A Report by Physicians for Human Rights
This report was written by Leonard S. Rubenstein, J.D., executive director of Physicians for Human Rights; Ondrej Mach, M.D., a consultant to Physicians for Human Rights; Doug Ford, J.D., Senior Program Associate, Physicians for Human Rights; Allison Cohen, Program Coordinator, Physicians for Human Rights; and Holly Burkhalter, Advocacy Director, Physicians for Human Rights. It was reviewed by Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights and Barbara Ayotte, Director of Communications, Physicians for Human Rights. Ms. Ayotte prepared the report for publication.
We owe special appreciation to the staff of Human Rights Centre-Memorial.
We thank the Open Society Institute and Foundation Promeso for their generous support of this investigation.
We are grateful to all of the individuals who shared their experiences with us for this report. We dedicate the report to those still missing or detained in Chechnya.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) promotes health by protecting human rights.
Using medical and scientific methods, PHR investigates and exposes violations of human rights worldwide and works to stop them. PHR supports institutions that hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable for their actions. We educate health professionals; medical, public health and nursing students; and members of the public. We mobilize people to become active in human rights. As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
The President is Robert Lawrence, MD; Vice President is Holly Atkinson, MD; Executive Director is Leonard S. Rubenstein and Deputy Director is Susannah Sirkin.
© 2001 Physicians for Human Rights
All rights reserved
I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
For more than a year, Russia's federal forces have inflicted wanton violence on civilians in Chechnya in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. While the most intense period of the war in Chechnya ended in the spring of 2000 with the occupation of the capital, Grozny, and most other areas, the behavior of Russia's forces toward the civilian population continues to be brutal, corrupt and illegal.
Physicians for Human Rights documents that, as of December 2000, Russia's forces continued to engage in arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, torture, murder, attempted murder, disappearances, bribery, and shelling of population centers. Civilians are arrested on flimsy pretexts, interrogated, beaten, and sometimes thrown into pits in the ground, only to be released when relatives pay significant bribes. Some disappear. Russia's military units sweep through cities and villages ostensibly in search of fighters on the Chechen side, arrest civilians, shoot into homes, take property, and leave. Travel within Chechnya requires civilians to run a gauntlet of checkpoints, where they also may experience extortion, arrests or beatings.
Although there was considerable variation in the details provided by witnesses in their accounts to PHR of human rights violations, common elements appear throughout: The violations committed by Russia's forces came suddenly, often without warning or reason, to people merely trying to survive in a war-devastated country. Individuals were arrested and detained while walking on a road in their villages or towns, standing in their front yards, shopping at a market, driving, crossing a checkpoint that they had navigated hundreds of times before, or just sitting in their homes with their families. One man was arrested because he could not produce a case of vodka, another because he protested the arrest of his son. Sometimes individuals were arrested en masse, especially during 'sweeps' through the villages by Russia's soldiers.
During the first six months of the second Chechen war of the decade, which began in September 1999, war crimes by Russia's forces were documented and condemned by numerous organizations. In February and March 2000, Physicians for Human Rights assessed patterns and prevalence of abuse and found extensive evidence of war crimes and other human rights violations. PHR conducted a random survey of 1,143 persons displaced from Chechnya by the war. Respondents and members of their households alone witnessed almost 200 killings of non-combatants. 46% of the 1,143 surveyed reported witnessing at least one killing of a civilian by Russia's federal forces. Survey respondents reported 77 instances of torture.1 The survey was accompanied by corroborated witness case testimonies of massacres at Katr Yurt and Aldi, and atrocities at the Chernokozovo filtration camp.2
In April, 2000, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin conduct an independent investigation of serious breaches of human rights by Russia's forces and hold accountable those responsible for them. But when Russia failed to perform the demanded investigation or to end impunity, it suffered no consequences. Instead, Russian authorities continued to block the entry of human rights monitors from international bodies including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations, preventing them from investigating ongoing violations or preventing new ones. Other than eliciting verbal protests, the international community, including the United States, took no effective action and declined to use tools at its disposal to require President Putin to stop Russia's massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The abuses continue into the present day.
The recent PHR investigation was designed to document human rights violations in the last five months of 2000 and evaluate changes in the scope of abuses since PHR's earlier investigation.3 From December 8 to December 24, 2000, PHR Executive Director Leonard S. Rubenstein and Ondrej Mach, M.D., a consultant with extensive experience in the region, investigated violations in Chechnya. They interviewed more than 50 witnesses to human rights abuses that took place during the last five months of 2000, focusing especially on events in October, November and December.
The violations documented in this report take place in the context of widespread violence. Although by the spring of 2000, Russia's federal forces claimed to occupy all of Chechnya, they were unable to stop hit and run attacks against them by fighters on the Chechen side and suffered serious losses when Chechen fighters blew up trucks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles. In some areas of Chechnya, including Grozny, Russia's federal forces responded to these losses by shooting at and killing civilians in their homes and on the streets; by shelling villages where rebels are suspected of operating; by illegally arresting, detaining, and torturing Chechen men, causing some to disappear; and by extorting money from civilians to permit the release of loved ones or to allow them to cross checkpoints.
Arbitrary Arrests and Disappearances
The circumstances and manner of the arrests suggest that they are often executed by units without any pretext of legal authority or regularity. Although some of the men arrested were brought to conventional detention facilities, others were thrown into pits in the ground or held in fuel dumps or cellars. Local military commanders sometimes did not know men had been detained or where; in other cases the commanders helped secure release. Some men simply disappeared after arrest.
Individuals interviewed by PHR who were arrested were always beaten, often repeatedly and severely. Some of the men PHR interviewed were tortured with electricity. One was shot while riding on a truck. Another was mutilated. Their documents were confiscated, creating new risks when they were finally released. While detained they were deprived of food for days at a time and sometimes kept in cells or pits so small that all of the men could not sit down.
Arrests as a Form of Extortion
The men interviewed were released only when families paid a bribe demanded by the unit holding them or when families used whatever political influence they could muster to secure the release.
Shelling / Explosives
Civilians are also victimized by assaults, murders and the shelling of cities and villages. While Physicians for Human Rights was conducting this investigation, Russia's forces shelled the area around the university in Grozny. At least six were killed. The university had re-opened despite a lack of electricity and books. In other cases, explosive devices, including landmines, injured and killed many people.
