Chechnya: Bodies discovered near Khankala - irrefutable evidence of war crimes committed by federal forces
Materials from a press-conference held on 5/3/01 in Moscow, Institute of Press Development
1. People are disappearing in Chechnya. Moreover, in the majority of cases it is not bandits or terrorists who are abducted, but rather those who lead the "counter-terrorist operations" (see Appendix 1).
Relatives of those arrested by Russian soldiers, employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Federal Security Office find it almost impossible to obtain any information about their loved ones. They are unable to find out why their relative has been arrested, where he or she is being held or what charges may have been brought against him or her.
After weeks, or even months, it is usually comes to light that the majority of those who had disappeared are being held in interrogation cells or solitary confinement. Unfortunately, many others are never found.
Discoveries of the corpses of those arrested by the Federal Ministry of Defence are becoming increasingly regular. Usually, there are signs of torture and violent death.
The discovery of the mass grave (or to be more precise ‘body-dump) in the small settlement near Khankala is, by no means, an isolated incident. Nevertheless, this discovery has attracted particular attention for the following two reasons:
Firstly, no fewer than 50 bodies were discovered at one time (including those remains removed by the relatives themselves).
Secondly, the bodies were discovered near the main Russian military base in Chechnya, where it is known that a large number of prisoners had previously been held.
2. It is rumoured that the bodies found in the village just a few hundred metres away from the Russian military base had been collected from all over Chechnya around the end of January / early February this year. People whose relatives have disappeared after being arrested by federal forces, attempted to gain access to this area. To do so was incredibly as all areas close to Khankala are heavily guarded. Nevertheless, over the next year, the practice of trading prisoners, those who were being detained and even corpses began. This helped to create a network of "middle men" who traded between civilians and the military and police forces.
The Human Rights Centre "Memorial" first became involved following the removal and identification of the deceased Adam Chimayev on the 15th February 2001 (see Appendix 2). Chimayev was arrested by the Russian military on 3rd December 2000.
The possibility that other bodies were removed from the scene and exchanged for ransom money cannot be ruled out.
On 21st February, the bodies of Said-Rakhman Musayev, born 1984, Odes Metayev, born 1978 and Magomed Magomadov, born 1977, all from the village of Raduzhnoye, were discovered and identified in this village (see Appendix 3). These people had been arrested by Russian soldiers either in or near to Raduzhnoye on 12th December 2000. In all 19 people, mainly young men, were arrested on that evening. A further 2 people from the nearby village of Pobedinsky were arrested. Over a period of 4 days, 11 of those arrested returned home. They had all been badly beaten. A week later, another 4 people were brought to the region of Tsotsin-Yurt and released. Three days later, another 3 were released. One of those released had close-range gun-shot wound which he had received during the period whilst he was under arrest. Up until the 21st February, no reliable information was available on the fate of the other three: Said-Rakhman Musayev, Odes Metayev and Magomed Magomadov. Relatives of the three assisted Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs in the search for bodies. Seemingly, this came about because Magamadov had worked for the Temporary Department of Internal Affairs and his brother is the deputy head of the local administration.
The Public Prosecutor has officially recognised the fact that these bodies were discovered and removed. On 25th February, a correspondent for RIA News reported:
"3 of the 11 bodies discovered near this village in the Oktyabrski district of Grozny have been identified. According to Nadezhda Pogosova (assistant to the Chechen public prosecutor), Mr Musayev, from the village of ‘15th State Dairy Farm’ identified the body of his 17 year old son and two other people from Raduzhnoye aged 31 and 27, amongst the dead."
On 24th February, M Magomadov, the brother of one of those killed, visited the ruins of the village accompanied by representatives of the public prosecutor, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the local administration. This signaled the beginning of the investigation into the appearance of the corpses found in the rural settlement.
3. Meanwhile, nothing has been done to aid a serious investigation into this abhorrent crime.
According to ‘Memorial’, the Grozny Public Prosecutor was completely lacking the essential equipment from body-bags, right through to the apparatus necessary for the gathering photographic and video evidence of the bodies and the site where they were found.
As long as the Ministry for States of Emergency and all the other services refuse to move the bodies from the site, it will be the staff of the Public Prosecutor who carry out all the work on the discovery and the removal of the bodies.
No provisions have been made for a thorough forensic investigation. The most Grozny’s forensic scientists have is a pair of rubber gloves and a few scalpels. No work has been done to establish the exact details of these people’s deaths. The bullets have not even been removed from the bodies. All of this provides the perfect conditions for a complete break-down of the criminal case in the future.
Investigators for the Grozny Public Prosecutor have long been complaining of being vastly overloaded with criminal investigations. This means that they are unable to undertake a serious investigation into the murders of those found at Khankala. The Grozny Public Prosecutor refused to disclose any details of their investigation into the Khankala case to ‘Memorial’, and suggested that they asked the Public Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic instead.
4. The announcements made by officials on the discovery of the bodies in the dacha settlement on the outskirts of Grozny are extremely contradictory and confusing (see Appendix 4). At the moment it even seems as though the General Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, Vsevolod Chernov is talking about a different grave in his public announcements than that which the mass media reported on 24th February.
We cannot exclude the possibility that such inaccuracy and vagueness was actually fully intentional. There is the impression that the main aim of the Procuracy in Chechnya in relation to the investigation which is being carried out, is to attempt to "save the skins" of members of the federal troops.
On 25th February the theory that the grave which had been discovered was created by Chechen fighters began to circulate. This theory emerged, in spite of the fact that, with the consent of the officials, a number of bodies were taken from this settlement which belonged to people who had disappeared after being detained by representatives of the federal troops. On that same day, in the commander’s office in Grozny, a RIA News correspondent was told that perhaps "this grave was a year old. At that time, special commanders collected the dead Chechen fighters and buried them in such graves during the capture of Grozny."
On that day "an information source from the Unified Troops in the Northern Caucasus" informed the RIA News correspondent that "according to one version of events, the bodies which were discovered at the settlement in the Oktyabrsk district of Grozny belonged to Chechen fighters who had been killed as a result of a "splintering" of illegal armed groupings."
