Chechnya


Source: Al Jazeera

Say the words Chechen rebels and most people think of the Beslan school massacre and the Moscow theatre siege, in which hundreds of civilians were killed.

Most people might also think that the war between the Chechens and Russians in the remote mountainous region of the Caucasus is over, but this is not the full truth…

From beyond the grave: A searing indictment of Putin’s protegé

A report by Natalya Estemirova, the Russian activist murdered in Chechnya as she investigated human rights abuses

The Independent
Friday, 17 July 2009

The abductions in Chechnya started nearly a decade ago. In 2000, Russian forces took control of practically the entire territory of the republic, and started extensive mop-up operations in villages.

Thousands of murders and abductions took place; these operations were declared to be an efficient method in the fight against rebels. In reality, however, the troops and police were looting the houses of unprotected civilians, at times taking away everything from them, from cars and furniture to shampoos and female underwear.

Most horrifically of all, women were raped in front of their male relatives, and all the men were detained, from teenagers to old men: they were either cruelly beaten, or released for ransom, or else they disappeared forever.

Large-scale “mop-up” operations stopped after 2003, but the abductions did not. Most often, one or two people would be taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Some were fortunate to return home barely alive after several days or weeks of cruel beating and torture – always ransomed by their relatives. But if the family of the abducted person could not gather the necessary sum or find the mediator, a dead body would be found some time later, or the victim would disappear for good. There were also those who – after their disappearance – appeared in court and were sentenced for grave crimes, despite their insistence that they had only confessed under prolonged torture.

Many things would change when Ramzan Kadyrov became President of Chechnya in 2007. Large-scale reconstruction began; Grozny changed by the day, its streets newly covered with asphalt and houses boasting plastic window frames and fresh plastering. Observers started talking about the wonders of the young President. From the inside the renovated houses did not look so beautiful, with no interior works done, and no proper utilities ensured. Since then, Kadyrov has attempted to engineer a further change of ideas. The President is advancing his campaign for a “revival of spiritual traditions”… making women and young girls “dress properly”, and above all wear headscarves in public.

Meanwhile, Kadyrov invites Russian pop celebrities to Chechnya and gives them lavish presents. No one dares to ask how these visits are sponsored, or how they comply with the Chechen “tradition”. No one dares to object to anything Kadyrov says or does, just as no one dared to object to Stalin’s words or deeds in the former Soviet Union. Peace in the republic and the successes in fighting terrorism are widely advertised; yet in reality rebel fighters frequently attack policemen, the numerous branches of the military structures constantly clash, and people keep being abducted. The main difference now is that many disappear only for some days and return beaten, terrified and therefore mostly silent.

Political observers claim Kadyrov is ruling over Chechnya independently of Russia. Is it really so? Tens of thousands of Chechens pining away in Russian prisons would not agree. Neither would the hundreds of thousands of war victims, or the relatives of the killed and missing. And the outflow of Chechen refugees to European countries is not subsiding. On the contrary: more and more people are trying to leave. A dictatorship is being cemented in a small European territory.

UN and EU officials compare the situation with the events of 2000, and note indubitable improvements. But what was the reason for destroying so many cities and villages, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and… introducing state terror justified as a “fight against terrorism”? Was it not to crush the society and force it to make an artificial choice between democracy and stability? The Kremlin is satisfied with the current suppression in Chechnya of any attempts to act and think independently.

An extract from a 2,600-word article by Natalya Estemirova on the situation in Chechnya written in August 2008 but never published

Наталья Эстемирова. Фото Новой газеты

Source: Gang members of ‘death squads’ tell about their crimes in Chechnya

The so-called “death squads”, consisted mainly from the Russian Special Forces, participate in the war in Chechnya and in Caucasus.

The murderers were picked on a voluntary basis. They were engaged in killings of relatives of the Mujahideen and those who sympathized with them.

Two Russian “high-ranking officers”, the members of one of the gangs of “death squads”, have told to the British edition of The Times about the “unofficial” methods of struggle with the Mujahideen and with their relatives, as well as the techniques of torture.

According to the newspaper, the murderers presented themselves as “Andrei” and “Vladimir”, not naming their surnames for security reasons. They called themselves “zaichiks (little hares)”.

According to them, the prisoners and the hostages were tortured with a hammer and electricity, the bodies then were either buried in unmarked pits or “pulverized”.

According to the murderers, one artillery shell was placed between the legs of the victim and one over the chest, adding several 200-gram TNT blocks and then the body was blew “to smithereens”.

“The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem”, they explained.

The murderers told that in such a way they had finished off the 40-year-old Chechen who allegedly was a “recruiter of the female Shaheeds”.

Two “recruited” were detained together with her – one was barely 15.

“At first the older one denied everything, then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head”, the murderers tell.

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Beautiful song.

An extraordinary documentary, informative and enquiring.

Two Polish film makers travelled in search of why people fight in jihad. This took them to Chechnya, Qatar and Afghanistan. They interviewed the former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (two weeks before he was assassinated), Amir Khattab in the mountains of Chechnya (also subsequently assassinated), Shamil Basaev, and tribal elders of Waziristan, near the Afghan-Pakistan highland border, whose sons are being kidnapped by the Americans.

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.

“Counterterrorism Operation” by the Russian Federation in the Northern Caucasus throughout 1999-2006

Filtration System

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.

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