No respect is shown by Russia's forces for the principle of medical neutrality, recognized in the Geneva Conventions, which provides that medical personnel, facilities and conveyances are off-limits to attack by military forces so long as they retain their medical character. Russia's forces harass health workers at checkpoints, interfere in the provision of medical care at hospitals, and even seek to arrest individuals at hospital. They have taken over one hospital for use as a military barracks--a blatant violation of international humanitarian law.
Abuses by Chechen Fighters/Criminals
Russia's forces are not the only ones committing human rights violations. PHR received reports that fighters on the Chechen side threaten and sometimes kill civilians, including local administrators, alleged to be collaborating with Russian authorities. In addition, the PHR team received reports that criminals engage in murder and assaults on civilians. These violations of human rights warrant condemnation.
The destruction of homes and buildings, combined with the atmosphere of terror and insecurity has deeply affected the health and hopes of almost one million people. About 760,000 people remain inside Chechnya, of whom 150,000 are displaced from their former homes. Another 155,000 are in neighboring Ingushetia, doubled up with other families or living in camps, railroad cars, warehouses and other inadequate facilities. They have suffered enormous trauma.
Russia's forces and fighters from the Chechen side have obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as domestic law, to pursue political and military objectives without raining death and brutality on the unarmed population of Chechnya. The Russian Federation has permitted war crimes and violations of human rights to take place with impunity.
The Second War in Chechnya of the Decade
After the end of the first Chechen war in 1996, the Chechen Republic governed itself, although neither Russia nor the international community recognized the republic's self-declared independence. The second Chechen war of the decade broke out in September 1999 after forces allegedly affiliated with the then Chechen government launched military attacks in neighboring Dagestan. A series of bombings in Russian cities were also attributed to these forces. Russia responded to the attacks and bombings by unleashing a military campaign against the then-autonomous republic, and bombed the capital, Grozny, destroying most of it. During the early months of 2000, Russian military forces succeeded in gaining control of Grozny, the capital, as well as nearly all of the territory of Chechnya. Russian force levels decreased from 100,000 troops to 25,000 by late autumn.4
Russia's federal forces include draftees who are serving their compulsory military service and kontraktniki or contract soldiers. These contract soldiers are mainly composed of two pools - those who 'volunteered' to continue fighting in Chechnya after their term of compulsory military service ended and those who typically served in the Russian Army at least a decade ago and have had no military training since then. Bonuses paid to kontraktniki, which were approximately the equivalent of $30 per month as of September 2000, have reportedly been recently reduced.5 In addition to the regular military units, several militarized police units of Russia's Interior Ministry, including OMON, a special forces unit also referred to as riot police, operate in Chechnya. Police reporting to the Chechen civilian administration, recently appointed by Moscow, and Chechen units of the Interior Ministry are also present.
Despite the ostensible control of all Chechen territory, Russia's troops have been continually subject to hit-and-run attacks by Chechen fighters at Russian checkpoints and other locations of troops. Russian armed personnel carriers, jeeps, and trucks have been blown up as well. Sometimes Chechen fighters combine tactics, blowing up a vehicle as a prelude to attacks on convoys or posts. While PHR was conducting its investigation in December, Chechen fighters attacked conveys, checkpoints, and Russian military vehicles, killing dozens of soldiers.6 Russian troops often respond with shelling areas of suspected activity by fighters on the Chechen side, including areas heavily populated by civilians.
At various times during 2000, with casualties mounting and the Russian military's inability to maintain full control of captured territories, there were periodic calls within Russia for a political solution, but to date none has been achieved.
International Demands for Accountability for Human Rights Violations in Chechnya
During the period from September 1999 to March 2000, when the war in Chechnya was most intense, human rights organizations reported killings, torture, illegal detention and other gross abuses of human rights at appalling levels. They exposed torture, rape, beatings and assaults in 'filtration' camps (detention centers where Russia's forces supposedly sought to filter out fighters) and other detention facilities7. On April 25, 2000, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution expressing grave concern about Russia's conduct in the war in Chechnya. The resolution called for 'the Government of the Russian Federation to establish urgently, according to recognized international standards, a national, broad-based and independent commission of inquiry,' to establish the truth, bring justice, and prevent impunity.8 The Commission did not vote on a proposed stronger resolution calling for an investigation of human rights by international entities.
The resolution also called for special rapporteurs and representatives from five U.N. human rights monitoring bodies to be invited to the Russian Federation. To date, Russia has refused to abide by the Commission's resolution to conduct an independent investigation. However, it has appointed a Special Representative on Human Rights, Vladimir Kalamanov, 'to secure the constitutional rights of citizens in the Chechen Republic.'9 Mr. Kalamanov's office regularly received complaints about arrests, disappearances, torture, killing, taking of identity papers, and destruction of property. More than 12,000 complaints of human rights abuses were submitted to Mr. Kalamanov's office through the end of 2000.10 The Council of Europe provides technical assistance, including staff resources, to the work of Mr. Kalamanov's office. The office has no power to resolve complaints, though it has on occasion assisted families in locating people who disappeared and in securing the release of individuals detained. Despite the referral of cases, Russian prosecutors have brought only a small handful of cases against soldiers who commit human rights abuses, including war crimes.
Throughout 2000, Russia has prevented internationally authorized human rights investigators and monitors from entering Chechnya. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson came to Chechnya in April 2000, but was denied access to many sites she requested to see. In addition, since hostilities broke out in September 1999, Russia has not permitted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Assistance Group, which is authorized to monitor human rights in Chechnya, to send monitors into the area. At the Istanbul Summit in November 1999, the Russian Federation agreed to allow OSCE monitors, but when OSCE sought to negotiate deployment of an advisory and monitoring group, it did not cooperate. The OSCE parliamentary assembly expressed grave concern about reports indicating disproportionate and indiscriminate use of Russia's military force, including attacks against civilians. It further called upon the Russian government to establish a ‘broad-based and independent commission of inquiry' to investigate international humanitarian law violations.11 In November, when OSCE again sought to gain an agreement at the Permanent Council at the Ministerial level, Russia refused.