Thus, on 2nd March, the General Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, V Chernov reported that, according to the preliminary version of the events "it is probably that the majority of the bodies belonged to Chechen fighters." In his opinion, the possibility that the village of "Zdorovye" "was used as a peculiar kind of cemetery" cannot be excluded. The General Prosecutor explained that the Chechen fighters transporting the wounded and deceased from Grozny threw "non-members" into the village.
5. The complete absurdity of the aforementioned claims made by officials is absolutely flagrant.
a) Already, at this stage, it is possible to claim with complete confidence that, at least the majority of the people whose corpses were found in the rural village near Khankala were victims of extra-judicial execution. We understand this term to mean the intentional, planned murder of vulnerable people who were captured by murderers and were completely under their control. We do not claim that such extra-judicial executions took place with the knowledge of any representatives of the military command or the civic government located outside of Chechnya.
On 28th February 2001, in the city of Grozny representatives of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" spoke to those who transported the bodies from the village outside Khankali and were carrying out forensic examinations. According to these experts, the absolute majority of the bodies which had been discovered at that stage belonged to people who had been killed less than a year previously. It is possible to claim with confidence that a number of the bodies belonged to people who were killed between one and three months previously. According to the experts we spoke to, only one of the bodies belonged to an individual who was killed a year or more previously. There is evidence of both bullet wounds and knife wounds on the bodies. The ears of some of the bodies had been removed and some had cut wounds in the neck area. On many bodies, there was evidence of a bullet to the head. The absolute majority of the bodies had had their hands bound and they had been blindfolded or their entire faces had been covered.
On 28th February 2001, in Grozny, representatives of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" looked at the bodies which were laid out in the premises of the Ministry for States of Emergency (former storehouse) for identification. At that time, there were 23 bodies laid out (including the bodies of three women). There were two further bodies in the premises of the Oktyabrsk district Temporary Department for Internal Affairs. Thus, on 28th February, 25 bodies were transported and examined by forensic experts. In addition, a further 12 corpses, found at that time were still at the rural village near Khankala.
We saw that many of the bodies had had their hands bound. The ears on at least two bodies had been removed. Blindfolds had been removed in order that the bodies could be identified. "Memorial" employees filmed a video of the bodies. The analysis of this video film which was carried out in Moscow (see Appendix 5) confirms that the bodies which were discovered in the rural village near Khankala were the victims of extra-judicial execution.
On 2nd March, HRC "Memorial" employees had already seen 50 bodies which had been laid out for identification (including the remains of four women). On many of the bodies, the hands were bound and the ears had been removed.
b) It is possible that, amongst these bodies, were those of Chechen fighters who had been imprisoned. However, it is a reliable fact that, amongst those corpses which were found in the village near Khankala, there are the bodies of people who were arrested by representatives of the federal troops during a period when there was no military activity.
Two such cases are described above (Point 2). Furthermore, on 28th February, on the territory of the Ministry for States of Emergency, Sokhrat Ilyasovna Askhabova, a resident of the village of Yandi-Khutor identified the body of her brother, Saikhan Ilyasovich Askhabov, born 1960. He was arrested by federal troops on 14th August at 5:00 in the morning in the village of Alkhan-Kala and, after that, he disappeared. No-one in the Procuracy to whom S I Askhabov appealed in the months after her brother’s disappearance could provide her with any information as to the fate of her brother.
On 2nd March, Ramzan Abuyevich Edil’bekov also identified the body of his brother, Umatgeri Abuyevich Edil’belkov, who had been arrested in Grozny on 23rd February 2000. His testimony was recorded by a representative of the HRC "Memorial" on video tape. The Central Military Prosecutor’s Office recognises this fact however, for some reason, they claim that A Edil’bekov was seen to have disappeared without a trace after August of last year (Interfax report of 3rd March).
Furthermore, an employee of the HRC "Memorial" recorded the testimony of Basa Musayeva who, whilst searching for her body of her brothers who had disappeared witnessed, on 25th February, how the wife of Isa Larsanov identified her husband who had disappeared after being arrested in his own home on 17th January 2001.
c) The bodies which were discovered in the rural settlement located less than a kilometre from the military base of Khankala could not have been taken there by Chechen fighters.
Khankala was occupied by the federal troops more than a year ago in December 1999. It is completely clear that during the months following this, the territory surrounding to the Russian military base was repeatedly "cleaned up". Thus, even if it is proposed that, before this, the Chechen fighters had dumped corpses in the rural village near Khankala, the remains of these bodies would not have gone unnoticed.
The absolute majority of the bodies which were discovered, without any doubt, belong to people who were killed less than a year previously.
Since the beginning of 2000, only a Chechen fighter with a death-wish could have attempted to dump a corpse, or, even less to shoot someone within the immediate vicinity of the Russian federal military base.
All of the aforementioned, permits us to claim that the corpses discovered in the rural village near Khankali provide us with irrefutable evidence of the military crimes of the federal troops.
Below are just a few examples of "people who have disappeared" which have been taken from a very extensive list which we have at our disposal
On 5th February 2000, during a "cleansing operation" in the Oktyabrsk district of Grozny, men in military uniform were arrested in their own homes and three of them were abducted. These three were residents on Kirov Street: Gabanchayev Magomed Shirvaniyevich, born 1949, Dzhamaldayev Zelimkhan Khamzamovich, born 1971 (205 Kirov Street), Asuyev Rustam Supyanovich, born 1975 (205a Kirov Street). At the same time, on a lane leading off this street, Zabolotny Lane, in house number 17, Yakub Alamatovich Iznaurov, born 1966, was also arrested. His permanent place of residence was Kalmiki and this is where he was registered, but, when the military activity began, he came to Grozny to be with his elderly mother who refused to leave her home and her cow. The fact that Y A Iznaurov is not a permanent resident of Chechnya was the reason for his arrest.
