Friday, January 19, 2007

"Death Squads" in Chechnya

From Chechnya Weekly:

MEMORIAL ACTIVIST SAYS “DEATH SQUADS” OPERATE IN CHECHNYA

The bi-weekly newspaper Novaya gazeta ran an article on January 11 entitled “Zapasnye Organy” (Spare Organs), which claimed that Russia’s special services had created secret structures under the cover of private security firms and special services’ veterans groups to carry out assassinations. The article’s author, Igor Korolkov, had written an article in the weekly Moskovskiye novosti back in 2002 concerning a 70-page document he had obtained, which detailed how such structures should be set up. According to the document, the putative purposes of such secret structures included combating criminal gangs and, as the document stated, “the neutralization or physical liquidation of leaders and active members of terrorist, intelligence-diversionary groups that are conducting war against the federal authorities.” Korolkov wrote in Novaya gazeta that recent events, including the assassination of Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow and the poisoning death of former FSB Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, “compels us to turn to that document once again and interpret it in a new way.”

Referring to Korolkov’s articles in 2002 and earlier this month, Aleksandr Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights group wrote on Ej.ru, the website of Yezhednevny zhurnal, on January 13, “For me, by virtue of the specific character of my many years of work in the Caucasus, both then and now, it is absolutely obvious: certain parallel extra-governmental structures are operating in Russia and in Chechnya. In fact, a system of `death squads’ has been operating there since 2000. People are kidnapped; they disappear. In all of the official structures, relatives are told by officials that they know nothing about the abductions. And later on, in the best-case scenarios, they discover the body. Most often, they find nothing.”

Cherkasov recalled the case of the mass grave found near the Russian military base at Khankala, outside of Grozny, in February 2001 (Chechnya Weekly, February 27, 2001). “More than 50 bodies; all of those people who were identified had been detained at different times and in different places,” he wrote. “There were signs of cruel torture and violent deaths. The circumstances of place, time and modus operandi proved the existence of a system. People are abducted at different times and in different places, and then they wind up together near a federal base.” Cherkasov wrote that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling against Russia last year in several cases of disappearances in Chechnya means that “the existence of such illegal structures” and “the responsibility of the state for the abduction and death of these people” have been “officially recognized by international judicial authorities.”

Last July, in the first ruling of its kind on a disappearance case in Chechnya, the European Court of Human Rights found Russia guilty of violating the “right to life” of Khadzimurat Yandiev, who disappeared in February 2000 after a Russian general ordered him shot. The court also ruled that the victim’s mother, Fatima Bazorkina, who brought the suit against Russia, had suffered inhumane treatment because of the uncertainty surrounding her son’s fate and ordered Moscow to pay her 35,000 euros (around US$44,500) as compensation (Chechnya Weekly, July 27, 2006). In November of last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had violated the right to life, liberty and security of three other kidnapping victims – Said-Khusein and Said-Magomed Imakaev, and Nura Said-Aliyevna Luluyeva. Said-Khusein Imakaev was abducted in December 2000, and his father, Said-Magomed Imakaev, was kidnapped in June 2002, after filing a complaint about Said-Khusein’s abduction with the European Court of Human Rights in February 2002.

“The case of the Imakaevs…is simply unique,” Aleksandr Cherkasov wrote for Ej.ru. “In 2000, the son was taken from a checkpoint and disappeared. The father filed a complaint with the Strasbourg court. After that, the father also disappeared. This case is not the only one of its kind. In all of these cases, the interest of the federal side – that is, the state – in the deaths of these people is clear. Which is to say that the very thing Igor Korolkov is writing about – the extra-judicial killing of people `in the state’s interest’ – exists.”
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