The investigators from United Nations bodies have also been denied access. The Special Rapporteur on Children in Armed Conflict has received an invitation but was told that his trip cannot take place within the framework of the Human Rights Commission resolution. The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women was also invited, but after she requested a joint trip with the Special Rapporteur on Torture, was refused. The Special Rapporteur on Torture has not been issued an invitation to visit the North Caucasus, despite repeated requests. No invitation has been issued to the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions or to the Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has criticized Russia for human rights violations in Chechnya and denied voting rights to Russia in the Assembly. In response to continuing reports of human rights violations,12 the Assembly sent a delegation to Chechnya in January 2001 to examine human rights violations. Except for the actions by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, no governments or international bodies have taken steps to penalize or sanction Russia in any way for its conduct in Chechnya or for its failure to take steps to end impunity.
Physicians for Human Rights finds that Russia's federal forces continue to engage in human rights violations against civilians, including arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, beatings, torture, disappearances, killings, looting, extortion, attacks on civilians and violations of medical neutrality. These violations have grave consequences both for the immediate victims and for the entire population of Chechnya.
Purpose and Methods
This report relies on first-hand accounts that reveal specific incidents of human rights violations and confirm patterns of abuses identified by other human rights monitors. For certain events, including arrests at the Grozny market, a November car bombing, the detention of two young boys, and the shelling of the university in Grozny, PHR has relied on separate accounts of multiple witnesses. The section on arbitrary arrests is based on several first-hand accounts detailing similar patterns of abuse. Some accounts of arrests and experiences in detention are reported on the basis of a single victim. These were included in this report only when judged credible by the PHR investigators, based on the witness' demeanor, the detail of the account, the internal consistency in the account, and the consistency of the story with other facts and patterns of conduct.13 To protect the security of witnesses, their names have been changed.
Arbitrary Arrests, Detention, Disappearances and Torture
Russia's forces arbitrarily arrest civilians, detain them, and frequently torture them.14 PHR interviewed 23 witnesses about instances of arrest, detention, and torture. Eleven of the witnesses were victims of torture. In almost every case, there existed no authority or legal grounds for the arrest, no charges were formally brought against the individual, and the person's documents were confiscated. The places of detention included military camps and police stations, but also dank basements in abandoned buildings and pits dug in the ground.
During detention, food and water were frequently withheld, toilet facilities were not made available (sometimes buckets were not provided), beatings and other forms of physical torture were the norm, and psychological manipulation was common. The victims were released - if at all - only after family members managed to find the unit that held the victim and either bribed soldiers or took advantage of personal connections to high-ranking Russian officials.
Who is Arrested and Detained
Most of the arrests that PHR investigated involved young men, older teenagers or boys. Two witnesses described the detention of four boys age 11-13 who were tending cattle and wheat fields in Bachuit15 in early October. But PHR also interviewed two men in their forties and one in his late thirties who had been arrested, detained, and beaten.16 Uniformly, the persons arrested were accused of an association with the fighters on the Chechen side, but the arrests were so indiscriminate and release after bribery was so common that the actions of the Russian forces discredit these accusations. Although all the victims of arrest that PHR interviewed were men, PHR learned of one woman who has been incarcerated for almost a year amid allegations that she participated in the killing of a Russian officer.17
The Arbitrary Nature of Arrest and Detention
Almost all of the men that PHR interviewed who were arrested told the PHR team that Russia's federal forces, either conscripts or contract soldiers, performed the arrest.18
PHR found that Russia's federal forces arbitrarily and indiscriminately arrest civilians during 'sweeps', sometimes accompanied by violence. They also made numerous arrests at checkpoints for violating curfew, for alleged lack of proper documents, for being in the vicinity of an attack on Russia's soldiers, or for not meeting the price demanded for avoiding arrest. Sometimes arrests were at the apparent whim of a soldier. In many cases, soldiers took identification papers and never returned them.
Men interviewed by the PHR team were rounded up in groups, sometimes with a dozen or more others, during 'sweeps' of villages by Russia's forces that typically were a response to an attack by fighters on the Chechen side. In these sweeps or 'clean-up' operations (as they are called in the region), two dozen or more of Russia's soldiers, often accompanied by armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles (sometimes including helicopters), enter a village seeking alleged terrorists. Soldiers typically check identities, enter houses, and make arrests. Sometimes these arrests are based on alleged lack of proper identity papers, sometimes based on 'suspicion' of association with Chechen fighters, and sometimes because they are rounding up all men of a certain age. Abuses by Russia's forces during sweeps were so notorious and so widely recognized that in the spring of 2000, Russian officials agreed to require representatives of the prosecutor's office and the head of the village or municipal administration to be present at the implementation of 'cleansing operations' in residential areas.19
A 17-year-old young man, Rashid, reported that he was arrested in his house early in the morning of August 1, 2000, when one of Russia's military units swept Urus- Martan. He was arrested with eight others and his identification papers were confiscated. As they took him away, the soldiers told his parents that he was being detained for 'conversation.'20 Another young man, Movsar, age 18, told PHR that he was arrested during a sweep in Alkan Khala in mid-October. He was walking home before curfew when two or three trucks containing 30-40 soldiers came into the village. Without asking any questions, soldiers approached him, put a shirt over his face, and threw him into an armed personnel carrier. Women screamed to try to prevent his arrest, but to no avail.21
Another man, Yakub, age 45, told PHR that he was arrested during a sweep in the town of Chalisi around August 8. He and his wife had come from Ingushetia, where they lived as displaced persons, to visit his parents. They arrived in the early morning and, at 8 a.m., approximately 30 of Russia's federal forces arrived and began a sweep in the town. In response to their demand for papers, Yakub produced his registration in Grozny and his certification as an internally displaced person living in Ingushetia. The soldiers demanded additional papers proving his registration in the village. Yakub explained that he was in the village for a visit and that his mother and sister all had the same name as he did. He was arrested all the same, brought to a checkpoint where his hands were bound behind him with rope, his shirt removed and he was blindfolded. About 18 others from Chalisi and nearby villages were also arrested and eventually brought to Urus-Martan military base.
Mass arrests during sweeps are not uncommon. Witnesses whom PHR interviewed identified arrests of 15 people in Stari Atagi22 and 10 young men in the Pervomajskaja area of Grozny23 during the month of September. Eight men were arrested in a sweep in Bachuit in early October along with the four boys mentioned above.24
On November 26, Russia's federal forces attacked and razed the central market in Grozny - where most commerce in the destroyed city takes place - after two Russian soldiers were killed in the market. The soldiers came in with great force, with many military vehicles and as many as 100 troops. They attacked and fired at shoppers, killing some, took merchandise, and destroyed stalls.25 They arrested at least twenty men.