There are many witnesses of these events amongst the relatives and neighbours of the detainees. Those who drove the detainees told them that they were members of the St Petersburg Special Police Force (OMON). They told the detainees that they were going to dump them at a collection point in the village of Staraya Sunzha or at the military base in Khankala. There, they would be checked and those who had not participated in any illegal armed groupings would be released.
Nonetheless, relatives travelling to Staraya Sunzha were unable to acquire any information from the staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, and, in fact, civilians were completely forbidden to even enter the territory of Khankala. From this time forward, no information has been acquired regarding the fate of those who were arrested on 5th February.
According to relatives’ reports the different departments of the General Prosecutor’s Office have been carrying out checks for an entire year without instigating a criminal case.
During Winter and Spring of 2000, at just one of the many block-stations (the station in the village of Duba-Yurt), people disappeared on three separate occasions after having been detained. There were witnesses to these incidents. The corpses of three individuals who were arrested in this way were then discovered near the village of Tangi-Chu. The fate of the remaining 16 individuals who had "disappeared" remains unknown.
In the morning of 3rd June 2000, near numbers 5 and 7 Mozdokskoi Street in Grozny, masked men in camouflage arrested three women: Nura Lululeva, born 1960 and her relatives Raisa and Markha Gakayeva. Whilst they were being arrested, the women called for help. On hearing these cries, Zavala Tazurkayev ran out of a cafe on the same street. She was also arrested by these men in camouflage. Z Tazurkayev’s relative was working in the cafe and she ran to the nearest district police station for help. However, the police who arrived at the scene and also those individuals who, on hearing the cries of the women ran to help them, were shot at from machine guns and pistols by the group who were carrying out the arrests. Witnesses have said that the four detainees were blindfolded and had their heads covered with sacks. They were then thrown into an armoured vehicle with no registration plates, which, immediately after the incident, left for an unknown destination. The relatives of the people who were captured, no nothing about their fates after this point.
N Lulueva’s husband, Said-Al’bi Luluyev, or former husband according to the Gudermes district court, appealed to the commander of the Chechen Republic, I I Babichev, to the General Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, V P Kravechenko, to the head of the administration of the Chechen Republic, A Kh Kadirov, to the head of the Department of the Federal Security Service for the Chechen Republic, V I Kadyaeev, to the Special RF Presidential Representative for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic, V A Kalamanov. A criminal case has been instigated. However, we have, thus far, not managed to find any trace of the abductors or the abducted.
On 28th June in Grozny, three young men were arrested. The men were all residents in Sadovaya Street: Murad Lyanov (born, 1983), Islam Dombayev (born 1984) and Yimur Tabzhanov (born, 1982). All three were arested together in the street outside their houses and then "disappeared". The Public Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic instigated a criminal case to investigate the matter. As a result of the investigation carried out by the Grozny Public Prosecutor’s Office, the mothers of the young men were sent a letter which stated the following:
"The investigation established that the given citizens were detained during an "ambush" on Saovaya Streeet in the city of Grozny, carried out by employees of the Pskov OMON (special branch of the police force) and the 8th Regiment of the RF federal troops. During the night, they were then transferred to the base of the 8th Regiment of the RF federal troops.
In connection with their refusal to attend meetings related to the investigation, the troops of the 8th regiment have, as yet, not been questioned. As a result of this, the fate of the aforementioned young men has not been established."
On 8th December 2000, the Public Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic in his response to the RF Special Representative for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Republic of Chechnya, V A Kalamanov, wrote that the case has been passed to the Military Prosecutor for further investigation as he has the right to investigate crimes committed by members of the federal troops. However, another month later, on 9th January 2001, RF Head Military Prosecutor informed the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" that "thus far , the involvement of members of the federal troops in the given incidents has not been established" and consequently, the case is now under the supervision of the Procuracy of the Chechen Republic.
Currently, various department of the General Prosecutor’s Office are still deciding amongst themselves who should investigate this case. The base of the 8th Regiment of the RF federal troops, where the young men were detained has been dismantled and thus further investigation has become considerably more complex.
The Kerimov brothers - Magomed, born 1974 and Yusup, born 1978, residents in the city of Grozny at number 32 Volodarsk Street and their entire family left Grozny during a period of military activity. In Autumn 2000, the Kerimovs, along with their mother and sister, returned to Grozny and began to repair their home which had been destroyed during the fighting.
During the night of 8th October 2000, military troops in an armed vehicle came to the Kerimov’s house and arrested the two eldest brothers. Their mother and sister tried to help them but they were locked into the other room.
Relatives appealed to the police with regards to these detainees and also to the Military Prosecutor, however, neither of these bodies were able to provide information as to the whereabouts of the Kerimov brothers.
Gairbekov Musa, born 1986, resident of the village of Katayata in the Staropromislovsk district of Grozny (Korolenko Street) was arrested on 14th October 2000 at 4:00 in the morning in his own home. Russian soldiers arrived in an armoured and passenger vehicle (‘UAZ’), and surrounded the Gairbekovs house. They stole into the bedroom and captured Musa, covered his head with a sheet and then threw him into the armoured vehicle.
The soldiers shut Musa’s father, Baskhan Gairbekov, and his sister Asiya into the other room.
The Gairbekovs tried to find out what had happened to Musa from the Military commander’s office in Grozny however there, they knew nothing about the arrest of M Gairbekov. Still, at the beginning of February 2001, nothing was known about the fate of Musa Gairbekov.
Yashuyev Sahmil’ Nurdiyevich, born 1974, resident of the village of Mesker-Yurt, Shalinski region, was arrested on 15th November 2000 at 4:30 in the morning in his own home. Masked soldiers stole into the home and beat the men there, they smashed furniture and crockery. They then dragged Shamil’ Yashuyev out of the house, beating him with the butts of their machine guns and not even giving him the chance to get dressed.
Federal troops suggested that the mother of the detainees appeal to the commander’s office in Argun with any claims as to what actions they believed had been carried out.
Shamil Yashuyev’s relatives tried to find out the fate of their loved one via all official departments but were unable to acquire any information.
