This excerpt from the Human Rights Center “Memorial” site describes the use of “filtration points” or concentration camps in Chechnya during 2000-2002. It concludes that according to conservative estimates around 200,000 Chechens have passed through such camps.
From February 2000, mass media started reporting about the situation in the “filtration points” (FPs) created by the federal forces in the Chechnya territory. According to the people released therefrom, the detained persons were held in the FPs in intolerable conditions being exposed to tortures and cruel treatment. Most often, such information used to come from the Chernokozovo FP in Naursky district of Chechnya. This former maximum-security penitentiary facility was turned into the largest of the effective filtration camps. However, Chernokozovo is not the only facility of this kind but just one of the elements in the whole system.
The key task of the “filtration system” was to identify and isolate participants of armed formations resisting federal forces and their supporters. However, it is obvious that the same system was aimed to resolve broader issues – it was used for creation of the network of informers recruited from among the local population and, along with other actions by the federal forces, for terror, suppression and intimidation of all the people disloyal to the regime in Chechnya.
The major characteristic of the “filtration system” was its non-selectivity. Lack of systematized data on the participants of armed formations resulted in mass detentions of innocent people, while their confession of the crime could be the only accusatory evidence against them. Obtainment of the confession was possible only through intimidation, beatings and tortures.
The word-combination “filtration point” (FP) appeared during the first Chechen war of 1994-1996 as the official name of the places for holding the detained persons in the ChR territory, although their legal status was not certain and creation – illegal.
In contrast to this, during the second Chechen war (the so-called “CTO”) some of the “filtration system” facilities got legitimate statuses of investigative isolators (SIZO) subordinated to the RF Ministry of Justice and temporary detention isolators (IVS) subordinated to the RF Ministry of Interior.
The Chernokozovo FP was created at the end of 1999 and, at the beginning, it had the status of “temporary reception center for the persons detained on the grounds of vagrancy and begging”. The status of “reception center” was convenient for the Ministry of Interior as such facilities, unlike the SIZO, are fully subordinated to militia, while the people delivered there without any charges can be held for much longer periods than in the IVS. The people delivered to the Chernokozovo “reception center” were anyone but vagabonds; those were all kinds of “suspicious persons” including the persons detained during “zachistka” in their own homes. In the winter of 2000, journalist Andrey Babitsky was delivered there and became a witness of the atrocities taking place there.
FPs were created during 2000-2002 at the outskirts of the towns and villages in the course of numerous “zachistkas”, where the employees of the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and internal security structures delivered the detained persons. There, they “checked” tens and even hundreds of local residents as to their belonging to the illegal armed formations. Based on the results of this check, the detained persons had to be either released or transferred to other penitentiary facilities. The group of soldiers performing the “zachistka” usually set up a camp at the outskirts of the town or village, while the FP was located nearby, in the open field or in the abandoned premises. As one of the basic characteristics of “zachistkas” in the period of 2000 – 2003 was mass nature and non-selectivity of detentions, the number of detained people exceeded the capacity of the “regular” detention places and majority of these people were soon released, as a rule. Nevertheless, practically all those held in the FPs were exposed to beatings and tortures, while some of them “disappeared” during numerous special operations. Tortures with electric current using field phone wire were widely spread.
The legal status of such FPs within effective Russian legislation is absolutely unclear. The current normative acts regulating the activity of detention facilities, places where the persons are held in custody or other forms of forcible restriction of citizens’ physical freedom contain no such concept as “FP”.