PHR spoke to two witnesses to the violence and arrests. One of them, Fatima, reported that she went to a shop in the market to buy medicines. At about 10:00 a.m., the market was surrounded by Russian soldiers, some wearing scarves over their faces and others in black masks. She said that people panicked as Russian soldiers grabbed shopping bags, loaded all the merchandise on trucks, and took young men away.26 She also saw the arrest of one of her neighbors.
Another witness, Zita, was selling gasoline in plastic jerry cans at the central market, as she had been doing every day since June. She told PHR that her products were taken away and destroyed by soldiers with tanks. The soldiers also said they would search for guns, and began taking people taken away. She saw the arrest of two men who she knew well. One of the men arrested worked for Chechen OMON, a branch of the local Interior Ministry. She begged the soldiers not to take him away. But he was handcuffed and put in a military truck without a number plate. 27
Checkpoints ,Curfews, Vodka
Arrests also take place at the countless checkpoints and vehicle stops on roads. Rashid, age 50, told PHR that he was driving along a road near Grozny in mid-October with one of his 10 children to visit the grave of his brother, who he said had been killed by Russia's forces, in the town of Tangi-Chu. Soldiers operating a military vehicle stopped him and demanded to see his identification papers. His papers were satisfactory but his son, age 18, did not have any papers with him. The soldiers said they would arrest the son, and when Rashid protested, he was arrested as well. No formal charges were ever brought, but he and his son were beaten and detained for 11 days until a relative in a prosecutor's office in Moscow secured their release.
PHR also interviewed two individuals who were arrested and beaten because they were out after curfew.28 Others were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. PHR interviewed two young men who happened to be in an area where a Russian armored personnel carrier was blown up; each was arrested and detained, tortured and beaten. 29
In one case, detention seemed a product of drunken behavior by Russia's soldiers. A man named Salim told PHR that he was standing in front of his house on the main road outside Urus-Martan on October 15, while his wife was out getting water with their children. An armored personnel carrier (APC) with eight or nine soldiers that appeared to be from the Russian army drove by and stopped. The soldiers were quite obviously drunk. Some were wobbly on their feet. One said, 'Sasha, let's take him,' and the other said, 'Let him stay.'
Salim reported that the soldiers stepped out of the APC and demanded a case of vodka in return for leaving him alone. Salim responded that he had none and didn't know where to get it. The soldiers then decided to take him away. They told him they 'suspect him' but did not say what they suspected him of doing. They took him outside the town of Tangi-chu to a place he recognized as a former chicken farm. As soon as they arrived the soldiers put a sack on his head and walked him a short distance. The soldiers took off the sack and put him in a small pit in the ground for three days.
Finally, PHR learned of cases involving planted evidence. In one case, a man named Akhmed was at his former home in Grozny when Russia's federal forces entered his home and asked for documents and whether he had guns or drugs. Akhmed told PHR that he answered that he was a displaced person in the Sputnik camp in Sleptsovskaya, Ingushetia, and had come home to make repairs. Akhmed said the soldiers discovered that he had some money, which he explained was his father's pension. A soldier accused him of being a paid informant of the Chechen rebels, proceeded to search the house, and 'found' a bullet case with four bullets that Akhmed said that the soldiers planted during the search. The soldiers threw him on the floor, demanding to know where he had hidden the gun, beat him, and they started asking about local Bojeviks.30
Occasionally, arrests can be prevented. Witnesses described instances where women who witness an arrest in progress scream or wail at soldiers. They often beg soldiers not to arrest and sometimes even throw stones at them to obstruct it, with varying degrees of success.
Physicians for Human Rights was not able to determine which units detained the individuals interviewed, as the victims were not able to identify them. Also, PHR could not ascertain the extent to which arrests and detention were ordered or authorized by individuals up the chain of command. Evidence suggests that often the units act on their own and without any authority. In some villages, residents developed relationships with Russia's military commanders, and went to them after an individual was taken away. PHR received reports that in some cases, the commanders were unaware of the existence of the detention or of the location where the person was being held. Indeed, PHR was told that sometimes the local commanders cooperated in finding the detainee and facilitating release.
Length of Detention; Disappearances
Some individuals who are arrested are never heard from again. The Russian human rights group, Memorial, informed PHR that it has a list of more than 200 people who have disappeared and have either been killed or kept in detention.31 Also, families informed PHR about their relatives who have either been detained or disappeared. At least one man who was arrested and detained on November 26 at the Grozny market (discussed above) had not been released as of mid-December. His wife told PHR she searched for him at police stations and military bases, without success. She was told that no one knew anything of his whereabouts.32
It is impossible for PHR to ascertain an average length of detention based on the interviews in this investigation. First, most of the individuals interviewed were not officially detained at all. Second, PHR interviewed individuals who had already been released. For most of the men PHR interviewed, the length of detention appeared to depend on how quickly members of their families and communities could find them and raise the funds or generate the influence to secure release. All but one of the individuals PHR interviewed who had been detained were released within two weeks, after families used influence or paid bribes. But detention can last much longer. One individual, Said Ali, told PHR he was detained for ten months after having been out past curfew, and was released only on December 2, 2000.33
Another witness reported the detention of a brother who was arrested on September 15 in the Oktjabrskij region in Grozny and remains incarcerated. Early in the morning of his brother's arrest, masked Russian soldiers in uniforms broke into the house and arrested the witnesses' brother without asking for any documentation. They threw him into a vehicle and drove away. The family looked for him everywhere and then found him in the prison in Gudermes. Later he was taken to an unknown place. In November, through a friend who acted as an intermediary, the family learned about the price of his release, US $5,000. Lacking those funds, the family could not secure his release and to their knowledge he remains incarcerated.34
Places of Detention: Military and Police Cells and Pits
Most of the individuals PHR interviewed who were detained could not identify precisely where they were detained because they were blindfolded during transport. Moreover, many were not detained in detention facilities at all.35 One man was detained in a basement used as a fuel storage facility.36 Another reported being driven around in a truck with a group of other men all night as the soldiers who detained him discussed how they could avoid checkpoints.37 Some victims, however, reported being taken to police stations, military facilities, including an 'internat' or former boarding school in Urus-Martan used at the time for detentions.38
Some of the men were deposited in pits dug in the ground that were deep enough that the surface was well above a man's head. The pits varied in size from one so small that it could hold only a single individual, to larger ones that hold ten or more men. Some were completely exposed to weather and some had covers. Men arrested were kept in pits for days at a time. Two witnesses told PHR about two boys detained in Bachuit who were kept in a pit for four days.39
A man named Salim, 25 years old and married with two children, told PHR his experience of being held in a pit. After his arrest, he was brought to a pit only big enough for a single person, and so narrow a fit that he could barely bend his knees or arms and his arms were stuck at his side. The soldiers kept him in the pit all day and through the night. He was unable to move and was deprived of food and water. At one point he tried to quench his thirst by sucking in some dirt from the side of the pit. Early the next morning it started raining and, dressed in only a t-shirt, Salim got very cold.