Still in February 2001, nothing was known about the fate of Shamil Yashuyev.
The following are some of the tragic cases when the bodies of the former detainees were actually discovered:
On 13th December 2000, on the outskirts of the village of Stariye Atagi, three graves were discovered and excavated. During the excavation, the head of the administration of the village of Stariye Atagi and representatives of the Procuracy were present. In one of the graves, the bodies of three men were found. These men had been arrested by the federal troops on 20th December 1999 at the block station in the same village - the victims were an uncle and two of his nephews: Kuntayev Imran Vakhayevich, Sadayev Adam Sultanovich and Abdurzakov Adnan Aliyevich. In another grave, two male corpses were discovered - it is unclear to whom they belonged but the victims had only recently been killed. There were clear signs of beatings and torture on the bodies. The face of one of them was seriously mutiltated. In the third grave, the body of Isaev Edel’bek was found, a young man who had been arrested in the hospital of the village of Starye Atagi on 7th September 2000 during a cleansing operation. Isaev had been wounded in March in an attack on the village of Khalkela in the Shamoisky district. His father and brother had died as a result of this attack, and Isaev was, with the help of the federal soldiers, evacuated to the hospital of Stariye Atagi to recuperate. On 7th September he was arrested by troops during the cleansing operation. And now his mutilated body has been found, with signs of torture.
On 18th November 2000, at about 23.00 o’clock, two cars stopped in front of the Yanurkaev family home in the village of Goity: a "Ural" heavy goods vehicle and a "UAS" car. There were armed men in camouflage in these vehicles. After quickly recognizing the value of the Yanurkaev property, they broke into the yard, shooting into the air. The head of the family, Shirvan Yanurkaev came out to meet them and they told him they had come from Urus-Martan in search of Abubakar Yanurkaev. Shirvan Yanurkaev answered that Abubakar was his son and was at that time in the house, because he had been ill for five days. The soldiers went into the house, took Abubakar out of bed and told him to get dressed. When they took Abubakar out of the house, his two-year old son Isa seized hold of his feet. His other son, four years old, also began to cry. The mother of the detainee was standing in the doorway. The men in camouflage tore Isa from his fathers feet, dragged the aged woman into the yard and took Abubakar away.
After the federal troops drove away with Abubakar, a group of women went to the commander’s office of the village of Goity in search of an explanation.
The members of the Special Police Force (OMON), who were in the office’s yard, pointed at the bodies of two of their men, lying on the floor, and told the women that those had wives, too, and that their death demanded revenge. Those two members of the Special Police Force had been killed the day before at a cafe in Goity. Abubakar was taken to Urus-Martan, to the Temporary Department of Internal Affairs, which was located in the premises of a former boarding school.
The relatives of the detainees began to search for a way of freeing him via middlemen. Also via these middlemen, the members of the Temporary Department of Internal Affairs told the relatives that Abubakar would be released the next day. But he was not released the next day, nor the day after. Finally, on the fourth day after his detention Shirvan Yanurkaev was told that his son would be released at 10.00 o’clock the next day. However, the next morning federal troops surrounded Goity to conduct a cleansing operation. For two days the relatives of the detainee asked the soldiers in vain to let them leave the village to go to Urus-Martan. Only in the evening of the second day after this the blockade was ended were they allowed to leave. That same evening, a resident of Goity told the Yanurkaev family that Abubakar’s body was laying in the district hospital of Urus-Martan. His relatives went there and found his body in the Central Hospital of Urus-Martan. The hospital staff told them, that federal troops had taken Abubakar’s body there and had told one of the nurses that Abubakar had stepped on a mine.
On 21st November 2000, an "Ural" vehicle with a heavy machine gun on board was blown up by a mine on the road from Samashki to AchkhoiMartan close to the turn to the small village of Davidenko. According to our information, one soldier was killed and two were wounded.
Because of this incident, Hussain Gasiev, born in 1955, a resident of the village of Davidenko, was stopped where the car had been blown up. Gasiev was on his way home and left the bus which was going to Samashki at the turn to Davidenko. Members of the federal troops were standing at this point. The passengers of the bus saw, how they stepped up to him, put a sack on his head, took him into an armed vehicle and departed to an unknown destination.
The relatives of Hussain Gasiev immediately started to search for him. They appealed to the interrogation cell at Achkhoi-Martan, to the General Prosecutor, to the commander’s office located close to the military base. However, they could not find him for two days.
After several days the mutilated body of Husssain Gasiev was found on the outskirts of Davidenko. According to eye-witnesses, his nose had been cut off and his eyes had been poked out. On his neck was a deep knife-wound. His head was a mush of flesh and bones. His jaw had been broken in two places and his teeth were missing. Furthermore, the joints of his hands and fingers had been broken.
During the night from 3rd-4th December 2000, in Urus-Martan federal soldiers broke into the Agaev family home and abducted Lem Agaev and his son Khavazhi. The Lem’s uncle, Nazhmuddin Agaev, who was present, tried to establish why they were taken, and outside, he was shot dead. The house search which followed was accompanied by looting.
The administration and the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Urus-Martan district were informed about what had happened, but for five days, the efforts of the relatives to find the Agaev father and son were in vain.
On 9th December, close to the village Shaam-Yurt a local resident, who was tending to his cattle, found two bodies with numerous signs of torture. Amongst the corpses, relatives identified the Agaev father and son.
The horrendous disclosure close to Khankala is not an isolated incident - such occurrences are a frequent part of the operation’s "second phase" in Chechnya.
At the beginning of February 2000 federal troops took control of Grozny, in March the last battles ceased near Ulus-Kertom and Komsomolsky. The war reached a new stage, for one side- a partisan war, for the other side - a police war. The federal troops began to carry out mass detentions of people suspected of participating in the separatist movement or "assisting" the units of the separatists. Furthermore, the last large groups of Chechen fighters were detained in Alkhan-Kala (at the beginning of February 2000) and in Komsomolsky (March 2000). Since then, detentions have been carried out outside of the fighting context: during cleansing operations of residential areas, during the checking of documents at block-stations, sometimes directly aimed at certain people.
