Tuesday, January 16, 2007

End of Amnesty in Chechnya

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.)

Amnesty deadline runs out in Chechnya

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA - Today (January 15) marks the end of the amnesty for members of armed groups and federal servicemen which was declared by the Russian State Duma in September 2006.

According to the data of the various law enforcement bodies, from 470 to 546 guerrillas turned themselves in during the amnesty. The oldest was aged 75, and the youngest 16.

This information is supplied by the Interior Ministry of the Chechen Republic. A Chechen police officer says that in his opinion the government amnesty for former members of armed groups “will save the lives of hundreds of people.”

“Not only has it been possible to save the lives of these people, many of whom were drawn into illegal activities by means of deception, but also the lives of hundreds of others - soldiers, members of the law enforcement agencies and so on. After all, 500 armed men are a rather serious force. Especially if one considers that in the whole of the North Caucasus about 1,500 militants are operating,” the officer asserts.

According to the officer, criminal proceedings have been opened in relation to only four of those who have voluntarily laid down their arms. “In 265 cases there were no criminal proceedings at all, and more than 60 militants have already been granted amnesty. Investigations are continuing into the cases of the rest,” he says.

The Kremlin-backed Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov has called the amnesty “effective”. “If 400 well-armed insurgents with experience of partisan activities have saved an equivalent number of lives, in addition to their own, then the amnesty can with justification be called effective,” he said in an interview for RIA Novosti.

“This action has been thought out in depth, and is aimed primarily at that section of our young people who have been exposed to the influence of a hostile ideology and know nothing except weapons.” Kadyrov also expressed the opinion that there is no need for an extension of the amnesty.

However, not everyone agrees that the amnesty has produced exclusively positive results. “The widely proclaimed amnesty is yielding its fruits: people who believed the federal government’s promises and were granted formal amnesty are being abducted. And then they are charged with the offences from which they have only just been seemingly freed,” representatives of the Memorial human rights centre say.

“This amnesty is just another PR move by the Russian authorities. I believe that was intended primarily to grant amnesty to soldiers of the federal forces who had committed various crimes in the course of military actions,” 44-year-old Ismail – an instructor at one of the republic’s institutes of higher education in Grozny – is convinced. “As for the guerrillas who have surrendered in groups and individually, I have serious doubts about them. I somehow didn’t see any guerrillas being shown on TV coming down from the mountains with weapons in their hands.”

“It was recently announced that a 75-year-old guerrilla had turned himself in! Imagine this white-bearded old man running about in the forest with a machine gun. Or earlier there was a story about the surrender of a female “accomplice of the insurgents”. This may have been a woman somewhere who once gave someone a meal or gave him lodging for the night. In addition, the people who have ‘surrendered’ include those who gave up all practical activity back in the first military campaign. Sultan Geliskhanov, for example, who headed the Ichkerian department of state security under [first Chechen president] Dudayev, and who did not actually take part in the fighting,” he says.

The amnesty for former guerrillas which ended today is by no means the first one declared by Russia during the two military campaigns in the republic. In December 1994, after the beginning of the “First Chechen War”, the Russian government declared an amnesty for members of Dzhokhar Dudayev’s armed groups.

Around 500 people took advantage of the December 13-17 1994 amnesty declared by President Boris Yeltsin. In February 1996 the Russian State Duma granted an amnesty to Salman Raduyev’s guerrillas, who in January of that year had taken hostages in the Daghestani city of Kizlyar. This was a measure that was forced on the authorities, since only thereafter did Raduyev subsequently release 12 members of the the Novosibirsk OMON who were taken prisoner in the village of Pervomayskoye.

After the completion of military actions in the territory of the Chechen Republic, in March 1997 the Russian State Duma declared an amnesty for all participants in armed actions in Chechnya, including both guerrillas and soldiers of the federal forces who had committed crimes in the course of military operations.

On December 13 1999, already in the course of a “counter-terrorist operation”, the Russian State Duma declared a new amnesty for members of armed groups. One additional amnesty for guerrillas was declared in Chechnya during September 2003 in connection with the adoption of the republic’s constitution.

Finally, in July 2006 director Nikolai Patrushev, director of the FSB and leader of Russia’s National Anti-terrorist Committee called on members of armed groups to lay down their arms and return to civilian life. In September 2006 the Russian State Duma passed a similar resolution. The deadline of this amnesty expired today.

Translated by David McDuff.

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