Besides temporary FPs, there also existed regular, long-term facilities, one of them named by the military “Titanic”, which was located between the villages of Alleroy and Tsentoroy, wherefrom people used to “disappear” as well. Thus, the cousins of Alsultanovs – Magomed-Emin Soipovich and Khan-Ali-Imaliyevich detained by the federal forces in the village of Alleroy on August 17, 2001, during “zachistka” were delivered to “Titanic”. The ChR prosecutor V.Chernov saw them there during the inspection visit. Later on, the Alsultanovs “disappeared”. The relatives of the detained persons applied to different official structures, the ChR Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal case. It was established that “the brothers Alsultanovs had been transferred to the filtration point under the responsibility of the employee from the Federal Security Service Office for the Chechen Republic S. Baryshev who, in his turn, transferred the detained persons to the military officers so that they would take them to the IVS in Kurchaloyevsky Department of the Ministry of Interior. However, the brothers Alsultanovs have not been transferred to the IVS of the Kurchaloyevsky Department of the Ministry of Interior and their whereabouts at present are unknown; the investigation of the case on the Alsultanovs’ disappearance is undertaken by the ChR military procuracy”. The fate of the disappeared persons has not been yet established.
Some people from the temporary and regular FPs were released, while those whom the military found necessary “to continue working with” were either transferred to the official detention facilities, i.e. IVSs created within the district Temporary Departments of the Ministry of Interior (VOVD), and SIZO or to illegal prisons. However, as it was already mentioned before, some of the people died in the FPs.
Besides, from the very beginning of the holding of “CTO” in Chechnya illegal prisons started being created at the places of deployment of military units or special units of the Ministry of Interior. The prisoners kept there were not officially registered anywhere neither as the detained, nor as the arrested. The most widely known place like this was located at the military base in the village of Khankala. The majority of the people kept there were held in the holes dug in the ground or in the trucks and railway cars intended for the transportation of prisoners. Russia’s central TV channels repeatedly broadcasted programs showing how the persons detained on suspicion of participation in the illegal armed formations were delivered to Khankala, although under the norms of the Russian legislation the persons suspected of having committed crimes of terrorist nature or of participation in the illegal armed formations should be transferred to the organs of the Prosecutor’s Office or FSB rather than delivered to the place where the military unit is deployed.
Employees of the Prosecutor’s Office and of the Chechen Civil Administration, as well as of the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the RF for ensuring human and civil rights and freedoms in the Republic of Chechnya knew about the continued functioning of illegal prisons in Khankala.
The situation in such “filtration facilities” could change both for the better and for the worse.
In the late winter of 2000, after the publicizing of evidence related to tortures and beatings of the people kept in Chernokozovo “reception center” and protests by the international public, the Russian authorities quickly changed the status of this FP turning it into SIZO. After that, life conditions there improved notably although the use of tortures continued. During the period of 2000 – 2002, the temporary isolator functioning within the Ministry of Interior Departments in Urus-Martan and Oktabrsky district of the city of Groznyy became especially ill-famed. The detained and arrested persons there were regularly exposed to torture; some of these people “disappeared”.
Later, when Russian and foreign public focused its attention on the events taking place in the temporary isolators, violence, cruelty, tortures and arbitrary executions were transferred to the informal detention places (for example, in Khankala) or to the quasi-legal places of close custody.
The exact number of the people having passed through the filtration system is impossible to be identified – those are thousands of citizens.
When asked about the number of detentions and arrests, the official structures usually give as statistics to the press and public the number of persons having gone through the SIZO in Chernokozovo and now in Groznyy – these are about ten thousand.
However, the real number of the persons detained and arrested in Chechnya is many times as high. According to the communiqués, during the first years of the “CTO”, the units of the Chechen Ministry of Interior used to detain 1.1-1.2 thousand persons a month. If we add here the number of people detained by other security agencies, the overall number of the persons officially detained during the “CTO”, even by minimal estimations, made about 20 thousand a year.
However, during each “zachistka” the majority of the people having been delivered to the temporary FPs were not registered. Only some of those who, for some reason, interested the “competent bodies” during the “filtration” became officially registered as detained persons.
Here should be also added the people held in the territory of military units’ deployment.
Thus, by the most modest estimations, the overall number of those having passed through the “filtration system” reaches 200 thousand. For Chechnya, with its population at present being less than one million, it is an enormous number illustrative of the state terror scale.