According to the records of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in this way 20 000 people were detained in one year. However, approximately 2000 people who were charged with accusations were detained at investigation cells. The rest were released after having been detained at temporary detention cells, temporary departments of internal affairs and so on. The scale of this repression is tremendous - what are the results?
The only case which has gained broad response is the persecution of the "Traktorist" Salaudin Temirbulatov. Apart from Temirbulatov, none of the notorious field commanders has been forced to sit before the court.
Meanwhile, this year the results of the system of "filtration" became known: beatings, torture, the revival of trade in human beings, disappearances of detainees. The total number of people disappearing without trace is still not known, even today. Employees of V. Kalamanov’s office informed us about a list of approximately 400 people (of four districts out of 17 in Chechnya), and about more than 850 complaints about disappearances in December 2000. The total number of those who have disappeared is approximately 2000 individuals (in the first war, it was about 1200 -1500 people, the majority of whom are still missing.)
During one year there have been numerous reports about torture and cruel behaviour towards detainees in investigation cells in Chernokozovo, Pyatigorsk, Stavropol, Rostov, Volgograd etc. However, one would hope that a person detained in a prison does not simply disappear, because in this system (GUIN) records about the movements of prisoners are kept. However, towards the end of the year 2000 at least 46 people had been found by a simply comparison of two lists: a list of missing people and of those being detained in investigation cells.
It occurred, that people detained by the departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who had been considered to have been released turned out to be amongst those who had disappeared without trace. Later, their bodies were found in graves with signs of torture. However, in such cases a forging of records is necessary to cover up the crimes: in the departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs where citizens are detained, there must be a system of record-keeping on these detainees.
Although troops - whether army troops or internal forces - currently have no formal right what so ever to detain civilians (given that no state of emergency or some other extraordinary legal situation has been declared in Chechnya), people are nonetheless being detained. Frequently, television news shows detainees at the main military base in Khankala where the headquarters of the United Troops are located. Evidently, no records of detainees are kept there at all, which allows the criminals not only to torture and cruelly treat their detainees, and not only for reasons of corruption and trade in people, but it also allows people to simply "disappear" - in fact, the result is extrajudicial execution.
The total number of civilians detained by troops and brought to military bases is unknown, as is as the number of people released from such bases and the number who disappear after detention. There have been frequent reports about the discovery of individual graves during "cleansing" operations. In Summer 2000, in the Urus-Martan district, close to the General Shamanov’s former headquarters, in Winter, a mass grave was discovered. It dated back to the time and place of intensive armed clashes, and supposedly Chechen fighters killed during those clashes were to be found there.
However, in this case there is no foundation for such a conclusion. The horrible discoveries close to Khankala are a symbol for all that has happened during the last year in the second Chechen war.
On 28th February, an employee of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial", Libkan Basayev recorded the story of Lubov Dariyeva, the widower of the deceased Adam Chimayev at a Memorial reception centre.
This story is recounted below:
Chimayev Adam Emiyevich was born on 23rd November 1963, lived in the town of Shali at No 71 Mel’nichnaya Street, was arrested at the Russian block-station between Shali and Germenchuk on 3rd December 2000 and taken away in a ‘Volga’ vehicle (Gaz-31 M 732 KhM-95 RUS, beige). His body was found in one of the dachas not far from Khankala, the location of the main base of the Russian federal troops in the Chechen Republic. His corpse was found and returned, on the agreement of the Russian soldiers and at a price of three thousand dollars on 15th February 2001.
On 3rd December 2000, Adam Chimayev told his mother, Khasan Chimayeva that he intended to go to visit his friend who lived in the neighbouring village of Germenchuk and, possibly that he would also stay the night there, as he wouldn’t manage to get back before the curfew. He left in his ‘Volga’ car in the afternoon, around 1:00. He was the only one in the car.
On the evening news of that same day (on television channels RTR and ORT), they announced that comrade-in-arms, Adam Maschadov Chimayev had been arrested. From the next morning, his relatives began to search for Adam, they attempted to find out where he had been arrested, and where he was being detained. On the third day of the search, an old man known by the family, came to them from the village of Germenchuk and said he saw them arrest Adam. He said that, when he was arrested, Adam was the only one in the car, and got out of the vehicle with his documents in his hands. After a short conversation, the troops which were standing around him, unexpectedly grabbed him and handcuffed him. They then threw him into the armoured vehicle through a hatch in the side. One of the soldiers sat at the driver’s seat of Adam’s car. The armoured vehicle and the Volga were both driven away at the same time along the road towards Grozny.
Adam Chimayev was not one of Maskhadov’s fighters and nor was he a fighter for anyone else. Recently, before the war, he worked as a rank and file member of the traffic police in the Oktyabrsk district of Grozny. His relatives searched for him everywhere, they appealed to the reception centre of the Chechen government in Gudermes.
At the beginning of February, his relatives heard that in the rural settlement and in the gully near to Khankala (the Russian federal troops base) corpses of those who had been shot were located. An employee of the commander’s office informed them that Adam’s body was in one of the dachas in this area. They had to come to an agreement with the soldier at the block-station close to the Khankali base in order that they could go and identify Adam’s body. His relatives were given the opportunity to view the corpse and thus identify it as the body of Adam Chimayev. Over the next two days, Adam’s relatives collected money in order to pay for the transportation of his body. With the help of the troops, on 15th February, Adam’s parents were able to take away the body of their son in a military vehicle, for which they had to pay $3000. On the 15th February, when they came to pick up their son’s body, in the same dacha, they discovered the bodies of two other individuals who had been shot. These bodies had not been in the cellar of the dacha two days previously.
Adam Chimayev was killed by three shots in the region of his heart. There was evidence of torture on the corpse and it had been so mutilated that the relatives did not allow his mother or wife to see the corpse. On 17th February, Adam Chimayev was buried in the Shali cemetery. Adam’s death has deprived four young children of a father. His ‘Volga’ car disappeared without a trace.
