Special operations in Ingushetia are search-and-seizure raids officially aimed at seizing insurgents who are believed to be in the targeted areas, and at searching for weapons in residents homes and/or workplaces. Sometimes they are carried out in response to armed attacks by insurgents in the area. According to Memorial, human rights are blatantly violated in the conduct of such operations.217 Some of the extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, abductions, and torture documented in this report occurred during search-and-seizure operations. This chapter describes beatings, looting, and other cruel and degrading treatment against Ingushetia residents during special operations.
Research by Human Rights Watch and Memorial in 2007 found that special operations generally follow the pattern of sweeps and targeted raids218 seen in earlier years in Chechnya.Depending on the circumstances, the operations can target a specific household, a neighborhood, or an entire village. Groups of armed personnelsecurity services, local police and federal Ministry of Internal Affairs troopsarrive in a given area, often wearing masks and riding in military vehicles, minibuses, and passenger cars that in many cases lack license plates. They surround a neighborhood or an entire village and check peoples dwellings. The servicemen do not identify themselves, show official warrants, or provide the residents with any explanation for the operations.
The prosecutors office has failed to investigate complaints from Ingushetia residents about operations involving human rights violations.219
Human Rights Watch recognizes that Russian authorities have a legitimate right to conduct law enforcement and security operations in any part of the Russian Federation in order to identify and detain suspected criminals and to seize illegal weapons. However, such operations must conform to Russias domestic law and international human rights obligations.
In order to be in compliance with those obligations, law enforcement officials, when using force, must exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and to the legitimate objective to be attained.220 As far as possible, non-violent means shall be applied before resorting to the use of force and firearms.221 Universal human rights standards prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, without exception or derogation.222 In a recent case against Russia, the European Court of Human Rights stated that difficulties inherent in the fight against crime cannot justify limits on the protection to be afforded in respect of the physical integrity of individuals.223 Furthermore, governments are under a positive obligation to effectively investigate all allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement personnel and hold those responsible accountable.224
On April 10, 2007, soon after 5 a.m., unidentified armed personnel carried out a sweep operation in the village of Gairbek-Yurt in Nazran district. The sweep was conducted in a distinctly abusive manner.
About 100 masked servicemen in camouflage uniforms arrived in armored vehicles, Gazel minibuses, and cars, cut off the village from the access road, surrounded the area around the local school, and proceeded to search the houses. According to residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the servicemen forced their way into homes with no warrant, and responded with obscenities to any questions regarding their names, affiliation, or reasons for the search. Men, women, and children were forced to stand outside at gunpoint barefoot and in their nightclothes.225
Movsar N. (not his real name) told Human Rights Watch,226
Human Rights Watch was also able to speak to the woman mentioned by Movsar N. Milana V. (not her real name) was distressed by the behavior of the servicemen,227
After the sweep, the head of the Nazran district police department and two members of the Ingushetia parliament spoke with villagers. The department head confirmed that Ingush police were not made aware of the operation. Moreover, he said that when the district police officer for Gairbek-Yurt, Yusup Shibilov, tried to enter the village during the sweep, armed personnel prevented him from doing so.228 The parliamentarians also collected residents written complaints and promised to raise the issue with competent authorities. However, no investigation into the operation has been carried out.
On June 1, 2007, around 6 p.m., Khazhbiker Merzhoevs house in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya was raided by FSB and military servicemen. They broke into the Merzhoevs yard and opened fire over the heads of the children who were playing there. They ill-treated the disabled Khazhbiker Merzhoev and beat his elder son Ramzan. They also hurt Merzhoevs teenage son, Adam, including breaking one of his fingers.
Khazhbiker Merzhoev told Human Rights Watch,229
The Merzhoevs promptly lodged a complaint with the prosecutors office of Ingushetia, which forwarded it to the military prosecutors office at the military division #04062. The military prosecutors office replied to the prosecutor of Ingushetia, Yuri Turygin, According to the information provided by the head of the Ingushetia branch of FSB of the Russian Federationthe military entity tasked with the conduct of search operationsstaff-members of the Ingushetia branch of the FSB of the Russian Federation did not take part in the June 1, 2007 search at the Merzhoevs house231 Therefore, according to the military prosecutors office, there was no evidence suggesting that on June 1, 2007, FSB officials conducted a search at the Merzhoevs house.232 At this writing, the perpetrators of this abusive operation remain unpunished.
