media began to report on several
bombings of residences where suspected terrorists were believed to live or
hide. For example, on November 4, the
day after a military helicopter had been
shot down near the Khankala military base, federal forces blew up six
apartment buildings near the base. They first evicted twenty-three families
living in the buildings, telling them the buildings were near collapse and
that “the area needed to be cleared
because of its proximity to the military base.” See, Sabrina Tavernise, “Chechens, Left Homeless, Cope as War Drags
On,” The New York Times, November
16, 2002. Other media reports put the number of evicted families at
sixty to ninety. On November 8, unknown persons blew of the home allegedly
belonging to family of one of the women involved in the Moscow hostage-taking.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast. See, “Chechnya: iavnaia provokatsia
s daleko idushchimi posledstviami: Vzorvan ‘dom terroristki uchastvovshei v
zakhvate zalozhnikov v Moskve.’ No dokazael’stv faktu prinadlezhnosti ei etogo
doma net.” [Chechnya: Clear Provocation with Far-reaching Consequences. The ‘Home of a Terrorist Involved in the
Moscow Hostage-taking Has Been Blown Up.’ But There is No Proof that She Owned
the House.] Vremia Novostei, www.vremyamn.ru/cgi-bin/2000/1050/15/11 [accessed
January 23, 2002]
Rights Watch interview with Sharani Saparbiev, Ingushetia, December 18, 2002.
Rights Watch interview, Ingushetia, December 12, 2002.
example, 79 percent of all investigations into enforced disappearances had been
Analysis of the letters shows that of the twenty-one criminal investigations
into enforced disappearances, sixteen had been suspended after exactly two
months, two were suspended after three and ten months respectively, and three
investigations were still under active investigation (two months of these
investigations had been opened less than two months before the procuracy of
Chechnya wrote the letter to the Assistance Group).
“Chechnya: Prosecutor Says 46 Russian Troops Convicted Of Abuses,” RFE/RL,
January 10, 2003..
“Last Year Twenty-Six Servicemen Were Held Criminally Accountable for Crimes
against Civilians in Chechnya,” www.infocentre.ru, January 21, 2003. [retrieved
on January 24, 2003.]
among others, Aksoy v Turkey, Judgment of December 18, 1996, para. 98; Aydin v
Turkey, judgment of September 25, 1997, para. 103; Kaya v Turkey, judgment of
February 19, 1998, para. 107; Kurt v Turkey, judgment of May 25, 1998, para.
104; Tekin v Turkey, judgment of June 9, 1998, para. 66; Yasa v Turkey,
judgment of September 2, 1998, para. 114).