On 28th February 2001 in the village of Raduzhnoye, an employee of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" recorded the stories of the relatives of the deceased: Said-Rakhman Musayev, Odes Metayev and Magomed Magomadov.
In order to avoid misunderstanding, we would like to point out that the brother of the deceased Magomed Magmadov is also called Magomed.
Magomed Musayev, father of Said-Rakhman Musayev:
"On 21st February 2001, we found three of our boys: Said-Rakhman Musayev, Metayev Odes Topaevich and Magomadov Magomed Alaudinovich.
The aunt of Metayev, who lives in Belgatoye told us that she was also in the rural settlement along with two women as she had been looking for her relatives who had disappeared. She told us that she saw a lot of bodies there.
The village is close to Khankala. Just outside Khankala, there is a Buryat post (No 105), there is a motorway which runs from this post in the direction of Argun. If you travel along this motorway for about 500-600 metres (from the post) you will see a burnt out bus (LiAZ) on the right hand side. To the right of this bus, there is a country road leading to the rural cooperative association.
We took two members of the special police-force (OMON) from the commander’s office located in the village of Pobyedinskiy and travelled there in two cars. In Minutka, there were 10 people from the Murmansk special police force (they had also been based in our village - Pobyedinskiy previously). We travelled there without any difficulties. When we arrived, the members of the special police force did not let us in immediately, they checked us with the help of police dogs. They turned over all the corpses and had a look at them to check whether or not they had been planted with mines. After we arrived, I immediately recognised the corpse of my son. Magomed Magomedov recognised the corpse of his brother. Then we told those lads (the members of the special police force) and Odes’ mother "We are going to look for a car. The bodies cannot stay here overnight now that we know they are here."
When we arrived with the car, Odes’ mother told me "We have found Odes".
She was very calm when I said that I had found my son’s body. We had not been able to find our children for two and a half months.
We had appealed to all organisations, to Znamenskoye and to Kalamanov, we had hung a notice up at the ‘Zerkalo’ programme with photographs of her children - the lady travelled there from Znamenskoye. We couldn’t find anything out. It seems though that they had killed them on the third day already. My son’s beard hadn’t even grown."
Zargan, Odes Metayev’s mother:
"They mutilated our children. I cannot even repeat what we saw. Not in any way!
A lady told me that her son, who they had abducted, had been found. She told me "I went to that hell, I don’t know what to call it - a rural settlement." I asked her to look for my son too, I told her what clothes he had been wearing. She felt every corpse, from the socks to the underwear. She was there on 19th February, the day was a good one, she looked at all the corpses thoroughly.
When we travelled there on 21st February, there had already been quite a lot of snow. There were corpses on every snow-drift and every tussock, and every mother thought "There, under that tussock, that’s where he’ll be…" God was on our side, which is why I was able to find my son. I hadn’t slept in my own home for 3 months. My husband is disabled, with no legs. My son has three children - how am I supposed to bring them up? I have no work, insufficient money, a tiny pension. The boy was only 28 years old."
Abdurashid, Odes Metayev’s brother:
"I found him first. We found him in a half collapsed country house at the entrance on the porch. When I found him, he was lying on his stomach, with his hands bound behind him - his hands were bound with cord. The corpse was in a pitiful state: two of his digits were missing on one of his hands (I cannot say which because I was in such a state…), one of his ears was missing, he had been blindfolded. Odes’ ear had been removed when he was still alive, because his face was covered in blood. One of his eyes was missing, or it had been poked out when he was still alive, I don’t know. When we took the corpse home, in order to clean it and bury him, the body fell apart. He had wounds on his chest which had been inflicted whilst he was still alive, knife wounds, on the left hand side of his rib-cage he had two puncture wounds. The wounds looked deep, a dog or some other kind of wild animal could not have made them. So, if someone claims that it was a dog, that is simply impossible.
At Odes’ head, there was another corpse, it had been torn to pieces - it looked as though dogs had torn him up, it was impossible to recognise him, the outside had been eaten by dogs, he didn’t have a head, he had no hands and his hands were lying there separated from the body, there were also the remains of another man, the head and the limbs were lying there. But it was horrendous to have to look at all this business."
Father of Said-Rakhman Magomedovich Musayev’s, born 1984:
"I saw all three corpses. All of them had been torn to pieces. There were light bullet wounds in their hearts. And all three had been intentionally shot in the head. I am reporting this officially. Magomed Magomadov took me there and we looked at all the corpses. We also looked at his son. Magomed Magomadov (the third corpse) had had both of his eyes poked out and apart from that, from the chin to the bottom of the jaw (beard line), the skin on his face had been peeled off completely - he was still alive when this was done to him. They lay on the ground, their heads were on the ground, he lay with his neck toward the ground, they simply couldn’t stop the blood. When we transferred them into the car, we had to hold them by the shoulders: the bones in all three of them (arm and shoulder bones) were smashed, they were all broken to pieces. One of Odes’ eyes was missing - I had the impression that this happened when he was still alive because of the blood on his face.
On that day, members of the local special police force accompanied us - without chaperones, you simply weren’t allowed to go there. To claim that this was all done by Chechen fighters is simply absurd: everything is fenced in there, and it is simply impossible to enter. The area is surrounded by troops and helicopters are constantly circling the area - it isn’t possible to sneak in. Even with military chaperones, it was difficult for us to get in there. They checked us along the entire route. Even though the troops themselves had registered our vehicle, there were many tense moments when we passed by tank columns. They didn’t want to let us in, we went there in fear, and risking our own lives to collect these corpses.
There were many corpses of other people there too - I personally saw 3 other corpses and we didn’t even go very far into this rural plot - firstly we went along a path where we found 2 corpses and then we found the third body - during this time, I personally saw 3 other bodies.
After we had found Said-Rakhman and Magomed’s bodies, we could not return until we had found the third body. Of course, we may not have noticed the body if they had thrown it into some ditch. We didn’t stray very far from the path.
Fresh tyre tracks from a ‘Ural’ vehicle could be seen.