According to Khazhbiker Merzhoev, his house was also raided by the FSB back in September 2006. During that raid, the security servicemen were specifically looking for his son Ramzan. When Merzhoev explained that Ramzan had been drafted to the army nine months earlier, one of the FSB officers shrugged, OK, then its a mistake; there must be a mistake in the warrant. We have a car full of these papers. We have search and arrest warrants for everyone in Ingushetia.233
As mentioned in Chapter VII, on June 17, 2007, armed personnel killed Ruslan Aushev in a special operation in the village of Surkhaki, and abducted his cousin Magomed Osmanovich Aushev and took him to Vladikavkaz, where he was tortured in custody.234 About a week later, on June 25, villagers held a rally to protest these violations.235
Two days later, on June 27, North Ossetia FSB personnel raided the houses of Bamatgirei Aushev and his relative, Eset Ausheva, in Surkhakhi at around 4.30 a.m. Up to 100 armed servicemen in camouflaged uniforms, many of them wearing masks, entered the village in Gazel minibuses, UAZ vans and other vehicles. They attempted to kidnap Khalid Aushev, age 27, and beat two minors, Adam Aushev and Khamzat Aushev, ages 17 and 16.
Human Rights Watch spoke to several witnesses to the operation, the aim of which was purportedly to seize Eset Aushevas son, Magomed, age 25cousin of Magomed Osmanovich and Magomed Maksharipovich Aushev, both mentioned abovewho was not in the village that day. But some residents thought that the targeted raids were aimed at punishing the village for holding the protest rally.
Maksharip Aushev, a relative of Khalit Aushev, told Human Rights Watch,236
While one group of FSB officials was attempting to seize Khalid Aushev, another group of their colleagues blocked Azovskaya Street and raided the house of Eset Ausheva. Ausheva described the operation to Human Rights Watch,237
According to Eset Ausheva, her son Magomed was in Rostov buying car parts. He did not know the security services were looking for him. Two days after the special operation, Magomed Aushev returned home.238 On the way back to Ingushetia he drove through numerous checkpoints, where his documents were checked by law enforcement personnel. The fact that he was allowed to proceed through checkpoints without any problems suggests that his name was not on any wanted list in those regions or on the federal wanted list. Eset Ausheva told Magomed that North Ossetia security services wanted to detain him.
Upon his return, Magomed Aushev immediately went to the Ingushetia Ministry of Internal Affairs to inquire about the situation. He told his mother that they looked for his name in their databases and said, We have nothing against you. You are free to go, as far as we are concerned. Its Vladikavkaz [security personnel in the capital of North Ossetia] that wants you. The next day, Magomed Aushev left his familys home and went away to an unknown destination. At this writing, his relatives have had no information as to his fate or whereabouts. Eset Ausheva believes that her son fled because he was afraid to share the fate of his relatives, Ruslan and Magomed [Osmanovich Aushev].239 (For details on the subsequent further abduction of Magomed Osmanovich Aushev along with Magomed Maksharipovich Aushev in Chechnya, see Chapter IX.)
A particularly brutal sweep was carried out in the village of Ali-Yurt on July 28, 2007, in response to an attack by insurgents the previous day in the Ingush capital, Magas, less than four kilometers from Ali-Yurt.
On the evening of July 27, insurgents armed with submachine guns and grenade-launchers attacked the FSB building and the presidential palace in Magas. One military serviceman was killed and several servicemen were wounded. The Ingushetia prosecutors office immediately opened a criminal investigation into the attempted killing of law enforcement officials and unlawful possession of weapons and ammunition. A representative of the Counterterrorism Operative Headquarters in Ingushetia stated to the press the day after the attack that it had been launched near the village of Ali-Yurt and that therefore a state of counterterrorist operation was imposed on the village.240 The representative further said that on July 28, before dawn, Ali-Yurt was blocked by internal troops of Russias Ministry of Internal Affairs, servicemen of the Ingushetia Ministry of Internal Affairs, and units of the United Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, who were tasked with verifying the residents identities, checking all the dwellings, and identifying alleged insurgents.
