In Chechnya, little faith in amnesty
By Umalt Chadayev
CHECHNYA – The amnesty declared in mid-July this year by Nikolai Patrushev, head of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), for members of illegal armed formations in the North Caucasus is producing results as more than a hundred men have voluntarily laid down their arms and given themselves up since its declaration, officials of the law-enforcement agencies say.
"During the past three weeks over a hundred guerrillas and their accomplices have voluntarily given themselves up since the declaration of the amnesty for participants of illegal armed formations in the republic. This is already an impressive result. In my view, an extension of the period of amnesty to the end of September is completely justified and will enable the surrender of dozens more," a Chechen law-enforcement official said.
On the whole, however, the population views the amnesty with caution. "As far as I know, there have been repeated amnesties for guerrillas, seven of them, I think,” says 46-year-old Grozny resident Dukvakha Salamov. They were declared both in the ‘first war’ and in the present one. But what really happened? Dozens, even hundreds of men who believed the authorities and gave themselves up were abducted, killed, or went missing without trace."
"After the end of the first war (1994-1996) the Russian State Duma declared a general amnesty for those who had taken part in military actions on either side of the conflict. But when the ‘counter-terrorist operation’ began, the actual result was that the amnestied men were arrested and sent to ‘filtration camps’, with many being sentenced to long terms of imprisonment,” says Dukvakha. “It’s not done to talk about this now, but even Salman Raduyev’s guerrillas who attacked the hospital in Kizlyar were granted amnesty by a special resolution of the Russian State Duma, in exchange for the Novosibirsk policemen who were taken hostage in the village of Pervomayskoye. But what happened to Raduyev, Atgeriyev, and the others? I don’t believe that this amnesty will give the men who have decided to lay down their weapons a real chance of returning to civilian life.”
"I’m looking through the reports about guerrillas surrendering in the Chechen Republic, and I’m left with a strange feeling that the men who are “voluntarily giving themselves up” are either those who didn’t fight in this war or those who at various times rendered some small services to the guerrillas. The other day there was information that one of Salman Raduyev’s guerrillas had given himself up, then that former members of the Ichkerian National Guard had also done so, then there was talk of some accomplices surrendering, and so on. But I mean, the ‘Raduyevites’ were granted amnesty in 1996, while the fact of having served in the ranks of the Ichkerian National Guard in the years of Maskhadov's presidency doesn’t mean that those men were guerrillas," says a local human rights defender who does not want to be identified. "It was an official organization of the existing government of the day, analogous to the troops of the federal Interior Ministry, and so those men don’t need any sort of amnesty."
"The Russian leadership isn’t really offering the former guerrillas anything except a verbal (and later possibly a written) declaration of amnesty. No mechanisms have been created in order to help those men to adapt to civilian life, to solve their problems, especially the problems of security, obtaining jobs, and so on. I’m afraid they are going to end up like the old Russian military proverb: ‘It was smooth on paper, but they forgot about the ravines.’”
In the opinion of Makka, a female resident of Groznensky district who lost two sons in the course of the military campaigns, the declaration of amnesty for the guerrillas shows that they are a real force, not a gang of bandits hiding in mountain gorges and impenetrable forests. "I recently heard [Chechen Premier] Kadyrov say on TV that there were about 60-70 Chechen guerrillas and 200-300 foreign ones left in the republic,” she says. “But if there are so few of them, why bother declaring an amnesty? They’ve killed thousands of people, yet they’re declaring an amnesty for a handful of folk, most of whom are foreigners, i.e., mercenaries. I think it’s just another PR stunt by the authorities, and the guerrillas are still a serious force, in spite of everything the military says. Otherwise no one would bother talking to them."
"The death of Basayev, just like the deaths of Sadullayev, Maskhadov, and before them Dudayev and the others, won’t lead to an ending of the war. And amnesties won’t change anything. What’s needed is a real political dialogue with the armed opposition, not threats and ultimatums. If the opposition doesn’t exist (and that’s what Moscow claims, at any rate), then why declare an amnesty for them and call on them to lay down their weapons?" says a human rights activist.
Translated by David McDuff.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
From this Prague Watchdog report (my tr.) it appears that while Russia and the Moscow-backed Chechen authorities are intent on granting amnesty to Islamist terrorists, the majority of whom hail from countries other than Chechnya, they are far less keen on helping the local population, which has been traumatized by years of warfare and repression by Russian forces.