"The path which leads into the plot is to the left off the road. They were laying just 30 metres from the road."
"Magomed Magomadov was taken straight from his neighbours house. A tank column of two armed vehicles and 4 ‘Urals’ was travelling through our village. Troops from this column simply collected people who were on the street. In the fog, a passenger vehicle simply ran into the column. Then it turned round and travelled back on the residential side. They started to shoot at the car and the driver was seriously injured. The driver lost control of the vehicle and the vehicle began to drive into the gates of houses. Next to all of this, was the Magomadov’s home. Magomed was a member of the police force of the Staropromuislovsk region. He jumped over the fence to the neighbours. The troops seeing that it would not be possible to take away the injured driver of the car, took Magomed away instead.
As soon as they had taken Magomadov’s brother, he went straight to the commander’s office in Pobyedinsky, taking with him some members of the special police force (M Magomadov - deputy head of the administration) and their commanding officers. They are have now already left - they were the Ufimskiy special police force. They caught up with the tank column and they were told by the troops who were there "We are carrying out a special operation - go home and mind your own business. Otherwise it will be worse for you!"
"We searched for them for more than two months. There were rumours that they were at Khankala. The others who were arrested and then released were found not far from Khankala."
Ruslan brother-in-law of the Musayevs:
"On that day, we were stopped by troops on the motorway. It was about 9:00 in the evening. They ordered us to dim our lights, get out of the car and place the keys on the bonnet. They checked us all. But I didn’t have my documents with me. They threw us all into the ‘Ural’. There were already some people lying there. They laid us on top of each other and on the way masked soldiers who were sitting in the car beat us. Our hands were tightly bound behind our backs. We travelled for a long time sometimes stopping, sometimes turning right, sometimes left. We travelled throughout the night, the car stopped when the sun started to rise.
We were taken out of the vehicle. It was Khankala. We were blindfolded with our own scarves if we had them, those who didn’t have a scarf, had their hats pulled down over their eyes. Then we were put in two pits of about 3-4 metres in depth. There were 10 people in one and 11 in the other. It was a very tight squeeze. We could stand up freely, but it was impossible for all of us to sit at the same time. It was cold. The top of the pit was covered with a sheet of iron and a wooden roof. They moved this roof and then put something on the top.
We were called for questioning. Whoever was there at the top of the pit pulled those who were called for questioning out. Then, as soon as you were at the top, you were blindfolded. Before me, a number of others had been questioned. They took me into a tent. They asked me "You don’t know any fighters either? You’ll mine yourself and him to cover it all up?" They were talking about the brother of my wife Said-Rakhman Musayev. I told them that that wasn’t true. They asked me what I did for a living. I told them that, at that moment, I didn’t work at all. Then they said "We’ll hang the boy and shoot you."
We spent the night in the pit and then, towards lunchtime, they released two of the group who had been taken from Pervomayskaya. They apologised to them, saying that some influential people had come to find them, but in fact it was their fault because they had violated the curfew. Then, they took another two or three from the pit.
Late in the evening, they took us all form the pit and told us "Prepare yourselves, you are going to meet with Allah. Are you all ready?" I thought they were going to take us to be shot. My face was covered with a hat. I had the feeling that they were taking photos of us because they lifted my hat so that the bottom half of my face and my beard was visible. They asked me if I wanted to say anything. I said that I did. They obviously came to the conclusion that I wanted to say something only to them and so told me to walk over to them. But, all I said was that weren’t fighters but civilians. At that point, one of them came over to me, lifted up my hat, looked me directly in the eyes and asked "And, so - isn’t that the same thing?" Then, he put my hat back over my eyes.
There were four of us standing there, and they sat us all in a ‘Ural’ vehicle. There were already people in the car. They took us somewhere along the motorway. There were security guards in the car. One of them accidentally pulled the trigger on his gun and injured my neighbour. The guard was frightened and began to apologise to him, saying that they could punish him for that. The bullet had shot right through the flesh on the wounded man’s leg. They ordered me to bandage it.
Then the car stopped and we were ordered to get out. They asked us if we had any problems with Gantimirov’s soldiers? We said that we didn’t. They then told us to go into the building which had been a petrol station. They said that they were going to have lunch and then follow us in. They left. Some of us decided to run away immediately. But there could have been mines and so, along with some others, I remained there. Then, we walked along the road to a crossroads and we saw lights. It was the village of Noviy Tsentoroy.
Musayev was in the pit with me. Metayev and Magomadov were in another pit. Fellow villagers saw them."
"On 24th February, I was at the rural settlement with the commission. General Prosecutor Chernov was also there, as were other employees of the republic Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Procuracy, representatives of the Grozny and surrounding area Ministry of Internal Affairs and members of the Murmansk special police force who were based in Minutka. There was also on of Kadirov’s advisors, Saduyev Kuduz and the deputy head of the Staropromislovsk Temporary Department of Internal Affairs, Aliyev Sharan. They all saw that, if you followed the tracks of the ‘Ural’ vehicle, you found a whole series of corpses.
Chernov was nervous at the beginning that everyone noticed this, then he said a few words of condolence. He filmed a video.
We saw other corpses there. After we had found the corpses of our relatives, we walked further.
There were two other corpses at the place where we found Odes Metayev’s body. They were completely eaten up. I saw about 10 bodies. Some of them had been mined."
"We are dealing with fragments of human bodies" reports V Chernov on 25th February. Since this time, the relatives of the deceased have already transferred the whole bodies of those who had been positively identified from the rural settlement where they were located.
On 26th February, the General Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic reported that 16 bodies had been found. Since that time, the number of bodies examined by forensic experts has amounted to more than 20 without taking into consideration those which had already been transported by relatives before this time.
On 28th February the General Prosecutor reported that 26 bodies had been found. Since this time, 37 corpses have been discovered without taking into consideration those which had already been transported by the relatives before this date.