Despite official assurances that the special operation in Ali-Yurt was being carried out in full compliance with Russian law,241 local residents complained of gross violations of their rights. According to Ingushetiya.ru, an internet information agency with a broad network of volunteer correspondents in Ingushetia, approximately 50 individuals, including elderly people, women, and children, were beaten by armed personnel. Among the victims were the local mullah, a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy, and an 11-year-old boy. After the operation, 30 people sought medical assistance and several of them had to be hospitalized.242
Local residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch confirmed this report.243 They told us that the operation began soon after 4 a.m. Armed personnel arrived in APCs, military vehicles, and Gazel minibuses. Dozens of armed servicemen in camouflage uniforms, many of them also wearing masks, forcefully entered, fired their weapons in the air, beat residents, hit children and threw them to the floor, dragged people outside and forced them to lie flat on the ground in their nightclothes. All attempts to ask questions or pleas to stop the violence were met with cursing and beating.
Two high-level Ingush officialsthe minister of internal affairs and the head of the Security Counciltried to access the village at about 8 a.m. but were not allowed in until approximately 10 a.m., when they were able to have an ambulance accompany them into Ali-Yurt.
The operation went on until the afternoon and appeared to have a distinctly punitive character. When the servicemen were beating the residents of Ali-Yurt they were accusing them of being terrorists and hating the security services and the military. The only question the armed personnel asked, if any, was, Where are the fighters? but they did not seem to pay attention of the responses.
Magomed-Girei Aspiev told Human Rights Watch,244
Aspievs neighbor, Tamerlan Tatriev, was also beaten. He was woken up by servicemen violently banging on his gate and threatening to throw grenades into the yard if the gate was not opened immediately. Tatriev, who was recovering from a broken leg and could not move quickly, sent his wife Patimat to let the servicemen in. Tatriev described the ensuing events to Human Rights Watch,245
Another local resident, Yusup Tsoroev, gave a similar account of the events. Tsoroev was especially distressed by the fact that his pregnant wife was also beaten,246
According to Memorial, seven people, all of them young males, were detained during the operation in Ali-Yurt and delivered to the Ingushetia branch of the FSB. There, the detainees were beaten and interrogated about the insurgents. Three of the detainees had black bags put on their heads, were dragged into a vehicle and then thrown out on the road between the villages of Surkhakhi and Yandyrka. The other four were simply released. Ultimately, no one from the village of Ali-Yurt faced criminal charges in relation to the July 27 attack.247
Some of the Ali-Yurt residents who needed medical assistance wanted their injuries to be documented by medics to back prospective complaints to the prosecutors office regarding unlawful actions by armed personnel. However, in some cases, Nazran hospital staff was very reluctant to reflect the full extent of villagers injuries in their medical records, and in other cases openly refused to do so.248
Magomed-Girei Aspiev described his experience at the hospital as follows,249
Yusup Tsoroev told Human Rights Watch that when he and his acquaintances pressed the hospital for their respective medical records, not a single case history could be obtained: The doctors said that some [officials] arrived at the hospital, took all the case histories, and left, and they could not say who they were or where they came from.