In the morning, Salim said, the soldiers made their first request for ransom, asking how much his family would pay for his release. Salim had no answer, and remained in the pit throughout the second day. Again he went without food and his only water came when the soldiers dumped a bucket of water on him.
In the early morning darkness of the third day of his detention, Salim was taken out of the pit to a house. The soldiers were drunk again but angry because their friend had been killed when an APC blew up. One soldier started kicking his face and body until the beating was stopped by a second soldier. As Salim wiped blood off of his face, he heard screaming, and, for the first time, realized that the chicken farm had additional pits. He saw soldiers shoveling dirt into a pit with another detainee in it.
PHR interviewed other detainees who were held in pits. Adlan, who is 38 years old, told PHR he was held with ten men in a pit, where it was so crowded they had to take turns sitting down, for a period of three days. When removed from the pit and put on a truck, he was shot, apparently accidentally, by a soldier.40 The wife of a man named Alimkhan, age 31, said he was kept for two days in a pit after being held up at a checkpoint and after paying 2000 rubles to soldiers.41
Sometimes soldiers brought men back and forth between pits and cells. On his second day in detention, Adlan told PHR, he was blindfolded and thrown in a pit, blindfolded, and soldiers threw what he thought was rubbish at him. He remained alone in the pit for what seemed like several hours. Then he was taken back to the room and interrogated. The Russian commander came and said: 'Did he speak out ?'The soldiers replied, 'No, should we go on?' He was beaten again and Adlan lost consciousness.42
Conditions of Detention
Detained individuals were kept in appalling conditions. Although many of the individuals detained were not aware of where they were being detained because they were blindfolded during transport, all reported terribly inhuman conditions. Almost all of those detained for periods of three to four days were not given food during the period of their detention and some were deprived of water for a day or more. Individuals detained longer had to obtain food from relatives at times, and some of that food was stolen by soldiers. When kept in cells, they were not provided beds or blankets, and in some cases even deprived of buckets for excrement. In cells, overcrowding was common.
Alvi , 22, said he was arrested during a sweep at the Grozny Central Market on November 26, 2000, together with other young men. He was taken to Zavadskoj Police station where he was kept for five days in a small, dark room by himself. Sometimes he heard screams from other places in the building. Another young man described being held with eighteen men in a cell designed for two prisoners. The room had one little window by the ceiling. The prisoners were not given any food and very limited water.43
Every person PHR interviewed who was detained told the PHR team that he was also beaten. Men were beaten on trucks and in fields and in jail, whenever their captors felt like abusing detainees. Sometimes they were made to run through a gauntlet of soldiers who kicked and beat them with batons. Beatings during interrogations were especially severe, resulting in broken ribs, broken noses, and chipped teeth. Some men were beaten so severely that they lost consciousness. Others reported other forms of torture as well, such as electric shock, mutilation, and psychological terrorism. Often, these were in connection with interrogation.
Yakub, a man in his forties, described the treatment he received to PHR. Late in the afternoon of his arrest in August, 2000, he and eighteen other men who also were arrested were loaded onto a military truck and told to lie face down. The vehicle passed through different villages where others were picked up and piled in. They reached Urus-Matan base at about 9 p.m. They were kicked off of the truck and 'two lines of soldiers kicked us with boots and hit us with batons.' They were then taken into a building, all the time blindfolded and hands bound with rope. They were put against a wall, and soldiers continued to beat them. Yakub was hit in the back (kidneys), face, and all around his body. He asked the soldiers , 'Why are you beating me? I am a grandfather. I have nothing to do with the rebels.' The Russian soldiers responded: 'You are guilty because you are a Chechen.' They continued to beat him. 44
Yakub remained there for three days, and was never given any food or water. When one man asked for water, a Russian soldier urinated on him. The men were not allowed to sleep. Some screamed during beatings, apparently suffering from broken ribs. Soldiers also demanded that the men say something along the lines of 'Allah is bad.' The detainees were offered food and water if they did, but detainees refused. 45
Adem, a 49-year old man about 5'6' tall and about 130 or 140 pounds who was detained in a former boarding school in Urus-Martan, told PHR that he struck back at a soldier and was severely beaten for it. He said that he hit one of the soldiers who was about to strike him during his interrogation on the first day after his arrest. The other soldiers immediately started beating him. He recalls, 'They played with me like a football.' He was kicked in the knees, chest, and clapped on the ears. Two of the soldiers picked him up and, by then, his nose was bleeding and he found it hard to breathe. They beat him on the chest and stomach with their fists. He heard noises in his head and felt dizzy. When they let go, he fell to his knees. Eventually he was dragged back to a cell. The soldiers told him he better not tell anyone about what happened; if he did, they said, 'we'll kill you like a dog.'46
For some, the beatings continued day after day. One young man, Movsar, told PHR that upon arriving at his place of detention, he was dragged into a room and beaten. He was beaten again while interrogated. Soldiers demanded to know about associations with and location of leaders of the Chechen fighters. The second day he was put in a pit in the ground and kicked on the head. During another interrogation, he said he was prone on the floor with one of the soldier's boots on his neck. The commander asked the soldier whether he had given any information. The soldier said, 'No.' The commander said, 'Finish him off.' Movsar said he realized it was the commander who was speaking and said, 'I swear, I don't know anything.' But the commander left the room and Movsar was hit with a rifle and kicked. He eventually fell unconscious.47
Khamzat told PHR that he and another man were arrested on a road near Samashki, and were taken to a police station in Achkhoy Martan. They were beaten in the corridor by Russia's soldiers and police and accused of shooting at the police station in Samashki. They were beaten again at night. The following day a Russian policeman from Samashki came to the police station in Achkhoy Martan and had the two prisoners released.48
Four detainees interviewed by PHR were tortured with electric shocks in addition to receiving beatings, each apparently in a different location49. Movsar, whose beatings are described above, said that on one occasion, he was taken to a room for interrogation and his blindfold was removed. His shoes were taken off and some of his clothes were taken away. A commander said, 'Work on him!' and soldiers started asking him about guns and association with rebel groups. His denials were not satisfactory, so Movsar was beaten again. According to Movsar, the soldiers put his feet into a basin of water and attached wires to his body. He was shocked twice. Three soldiers then beat Movsar with military shoes, batons and sticks. Once during this process he lost consciousness.
