I. Summary

It really hurts! Supposedly, neither the leadership of the republic nor the leadership of the Russian military knows who did it. Here are men in uniforms and armed to the teeth coming into the village, abusing masses of people, and leaving. And then no one is able to explain what happened. As if they fell from the sky.

—An Ingushetia resident seriously assaulted, along with his pregnant wife and his neighbors, during a July 28, 2007 counterterrorism sweep operation at the village of Ali-Yurt

The Chechnya armed conflict affected stability and the security of communities across the North Caucasus region of Russia, and continues to do so. In Ingushetia, the republic into which Chechnya’s conflict overflowed, the grave conflict dynamics of its larger neighbor have arisen. For the past four years Russia has been fighting several militant groups in Ingushetia, which have a loose agenda to unseat the Ingush government, evict federal security and military forces based in the region, and promote Islamic rule in the North Caucasus. Beginning in summer 2007, insurgents’ attacks on public officials, law enforcement and security personnel, and civilians rose sharply.

Human Rights Watch condemns attacks on civilians and recognizes that the Russian government has a duty to pursue the perpetrators, prevent attacks, and bring those responsible to account. Attacks on civilians, public officials, and police and security forces are serious crimes. Russia, like any government, has a legitimate interest in investigating and prosecuting such crimes and an obligation to do so while respecting Russian and international human rights law. Regrettably, Russia is failing to respect or to adhere to these laws. Law enforcement and security forces involved in counterinsurgency have committed dozens of extrajudicial executions, summary and arbitrary detentions, and acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

These practices evoke, albeit on a far smaller scale, the thousands of enforced disappearances, killings, and acts of torture that plagued Chechnya for more than a decade. They are antagonizing local residents and serve to further destabilize the situation in Ingushetia and more widely in the North Caucasus.

In order to prevent Ingushetia from turning into the full-blown human rights crisis that has characterized Chechnya, prompt and effective measures must be taken by the Russian government to end these human rights violations and hold accountable their perpetrators.

This report, based on extensive field research, documents these human rights violations and describes the legal and political contexts in which they have occurred.

A leading Russian human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Memorial Human Rights Center (Memorial)—which has an office in Ingushetia—estimates that in 2007 alone, security personnel were responsible for up to 40 extrajudicial executions of local residents in counterinsurgency operations. This report documents eight. The youngest victim, six-year-old Rakhim Amriev, was killed in a raid on his parents’ home, where security forces believed an alleged insurgent was hiding. An investigation into his death is ongoing. That investigation is exceptional, however, and can be explained only by Amriev’s young age, which precluded the authorities from alleging his involvement in insurgency. In most cases, the authorities do not investigate killings of alleged insurgents. In summer 2007, for example, security forces opened fire on Islam Belokiev one afternoon at a car market; they then surrounded him, barred medical help from reaching him, and let him slowly bleed to death. Charges of membership in an illegal armed group and attempt at the life of law-enforcement personnel were filed against him posthumously, and his killing was never investigated.

Law enforcement also forcibly and arbitrarily detain, without a warrant, those suspected of insurgency. While officials acknowledge that suspected insurgents have been detained, detainees are kept in incommunicado detention and their relatives are not informed of their whereabouts. This practice is referred to in the region as “abductions.” According to Memorial, 29 people were thus “abducted” in 2007; three of those individuals subsequently disappeared, while one was killed. Typically, those detained by security and law-enforcement services are young males suspected of involvement with illegal armed groups and terrorism. Three categories of young men are especially vulnerable to such detention: individuals related to or acquainted with presumed insurgents or terrorism suspects; those previously detained and whose names are in police and security forces’ databases, regardless of whether they were charged with or cleared of any alleged wrongdoing; and strictly observant Muslims. Many of those so detained are also tortured, or disappear.

For example, in September 2007 security forces took Murad Bogatyrev from his home without a warrant. Several hours later, his family watched as his naked body, which was covered in bruises, was carried out of a local police station. Police told them Bogatyrev died of a heart attack. Despite credible evidence, including a forensic medical report registering bodily harm and photographs taken by relatives, the investigation into his death (a case categorized as “abuse of office”) has to date not yielded any indictments or prosecutions. One month before Bogatyrev’s death,

30-year-old Ibragim Gazdiev “disappeared” after he was detained by security forces in August 2007. Several months prior, Gazdiev’s home had been searched by the Federal Security Service (FSB) looking for evidence of collaboration with militants. Nothing was found. The investigation into Gazdiev’s disappearance has not yielded any results, and he is missing to this day.

Abduction-style detentions and killings in Ingushetia often happen during “special operations,” which generally follow the pattern of sweeps and targeted raids seen in earlier years in Chechnya. Groups of armed personnel—security services, local police and federal Ministry of Internal Affairs troops—arrive in a given area, often wearing masks and riding in armored personnel carriers and other vehicles that in many cases lack license plates. They surround a neighborhood or an entire village and check peoples’ dwellings. Because they do not identify themselves, residents can refer to them only as “servicemen.” They do not show official warrants or provide the residents with any explanation for the operations. In the four cases of special operations documented in this report, they forced entry into homes, beat some of the residents, and damaged their property.

News of abductions, “disappearances,” killings, and abusive special operations spread quickly among Ingushetia’s population of 300,000. People in Ingushetia voiced their distress at these violations—and the government’s failure to hold anyone accountable—in a series of relatively small, largely spontaneous public protests. With the president of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov, consistently referring to the situation in the republic as normal and stable, by autumn 2007 local authorities did their utmost to prevent further protests from happening and to silence media coverage. Local officials refused to grant protest organizers permission for two rallies, which were subsequently violently dispersed.

In a striking move to intimidate independent observers, 16 human rights advocates and journalists were variously abducted, detained, and expelled from Ingushetia by security forces as they attempted to monitor two planned public rallies in November 2007 and January 2008.

Counterinsurgency operations in Ingushetia are regulated by Russia’s federal counterterrorism legislation. This legislation allows broad restrictions to be placed on fundamental rights and freedoms with no judicial or parliamentary oversight. It gives special provision for the detention of individuals suspected of terrorism for 30 days without charge. It also allows the security services to establish a “counterterrorism operations regime,” during which the authorities may search homes without warrants and ban public assemblies and the work of the press. The security services may impose these restrictions for any duration of time, in any area they determine as relevant, and without having to demonstrate that the restrictions on rights are proportionate to the threat of terrorism. The law also sets out no terms for proportionality on the use of lethal force in counterterrorism activities.

The counterterrorism operations regime is problematic, but often not invoked in Ingushetia. Far more problematic, in practice, is that law enforcement and security forces have every reason to believe they may act with impunity when carrying out any operation related to counterterrorism or counterinsurgency. Law enforcement and security forces responsible for human rights violations in Ingushetia are not brought to justice. If criminal cases into those abuses are opened at all, the prosecutors fail to mount meaningful investigations. Such investigations in most cases cannot even determine which agency—the police, the military, the FSB—is responsible for killings and other violations.

Many of those who have sought justice as well as eyewitnesses to the abuses have been subjected to verbal and physical threats. The failure of justice in Ingushetia is evidenced by the rising number of applications to the European Court of Human Rights by Ingushetia residents.