Under Russian criminal procedure, a referral by an investigator is required in order to have a forensic medical exam. Tsoroev said the investigator would not issue such referral promptly, and that it took six days to obtain the referral and have the examination carried out.250
According to Ingushetiya.ru, 30 Ali-Yurt residents who were beaten during the sweep lodged complaints with the Nazran prosecutors office.251 Following the preliminary inquiry, the prosecutors office of Ingushetia forwarded the complaints to the military prosecutors office with a recommendation to open a criminal investigation.252 However, the military prosecutors office returned the complaints to the Ingushetia prosecutors office stating that there was insufficient evidence regarding the involvement of military servicemen in the abuses in Ali-Yurt. Finally, the Ingushetia prosecutors office opened a criminal case on abuse of office by law enforcement officials.253 However, the prosecutor of Ingushetia, Yuri Turygin, informed Memorial representatives during a meeting with them on October 30, 2007, that the investigation had been unable to establish the identities of the perpetrators of specific abuses or the identities of their commanders.254
Magomed-Girei Aspiev, who immediately became the most active member of the group of local residents demanding accountability for perpetrators, was openly threatened by unidentified law enforcement or security personnel. A day or two after he filed a complaint with the prosecutors office, he noticed three men standing by his gate around midnight. When he approached the gate he saw that they were dressed in sportswear and looked Russian. One of them said, When will you stop complaining? Aspiev asked, And who are you? His interlocutor then put a gun to Aspievs forehead and ordered him to go back into the house. Aspiev reported the incident to the prosecutors office but the authorities did not take any steps to protect his personal security.
At this writing, the investigation into what happened on July 28 has not yielded any meaningful results. Yusup Tsoroev shared his frustration with Human Rights Watch,255
217 See Memorial, Ingushetia 2007 Whats Next, (Ингушетия 2007 куда дальше?), Section 4.3, Checks of Households during targeted preventive operations and sweeps of residential areas, (Проверки домовладений в ходе адресных «профилактических» операций и «зачисток» населенных пунктов).
218 Targeted raids are different from sweeps by being focused on single specific houses as opposed to the broader territories.
219 See the cases of Amriev, the Galaevs, and Mutaliev in Chapter VI, Extrajudicial Executions.
220 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Eighth U.N. Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112 (1990), principle 5.
221 Ibid., principles 4 and 5.
222 ICCPR, art. 7; ECHR, art. 3; Convention against Torture, art. 2.
223 Chitayev and Chitayev v. Russia, para. 154.
224 ICCPR, arts. 2(3) and 7; Convention against Torture, art. 4; ECHR arts. 3 and 13. For European Court findings specifically related to effective investigation into alleged violations of article 3, see Assenov and others v. Bulgaria, para. 102; Sakik and others v. Turkey, para. 62; and Chitayev and Chitayev v. Russia, paras. 163-166. See also Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, principle 23.
225 Human Rights Watch interviews with Movsar N. and Milana V. (real names withheld), Gairbek-Yurt, Ingushetia, December 26, 2007.
226 Human Rights Watch interview with Movsar N., December 26, 2007.
227 Human Rights Watch interview with Milana V., December 26, 2007.
228 Human Rights Watch interview with Movsar N. and Human Rights Watch interview with Milana V., December 26, 2007, Gairbek-Yurt, Ingushetia.
229 Human Rights Watch Interview with Khazhbiker Merzhoev, December 27, 2007, Ordzhonikidzevskaya, Ingushetia.
230 A copy of the search record, issued by an investigator of the Ingushetia branch of the FSB, is on file with Human Rights Watch. Using armed personnel involved in the search operation as witnesses to the operation stands in violation of relevant procedural guarantees, as witnesses must be unbiased. This practice, however, appears widespread in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
231 A copy of the letter, addressed to Yuri Turygin by military prosecutor Evseev of military division #04062 and dated September 15, 2007, is on file with Human Rights Watch.
233 Human Rights Watch Interview with Khazhbiker Merzhoev, December 27, 2007.
234 Human Right Watch interview with Magomed Osmanovich Aushev, October 25, 2007.
235 Human Rights Watch interviews with Maksharip Aushev, Nazran, Ingushetia, December 22, 2007, and Eset Ausheva, Surkhakhi, Ingushetia, December 26, 2007. See also Chapter IX of this report, Public Protests and Response of the Authorties; Memorial, Ingushetia 2007 Whats Next, (Ингушетия 2007 куда дальше?), Section 4.9, Protest actions in Ingushetia, (Акции протеста в Ингушетии); and Other details of punitive raid on the village of Surkhahi on June 27, (Другие подробности карательного налета на село Сурхахи 27 июня), Ingushetiya.ru, June 29, 2007, http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/10800.html (accessed June 12, 2008).