Three other men told PHR they were subjected to electric shock.50 In two of these cases, electricity was conveyed through metal clothespins with wires attached that were pinned on ears or other parts of the body. In September, reported Aslanbeg, age 22, he was picked up in the Ipidromi area of Grozny after an armed personnel carrier had been blown up. During his interrogation, in which soldiers demanded that he acknowledge involvement in the explosion, they attached metal clothespins with wires on them to his ears, and wet his head with a sponge or washcloth. They started running the electricity, and he felt a horrible shock. He screamed. He said that the shock lasted several seconds and was repeated five times until he lost consciousness. When he awoke he found himself in the original cell.51
A 17-year-old detained in the 'internat' in Urus-Martan in August 2000 told PHR that he was forced to stand facing the wall for many hours with his hands tied, as he was kicked and hit by Russia's soldiers. After about five hours, he was taken to the basement for interrogation, where metal clothespins were attached to various parts of his body. Soldiers applied electricity as they demanded a confession from him stating that he was associated with rebel groups. He told PHR he could see an officer generating the electricity using a manual dynamo.52
A third form of torture Russian soldiers applied to men we interviewed was physical mutilation. Aslanbeg, whose experience with electric shock is described above, told PHR that when he regained consciousness from the electric shock he was taken again into the interrogation room. Five of Russia's soldiers, some of them laughing, awaited him. Some appeared drunk. His feet were tied again, but he was not blindfolded. This time no electric shock was used. He was asked, 'Are you Christian or Muslim?' He answered 'Muslim.' One soldier then asked whether he wanted a cross, moon, or star; he wanted none. Aslanbeg told PHR that a soldier took out a knife and started toward him to cut his chest. Aslanbeg tried to stop it with his free hand but the soldier caught the knife on Aslanbeg's wrist and cut it.53 The soldiers then tied his hand to the chair and cut a cross in his chest, saying 'This is in memory of us.' The cuts were not deep, but they did leave small scars that the PHR team observed. The soldiers did nothing to stop the bleeding of his chest or wrist.
A young man, Bislan, was arrested in mid-September after a Russian military vehicle was blown up, said he was picked up in Grozny by about a dozen soldiers while walking on the street. 54The soldiers cursed at him, accusing him of blowing up the armored personnel carrier, and demanded that he get down. They handcuffed him and brought him onto the truck, all the while accusing him. They covered his head and beat him. After a half hour of driving, they threw him into a cellar, and a few hours later an officer came in and demanded to know who was in a league with him. When he denied any involvement, the officer burned a cigarette on his hand. Bislan said he screamed in pain. They began beating him again.
Aslanbeg also experienced a fourth form of torture-- psychological terrorism including mock execution. First, he said, the soldiers demanded that he play Russian roulette. They untied his hand and seemed ready to place a gun in it when another soldier ran into the room and called the others to leave. Two soldiers quickly took him back to a cell. He was still bleeding, worse from his wrist than from his chest. He tore his shirt and used it as a bandage.
The soldiers renewed their terror the next day:
'They brought me out to a field and told me that that it was full of mines. They told me to walk to a tree about twenty meters away. They said that if I reached the tree that would set me free. I made it to the tree, and then they demanded that I return by a different route. When I made it back from the tree, they told me this proved I was a rebel fighter who knew how to walk through a minefield. I was brought back for more interrogation. They kicked and beat me.'55
Other detainees as well were subjected to mock executions. After two days of keeping one man in a pit, soldiers put a sack on his head and walked him to a wooded area to interrogate him. They named rebel commanders and asked whether he knew them. After his denial, one soldier said, 'Say goodbye to the life and pray.' While the detainee was still covered with the sack, a soldier shot his gun two or three times in the air. A soldier asked if he was terrified.56
Bribery as the Means for Release
PHR found that after an individual was taken away by soldiers, families and neighbors sought to locate him and negotiated his release. In the majority of cases, release was accomplished through a payment of money, although PHR also learned of some cases where soldiers demanded guns or vehicles as the price of release.
Almost without exception, the men PHR interviewed were only released after their families raised the funds that the Russian soldiers demanded. In cases where more than one man was arrested, only those individuals whose families raised the funds were released. Based on the range of prices the witnesses provided PHR, the 'going rate' seemed to be from 5000 to 15,000 rubles, or about US$175-525, though in one case the price of release was $1,800 and, as noted earlier, one man remains detained because his family has not raised the $5,000 demanded of them. In another case, an automobile was required to secure release, and in still another, guns. Akhmed's relatives gave the soldiers 'an automatic gun, 2,500 rubles and some food and alcohol,' after which he was released.57 Guns were also demanded to release the young boys thrown into a pit at Bachuit. According to a man in the village at the time, the soldiers demanded one weapon and 5,000 rubles for each boy.58
The exceptions to monetary exchange generally involved finding a person of influence who could put appropriate pressure on the soldiers to secure a person's release.
None of the men interviewed by PHR knew when they were going to be released, right up to the moment they were freed. Most of the men told PHR they were brought to isolated places, such as woods or rivers, where they expected more interrogation and torture, only to have their blindfold removed and see family or neighbors at the spot. Some men PHR interviewed were thrown off trucks, even one who had been shot by a Russian soldier on the truck he was in.59
Identity papers typically were not returned to men when released, creating yet new risks for the men. Lack of documents subjected a person to re-arrest, and prevented the crossing of checkpoints. Some men were released after curfew, creating even greater risks. In one case, Russian soldiers released a detained man and offered to return his papers for a fee of 5,000 rubles.
Terror after Release
The end of detention did not end the men's ordeals. First, many of the men suffered chronic pain caused by the beatings. Many former detainees described continuing physical pain in joints, especially knees and the back, as well as in the kidney area. One young man was hospitalized for a month after release.60 Others, however, had difficulty obtaining medical treatment because the clinics they approached feared retaliation if they provided treatment for wounds caused by Russia's federal forces.