On 2nd March at the Central Military Commander’s Headquarters in Grozny, an Interfax correspondent was informed that officially, in the village of "Zdorovye", 27 corpses had been discovered, three of which had been positively identified. Since this time, employees of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial", i.e. on the morning of this very same day, saw that 50 bodies had been laid out at the Ministry for States of Emergency just for identification. On the same day, the General Prosecutor, V Chernov reported that, at the ruined rural settlement of "Zdorovye", on the outskirts of Grozny, 48 corpses had been discovered. Here, however, it is not clear at all, whether the General Prosecutor is including the corpses of those who had already been transported by relatives, in this total figure.
According to the General Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, many of the bodies were dressed in camouflage uniforms which had been produced abroad and also in Turkish underwear. Since this time, at a meeting with representatives of human rights organisations on 3rd March, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Alvaro Gil-Robles, reported that a representative of the General Prosecutor had informed him that "on two of the corpses, there were the remains of military uniforms".
The incomprehensible claim made by V Chernov that "almost all of the bodies discovered belonged to men of working age" is particularly confusing. It is not understood what is meant by the word "almost". Memorial employees found the bodies of three women on 28th February amongst the corpses which had been laid out for identification and, on the 2nd March, the bodies of 4 women.
Preliminary analysis of video footage taken by employees of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" in Grozny.
Description of materials and methodology
The photographs to which we have referred to below can be found on Memorial’s web-site on: hhttp://www.memo.ru/hr/hotpoints/northkavkaz.htm
On 3rd March 2001 I closely analyzed a 12 minute film, which was taken made by employees of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" on the premises of the Ministry of States of Emergency in Grozny, to where the bodies which had been discovered near Khankala were transferred. The time that the film was shot is not indicated. At the end of the film, the cameraman shows his signature, with the date on one of the sacks containing human remains (28.02.2001), which allows us to establish the approximate date that the film was taken.
Dozens of camera films were received for preliminary consideration, with the same subjects, however, the evaluation of these films was made more difficult due to the number of poor quality photographs and the fact that colour film was damaged (according to witnesses).
On computer equipment, the film which was taken in PAL format was decoded and split up into 81 frames of which 163 files were saved in the form of individual digital pictures with a resolution of 720 by 540 dots. The colour film or the reprint of the film (according to the witnesses) was not exact; objects with strong colours could not be seen properly in the analysis of the film and furthermore, whilst the film was being shot, the lighting changed including the addition of and changes in artificial lighting.
A description of the individual frames and pictures has not been written. All digital pictures received can be found in Appendix One without modification (fomat bmp, size of each file 1140 Kb) and in Appendix 2 in jpg format (size of each file 45-70 Kb). The number of each picture is made up of the number of the frame and a letter code.
Results of investigations and preliminary conclusions
All conclusions which were reached based on the films received only refers to the material under examination and can only be indirectly related to the subjects which are depicted in the photos. However, nothing arose during the analysis of the material to place this connection in doubt.
On the pictures, the remains of more than 10 people are depicted, it is not possible to establish an exact figure due to possible mistakes in transportation and collection of the remains. Furthermore, at the beginning of the video film, not all bodies were laid out on the area around the Ministry and additional bodies were transported whilst the film was being shot. During the film, part of the remains of one individual is shot on more than one occasion.
It is not possible to establish the precise reasons for the death of these individuals by examining the pictures, however, there is evidence of stab wounds on the corpses which, according to their location and their size have nothing or very little in common with life. It could be suggested that at least in the majority of cases, the death of the deceased was violent. In some pictures, evidence of bullet entry in the form of a fracture to the skull can be seen, in picture ¹74b according to the position of the fracture, we can conclude that the bullet entered from the top and travelled downwards, a little bit towards the front and to the left on the victim. Such an injury could have occurred if the victim had been kneeling opposite the perpetrator and slightly to the right. In many cases, the soft tissue wounds visible in the photos cannot be connected to any particular type of wound, they could for example be wounds caused by an attack of wild animals resulting in death for example an attack by wild rats or dogs which, according to witnesses can be found in the area where the bodies were discovered. Thus, in picture ¹7e distinct deep parallel cut wounds can be seen in the neck area with equal edges made with a sharp weapon or tool. These wounds could not be teeth or nail wounds from wild animals living in the area. An example of this type of wound can be seen in picture ¹73m2 on the right hand side of the neck.
Thus due to the unknown circumstances in which the remains of the deceased were found, it is not possible to establish the date and time of death from the photographs, however, in many cases, we can suggest that death occurred before winter 2000-2001. Furthermore, some of the corpses which are depicted on the photographs look as though they have been partially dehydrated (¹50) which may have been caused by the hot summer of 2000 and the fact that the bodies were located outside. In addition, some of the remains present particular problems for dating and the victims may have died some considerable time ago (¹14), perhaps even as much as 10 years ago.
A series of peculiarities were also noticed during the examination of the pictures which were received:
1. It is visible that the corpses on frames ¹¹ 4, 9, 40, have been cut and scalped as there are wounds indicating this in the head area, such wounds could only have been caused by a series of applications of a sharp tool or weapon with a rough side on which the cutting edge was moved in a jerky fashion which is visible from pictures ¹4e and ¹9e.
2. It is clear that some of the individuals had been blindfolded. (¹33,¹72).
3. In many cases, cord can be seen on the wrists of the victims (frames ¹50, ¹06, ¹8, ¹10, ¹12, ¹18, ¹20, ¹31, ¹35, ¹41, ¹43, ¹60, ¹65, ¹66, ¹76). On some pictures, it is clear that he cords have been bound with very complex knots, which are not used in burials or in the transportation of corpses by towing (¹43,¹76). It can be suggested that the hands of the deceased had been bound and part of the cord had previously been cut off or torn off (¹06 ). A short length of the free ends of cord also does not confirm the possibility that the cord was used to bind the hands of the deceased with the aim of transporting them by towing.
In cases ¹24 and ¹44 the hands and the feet of the corpses are bound with cord or rags.
4. The corpse in frame ¹23 has smashed in front teeth, one of which is broken. The teeth on all other corpses are complete.
A V Sokolov, scientific expert of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial", Doctor and Therapist