236 Human Rights Watch interview with Maksharip Aushev, December 22, 2007. Maksharip Aushev was not in Surkhakhi during the operation but heard the details from Bamatgirei, whom he accompanied to the Ministry of Internal Affairs along with other relatives.
237 Human Rights Watch interview with Eset Ausheva, December 26, 2007.
238 See footnote 206 for explanation regarding three Aushev cousins by the name of Magomed mentioned in the report.
239 Human Rights Watch interview with Eset Ausheva, December 26, 2007.
240 Opening of a criminal case on the attack on Magas, (По факту нападения на Магас возбуждено уголовное дело), Newsru.Com, July 28, 2007, http://palm.newsru.com/russia/28jul2007/magas.html (accessed April 28, 2008).
241 A criminal investigation has been opened into the shooting at the presidential administration, (По факту обстрела администрации президента), Polit.Ru, July 28, 2007, http://www.polit.ru/news/2007/07/28/deloing.html (accessed April 28, 2008).
243 Human Rights Watch interviews with Magomed-Girei Aspiev, Tamerlan Tatriev, and Kheda Z. (real name withheld), December 23, and Yusup Tsoroev and Tanzila Esmurzieva, Ali-Yurt, Ingushetia, December 27, 2007.
244 Human Rights Watch interview with Magomed-Girei Aspiev, December 23, 2007.
245 Human Rights Watch interview with Tamerlan Tatriev, December 23, 2007.
246 Human Rights Watch interview with Yusup Tsoroev, December 27, 2007.
247 See Memorial, Ingushetia 2007 Whats Next, (Ингушетия 2007 куда дальше?), section 4.3, Checks of Households during targeted preventive operations and sweeps of residential areas. This was also confirmed by Ingushetias prosecutor, Yuri Turygin at Human Rights Watchs meeting with Ingushetia authorities on May 27, 2008. At the same time, Turygin indicated that two armed individuals [who arrived to Ali-Yurt] from the territory of a neighboring republic were detained during the operation. [были задержаны двое с оружием с территории соседней республики, и их передали по территориальности] Human Rights Watch has no information confirming or refuting this remark.
248 See, for example, Sweep operation in the village of Ali-Yurt (Ingushetia): again, the Chechen scenario, (Зачистка в селе Али-Юрт (Ингушетия): опять по чеченскому сценарию), Memorial, August 3, 2007, http://www.memo.ru/hr/hotpoints/caucas1/index.htm (accessed April 28, 2008).
249 Human Rights Watch interview with Magomed-Girei Aspiev, December 23, 2007.
250 Human Rights Watch interview with Yusup Tsoroev, December 27, 2007. His forensic medical examination record, which included the description of multiple bruises, is on file with Human Rights Watch.
251 On July 28, 50 people were beaten up in Ali-Yurt, (28 июля в Али-Юрте были избиты 50 человек), Ingushetiya.ru.
252 Magomed-Girei Aspiev told Human Rights Watch that he was informed at the Nazran prosecutors office that his complaint was sent to the Troitskoe military prosecutors office. When he tried to inquire about the status of the complaint, the Troitskoe military prosecutors office denied having received any such documents. The documents were found only after the intervention of Memorials lawyers. Human Rights Watch interview with Magomed-Girei Aspiev, December 23, 2007.
253 Case #07500032 on para a, part 3, article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, as recorded in the written response to Memorials inquiry by investigator Gagtiev of the investigation committee at the Ingushetia prosecutors office, dated October 31, 2007. [следователя по ОВД Назрановского межрайонного СО СУ СК при прокуратуре РФ по РИ М.М.Гагтиева № 32п-07/07600032 от 31.10.2007 г. на запрос ПЦ «Мемориал».] Memorial case records reviewed by Human Rights Watch, Memorial Nazran office, December 24, 2007.
254 Human Rights Watch interview with Oleg Orlov, chair of Memorial, December 6, 2007. Orlov took part in the meeting with Yuri Turygin.
255 Human Rights Watch interview with Yusup Tsoroev, December 27, 2007.