Monday, May 15, 2006

Secret Prisons in Chechnya

Secret Prisons in Chechnya Should Be of Concern to the Council of Europe

Vienna, 15 May 2006. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) has submitted its report "Unofficial Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic" to Council of Europe Legal Affairs Committee Rapporteur Dick Marty, who has a mandate to investigate "alleged secret detention centres in Council of Europe member states".

The 37-page report documents the existence of secret prisons in Chechnya operated by Chechen officials, in particular the so-called "Kadyrovtsy," and by Russian security forces. These facilities violate Russian law and Russia's obligations as a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as well as to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR).

"Secret illegal prisons are used for detaining, torturing and even killing kidnapping victims in Chechnya," according to Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director. "We believe the investigation by Mr. Marty must focus on this issue as a challenge to the rule of law and human rights in a Council of Europe member state."

The report is posted on the IHF internet site at

For further information:
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, +43 -676-635 66 12
Joachim Frank, IHF Project Coordinator, +43-676-312 23 48
Henriette Schroeder, IHF Press Officer, +43-676-725 48 29


Executive Summary

At the beginning of the second Chechen war, numerous unofficial places of detention existed throughout Chechnya, many of them in the form of earth pits. The biggest such facility was located on the territory of the headquarters of the federal army in Khankala, close to Grozny. The existence of these unofficial places of detention was denied at the time. Later, in February 2001, a large mass grave was found close to Khankala, containing more than fifty dead bodies, many bearing signs of execution. Most of the bodies that were identified belonged to persons who were last seen in the custody of Russian troops or police.

Now, in the seventh year of the armed conflict, many illegal places of detention still exist in the Chechen Republic. Most of them are run by forces operating under Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov (so-called "Kadyrovtsy"). One reason for this parallel penitentiary system is to obtain "confessions" and "testimonies" through cruel beatings and torture, which subsequently can lead to the official detention and persecution of the respective persons. A high number of such criminal cases are fabricated.

In the village Tsentoroy (Khosi-Yurt), where the "Kadyrovtsy" headquarters is located, there are at least two illegal prisons functioning.

. One consists of concrete bunkers or boxes, and kidnapped relatives of armed Chechen fighters - parents, wives, brothers or even children - are held there as hostages.
. The second prison in Tsentoroy is evidently located in the yard - or in immediate vicinity - of the house of Ramzan Kadyrov.

Some of the other illegal prisons run by the "Kadyrovtsy" are:

. the premises of the "anti-terrorist centre" (ATC) in Gudermes
. the premises of the "anti-terrorist centre" (ATC) in Geldagan (Kurchaloevsky district)
. the premises of the "anti-terrorist center" (ATC) in Urus-Martan: in the buildings of the former RAIPO in the city center and in the building that used to belong to the regional Selkhoztechnika association opposite school nr 7
. the "anti-terrorist centre" in the western suburb of Avtury (Shalinsky district)
. the buildings occupied by the so-called "oil regiment" in Grozny's Yuzhnaya street
. the base of a subdivision of the "oil regiment" in the Dzhalka village in the Gudermes region
. another "oil regiment" house, being opposite the house of their commander Adam Delimkhanov
. the base of PPSM-2 in Grozny next to the building of the 'RTS Microrayon'
. the buildings of a technical college in the 12th district of the Oktyabrski region of Grozny in Achkhoy-Martan. The battalions "Vostok" ("East") and "Zapad" ("West"), being part of the 42nd Mechanized Infantry Division of the Russian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), also use their premises as illegal prisons.
. premises of the battalion "Vostok" in Gudermes, on the territory of the former company PMK-6 (till spring 2006, "Vostok" had an additional premise in a food factory)
. premises of the battalion "Zapad" in the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny (till spring 2006 "Zapad" was based in the Transmash Factory);
plus the territory of a subunit of them in the south-eastern part of Urus-Martan

The summary special groups (SSG) of the FSB of the Russian Federation, located in different districts of the republic, also run unlawful places of detention, inter alia in the following places:

. the premises of a former private enterprise in the outskirts of Katyr-Yurt village (Achkhoy-Martan district)
. a mill near the village Starye Atagi (Groznensky rural district)
The premises of a former food factory between the villages of Avtury and Geldagan also serve as a secret prison, run by a federal structure, but it is not clear which structure.

The main military base of the Russian army in Chechnya, Khankala, seems not any longer to be the major place, where illegally persons are kept.

Even official places for detention, like the temporary detention facility (IVS) at the republican and district level, are used as illegal places of detention, where the presence of several of its detainees are not properly registered. Kidnapped people are kept there, and beatings, torture and extrajudicial executions are perpetrated there as well. The legalization of ORB-2 - the Operational-Search Bureau of the North Caucasus Operative Department of the Chief Department of the Russian Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Southern Federal District, and opening of several ORB-2 sub-offices is disputed, as it opposes Russian federal law. There are confirmed reports that kidnapped persons are still being brought there and that it is still a place where torture is used systematically.

The "Kadyrovtsy"

"Kadyrovtsy" is a term used by the population of Chechnya - as well as members of the groups themselves - for members of the former so-called Security Service of the President of the Chechen Republic headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the late President Akhmad Kadyrov, and now Chechen Prime Minister. This is the group now most feared by Chechnya's civilian population, more than federal servicemen. This Security Service was initially created as a personal security guard of the Moscow-appointed head of the Chechen administration, Akhmat Kadyrov, without any legal status, and gradually grew into a powerful military formation. It was commanded from the beginning by Ramzan Kadyrov. Some of its sub-units were legalized in 2004 and 2005 to become parts of different structures of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs. After Akhmat Kadyrov was killed in a bomb blast in May 2004, the Security Service was formally liquidated and most of the rest of its units integrated into the system of Russian law enforcement agencies and security authorities. Gradually, all structures of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs are falling under control of "Kadyrovtsy".

The total strength of the "Kadyrovtsy", which now include the "Second Road Patrol Regiment of the Police (PPSM-2)", the "oil regiment" and the "anti-terrorist centers" (ATC), is not disclosed. The estimations vary from 4 to 12 thousand people, although the last figure is probably an overestimation. Some are completely legalized into special structures of the Interior Ministry of Chechnya while others continue to exist in the form of paramilitary formations. By spring 2006, another reorganization of the "Kadyrovtsy"-structures started. Allegedly, the "anti-terrorist centers" (ATCs) are going to be closed down, and two new battalions will be formed: the battalions "Yug" ("South") and "Sever" ("North"). The announcement is that these two new battalions will be directly subordinated to the federal Ministry of Interior.

Joachim Frank, Project Coordinator
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Wickenburggasse 14/7
A-1080 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 22
Fax: +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 50

Update: At RFE/RL, a Secret Prison Victim Recalls His Ordeal.

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