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Russia: Ongoing abuses in North Caucasus lend lie to 'Normalisation' claim - New report

Ongoing human rights abuses in Chechnya, Ingushetia and other parts of the North Caucasus “lend the lie” to claims made by the Russia authorities that the region is generally reverting to “normal” after years of human rights abuse, said Amnesty International today (1 July).

The statement came as Amnesty published a new report on Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkari detailing a range of serious human rights violations including unlawful killings, “disappearances”, arbitrary detention, alleged torture, threats to and harassment of families of those affected, and forced eviction of people displaced by earlier fighting.

The 48-page report, Rule Without law: human rights violations in the North Caucasus, includes accounts of the unlawful killings late last year of three brothers in Grozny.

During the evening of 30 November the family home of the Ilaev family in the Pervomaiskii district of the city was surrounded by over 100 armed and masked men. Various family members were taken to a law enforcement base and, according to reports, males were separated from female family members and tortured during the night - including with electric shocks - in a separate room. A day later local TV reports claimed that two of the family - brothers Ali and Akhdan Ilaev - were armed fighters who had been shot dead in a clash with police. Meanwhile a third brother, Zurab, was also detained and several days later delivered to a morgue with signs of violence on his body.

The Ilaev brothers’ deaths are currently being investigated but other deaths and “disappearances” are not, explains Amnesty’s report. For example Magomed Yevleov, owner of the website and a vocal opponent of the then president of Ingushetia, Murat Ziazikov, died last August after being detained by law enforcement officers at an airport. Yevleov was killed by a gunshot as he was driven away from the airport, a death officials have reportedly claimed was accidental. Efforts to have the case investigated as murder have failed.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“With some fanfare officials in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus have tried to claim that things are now ‘normal’ whereas continuing unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions and mysterious ‘disappearances’ lend the lie to that.

“Is it normal to attempt to redevelop parts of conflict-damaged Grozny, stumble across mass graves but have no system for checking which bodies they contain? Is it normal to have armed masked men surrounding family homes and carting people off in the night, in some cases taking people to their deaths? And is it normal to intimidate families who try to find about their loved one’s fate, as in the case of Ibragim Gazdiev in Ingushetia?

“As the recent wounding of the president of Ingushetia shows, there is a real threat to law and order from armed groups in the region. But seeing human rights abuses as the way to achieve normality and stability is misguided in the extreme.”

Recent reconstruction work in Chechnya, devastated by years’ of conflict, has led to the discovery of several mass graves in the republic, with some 60 different sites now detected since 1994. As recently as June last year 800 mass graves were found at a site in Grozny. Despite these finds, and reports that the Chechen government has set aside funds for forensic identification of bodies, no forensics team has been set up and there is currently no up-to-date database of missing persons and unidentified bodies.

Amnesty International has been barred from visiting Chechnya for several years and is now calling on the Chechen authorities to allow it access. It is also calling for investigations into the use of lethal force by law enforcement bodies in the wider region, and for the creation of an authoritative public database of missing people who may have been “disappeared”.

In Ingushetia, for example, the “disappeared” includes Ibragim Gazdiev, a 31-year-old man reportedly seized on 8 August 2007 by armed men in camouflage in the town of Karabulak. In a case typical of many others, Ibragim’s father Mukhmed has told Amnesty that he has been warned by officials to stop talking about his son’s enforced disappearance. Ibragim is the subject of an ongoing campaign from Amnesty.


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