Second, men who have been detained face increased personal insecurity and heightened risk. Because the detention itself is usually illegal, those who were detained were warned that they must not reveal the fact of detention. All but one of the victims PHR interviewed had not previously told his story to officials of the government or elsewhere. Salim and Adem, both of whom had survived two wars and destruction of houses and endured harsh conditions of existence, finally decided to leave Chechnya after having been detained. Adem, who eked out a living as a taxi driver, told PHR he left Chechnya shortly following his release after being advised by a soldier not to stay in his house because of the risk of re-arrest.61 Indeed, he said, twice after his release soldiers came to his mother's house looking for him but he was not there. Worse, they had apparent grounds for arrest because his papers had never been returned by those who detained him and he did not yet have replacements. As soon as he got his papers, in early December, he came to Ingushetia, where he is now in a camp for displaced persons. His son, meanwhile, remains in Chechnya awaiting his papers. Others leave their homes within Chechnya and stay with families in other villages.
Two other victims told PHR they had not returned to their homes out of fear of being rearrested. Salim told PHR he was living with his uncle but has trouble sleeping at night and felt he could no longer live in Urus-Martan. He was looking for a place in Ingushetia since he did not want to live in a camp.62 Bislan told PHR that he was staying in Atagui because he felt it was not safe to stay at home.63
Another victim, Adlan, who was hospitalized in Ingushetia and treated for a bullet wound after a soldier shot him. When he was released the soldiers said, 'We know your address,' and threatened to kill him if he revealed what happened to him.64
Killing of Civilians
PHR reported in its March 2000, survey that the 1,143 survey respondents witnessed almost 200 killings of non-combatants by Russia's forces. The murders continue to this day.
In one case, PHR learned of very strong circumstantial evidence that Russia's federal forces murdered two young men some time on or after August 8 outside the Village of Gichi, along the road between Gichi and Urus-Martan. The series of events started when, according to Bashir, a Chechen man jumped over a fence into the yard of Bashir's house during the police sweep into the house. About 30 Russian soldiers in uniforms chased him. They threw grenades into the house. The family escaped the house as Russia's forces brought a tank and fired into the house. The man they were chasing was killed.
Bashir's older son, Beg, age 28, helped put the fire out. Soldiers carried out the body of the man they killed in the house but then, without explanation, arrested Beg and Bashir's other son, Idris, age 23. They were taken away by the soldiers and then disappeared. A month later, on September 12, a soldier sold him a hand-written map65 for the price of 4000 rubles (about $150) that showed him where his sons' bodies were buried. Bashir went to the site in the presence of an official investigator and a forensic doctor, identified his two sons and re-buried them in the cemetery. Bashir was relentlessly trying to bring the perpetrators of the murder of his two sons to justice but his correspondence with prosecutor's offices both local and federal had not brought results to date.66
PHR also spoke to individuals who attended funerals and were told by others that the victims were killed by Russia's soldiers. PHR could not verify these accounts,67 but they warrant further investigation:
One individual PHR interviewed was told by others at the funeral of the deceased that one night in early December, Russia's soldiers came into the house of a family named Algayev in Urus-Martan and removed the father. The bodies of the father and that of another man removed from his house the same night were found, mutilated, in Chaami Ute, four days later.68
In early December, two women were raped and one murdered along with two men in a house in Grozny located near the bus station. An individual who attended the funerals told PHR that she spoke to the surviving woman, who was shot in the stomach and thigh by the same soldiers. The survivor has left Chechnya.69
In mid-November, Russian soldiers were reported to have killed two young men, Aslan and Magomet Dudayev, in Urus-Martan after entering into their house in the middle of the night. One was shot in the eye; the other in the heart and back. Soldiers were reported to be wearing masks and speaking Russian70.
In mid-December, a young man was killed at a checkpoint in Grozny, reportedly by soldiers.71
Fighters on the Chechen side are reported to have killed individuals they view as collaborators, including those associated with civil administration in Chechnya.72 In addition, the breakdown of law and order has allowed criminal gangs to operate in Chechnya and commit murders.
In the following cases, there was strong evidence that a murder took place but the perpetrator has not been identified:
Around November 25, a 55-year-old man named Jusuf in Samshki village (Achon Martan District) disappeared. His body was found 300 - 400 meters from the village half buried in the dump and his body was mutilated. Villagers suspect the killing was a product of revenge by soldiers as few days earlier there was an incident in which two Russia's soldiers died and blamed the villagers for deaths.73 PHR could not confirm this.
On the morning of December 7 or 8, a man living in the Carpinka section of Grozny found the body of his neighbor, Susaif Said Salem, lying by the street.74
Around November 1, two women and one man were killed in the Katayama section of Grozny.75
Direct Action against Civilians
Russia's federal forces continue to turn their guns, military vehicles and mines on civilians living in Chechnya. The civilians suffer as well from landmines, booby-traps and other explosives placed by both sides to the conflict.
Shelling of Civilians
PHR heard many accounts of shelling of villages by Russia's federal forces. Witnesses from the town of Urus-Martan told PHR that shelling was a regular occurrence there.76
Grozny, which was thoroughly bombed and remains mostly destroyed, continues to be shelled despite the fact that about 60,000 people continue to live there.77 Indeed, it was shelled while PHR investigators were in the region. On December 20, an area of Grozny that contains the university and an elementary/secondary school and a teacher training institute was shelled, killing at least six people and perhaps more.78 PHR interviewed six eyewitnesses to the event.
The shelling took place on a day when the university was especially busy, with students present for examinations, arrangements for scholarships, and other activities. As the shelling continued for one to two hours, students remained terrified, huddling in the already-damaged buildings. They did not get the worst of it, however, as shells landed on an elementary/secondary school nearby as well as on or next to a teacher training institute across the street.79
According to two of the witnesses, the shelling killed a teacher in the elementary/secondary school and students from the teacher training institute, among others, as well as members of a family in a nearby house that was also shelled.
Russian press spokesmen immediately attributed the attack to fighters on the Chechen side. Two of the witnesses PHR interviewed, however, claimed to see shells launched from a Russian armored personnel carrier, 80 and one recounted a conversation with a Russian commander who arrived on the scene an hour or two after the shelling and could not confirm whether the shells were from Chechen or Russian forces.81 About a week later, the press reported that the chief prosecutor in Chechnya, Vsevolod Chernov, rebutted the claims by the armed forces and alleged that Russia's troops, not Chechen fighters, were indeed responsible for the mortar fire that he said had killed a seventh person.82 The prosecutor would not say whether the reason for the shelling was 'criminal negligence' or 'evil intent.'
