Russia

Chechnya: Human rights defenders accuse federals of blowing up victims of "mop-ups"

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Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus - The corpses of those who have disappeared during "mopping-up" operations in Chechnya are increasingly more often found blown up. Human rights defenders spoke about this issue at a meeting in Nazran on January 20 between the executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Aaron Rhodes and representatives of Chechen NGOs.

According to information provided by human rights center Memorial, two people arrested in the town of Argun during a "mop-up" conducted on January 7-9 were found blown up at the outskirts of the town.

Memorial also reported that on January 14, the remains of eight human bodies were discovered in a pit in Petropavlovskaya near Grozny. The head of Memorial's office in Nazran Eliza Musayeva quoted Chechen Prosecutor General Vladimir Kravchenko as saying that the people had been kidnapped and blown up by fighters. In fact, two of the identified persons, Ramzan Kagermanov, director of state farm "Soviet Russia" in the Berdykel village, and Bekkhan Tepsuyev, who works with the Grozny district revenue office, were taken away from their homes during "mop-ups", said Musayeva.

Chechen human rights defenders see two primary reasons for such a method of killing: to make the victims' identification more difficult and to conceal the fact that some bodily organs have been taken out for sale. "Our assumptions are based upon the information provided by ordinary Chechens; it is also possible that these actions are carried out to intimidate the inhabitants before the upcoming referendum," adds Ruslan Badalov, chairman of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation.

One of the participants of the meeting, Malisat Geligayeva from the organization "Widows of Chechnya" and a witness of the January 16 "mop-up" in the center of Grozny, said that the Russian servicemen who surrounded the market on armoured vehicles captured a woman who was in her ninth month of pregnancy when she was trying to prevent her husband's arrest. On January 18 the woman's corpse appeared near the marketplace. "Her belly was torn, there was a dead baby lying next to her and a piece of paper saying 'The wahhabis did this.'", Geligayeva recounts.

The International Helsinki Federation coordinator Vladimir Weissman assured the human rights defenders that the material presented at the meeting will be used to prepare a report on the violation of human rights in Chechnya. "The PACE session will start in one week in Strasbourg and we would like to submit our document to it," Weissman said.

He also affirmed that Aaron Rhodes is to take part in a number of meetings involving, among others, the Chechen issue -- including one at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Netherlands and the USA. "The Netherlands currently chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe," noted Vladimir Weissman.

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