Violence Against Civilians / Looting During Sweeps and Military Operations
Russia's federal forces shoot at civilians, steal their property and extort money from them. 'Sweeps' by military troops through villages are occasions for violence against civilians as well as arrests. As noted above, the sweep of the Grozny market in late November was accompanied by killings, the destruction of stalls and property as well as the arrests of many men. PHR learned of other acts of violence and looting during sweeps.
The first week of December, in Alkan Khala, near Grozny, five helicopters hovered overhead while civilians sought cover. One witness described her terror at the realization that her young daughter was playing next door. Her husband managed to get their daughter back to their own house without being shot at, but soldiers in the helicopters did shoot into the town and wounded one man. He lay in the street bleeding and could not be attended to until the helicopters left. After the helicopter attack, she said, tanks entered the village, and soldiers broke into several houses, including shooting into houses that were locked, and carried out possessions from them.83
A Chechen neurosurgeon told PHR that a man named Badrudi went to the fields near his home in October to fetch his cows during a police sweep in Sernovodsk. According to reports received by the physician, a sniper shot him in the head. The bullet entered the skull in the frontal area and exited on the other side. Badrudi was transported to the hospital the same day but is still in a very unstable condition. The physician reports that he may be disabled for life.84
Russian military activities in villages are occasions for extortion and looting as well. Witnesses reported that soldiers took personal possessions such as stereos and televisions. In early October in the village of Bachuit, soldiers came into the town and demanded an inspection of the papers of all trucks. They instructed the villagers to bring the trucks to a field and looked at the papers. The soldiers then demanded payment for the return of the trucks.85
Military violence by Russia's federal forces against civilians also takes place in other ways. Memorial has reported instances of shooting into houses in recent weeks86 and PHR heard two eye-witness accounts of two such incidents. On December 10, in the wake of an explosion of a Russian armored personnel carrier nearby, troops fired into a nine story building in the Minutka section of Grozny. A young man named Chervaniy was in the family's flat on the 7th floor. Soon after the explosion, he told PHR, soldiers started firing into the building. Chervaniy ran out of the flat, down the stairs and out the back of the building. When he returned, he saw bullet holes in the plastic sheeting covering the windows of his flat. Across the street, four flats were burning.87
The following week, around December 17, in Urus-Martan, a witness heard an explosion while a convoy was passing by. The explosion seemed to come from the area around a bridge 1 km from his house. While the witness, his mother and father cowered, soldiers fired into the house, which is just about five meters from the road. At first they tried to run to the cellar but did not have enough time, so they lay on the floor. No one was hit. When the shooting stopped, they found 17 bullet holes in the door. The witness reports that the following day his mother complained to the local military commander, who promised to investigate and punish the perpetrators.88
Another form of injury inflicted by Russia's federal troops on civilians is running them over or ramming into them with armored personnel carriers. In one incident that was reported on television news, an armored personnel carrier ran over a car, killing a two and a half year old girl, her mother and mother- in- law in Grozny while the father in law looked on in horror. After the incident, the driver ran away and the military commander claimed it was an accident.89 Almost three months later, no disciplinary action appears to be forthcoming. In another incident reported to PHR, in November, a witness was in a car on a bridge near Konservarny waiting for other vehicles to pass. An APC was at a nearby checkpoint facing Chernovodsk (part of Grozny); it turned and rammed into another vehicle. Chechen police came on the scene to investigate and were shot at by the soldiers (they escaped injury).90
Death and Injuries from Landmines, Booby Traps and Other Explosives
Chechnya is overrun with landmines and explosive devices including booby traps, anti-tank devices and unexploded ordnance. Anti-personnel landmines were used in the 1994-6 war and were reportedly used during the lull between wars as well. Since the renewed fighting in 1999, both Chechen and Russian forces have used landmines extensively. While there are no official counts, Chechens have claimed that Russia's federal forces have laid between 200,000 and 300,000 anti-personnel landmines since August 1999.91 Russia's forces have reportedly planted mines in apartment blocks.
PHR was not able to estimate the number of mines laid by the Chechen side. Fighters on the Chechen side regularly use anti-tank mines and car bombs to destroy Russian military equipment and kill Russian soldiers.92
Very frequently, the victims of mines and explosives are innocent civilians. In early December 2000, a car bomb killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others in Alchan Yurt, near the town of Urus-Martan. Five witnesses interviewed by PHR said Russia's troops had actually identified the car as carrying a bomb before it exploded, and thought they had properly detonated it but had not. Onlookers were among the principal victims when the second explosive detonated in the front part of the vehicle.93 Responsibility for the bomb has not been determined. Witnesses who were at the scene identified a man who was formerly identified with one of the rebel groups and now is alleged to have associations with a special task force of pro-Russian Chechen police (OMON).94 This could not be verified.
PHR interviewed one victim of a booby-trap. A 19-year-old young man told PHR he was walking with two friends in Grozny in August 2000, near an unused kindergarten when one of the boys noticed a new Walkman lying on the ground. He picked it up and noticed it had no batteries or tape. He brought it home and put batteries in the Walkman. It immediately exploded. The young man lost his eyesight, has undergone two operations on his hand, and will have to have plastic surgery to restore his face.95 PHR observed prominent burns and scars on his face consistent with his account.
In April 2000, the Russian Federation claimed that it had cleared Grozny and other locations of landmines.96 However, by the following month, Russia began using mines to protect factories and power plants around Grozny.97 Russia also accused the fighters on the Chechen side of planting mines. PHR did not collect information on mine clearing operations since April.
Restrictions on Movement
Freedom of movement in Chechnya is severely restricted. A drive from Grozny to the border in Ingushetia that normally takes less than an hour requires travelers to navigate 15-30 checkpoints, some of them heavily fortified. Within Grozny itself, checkpoints dot the landscape. The checkpoints are manned by different forces, e.g., Russian Federation conscripts, Russian Federation contract units, and various units of the Ministry of the Interior.
Extortion at checkpoints remains common. One man, a former oil worker, who traveled from Grozny to Ingushetia two days before PHR interviewed him, described that he had to pay a bribe at each checkpoint and the 'price' at the checkpoints rose as he approached the border, from about 30 rubles per checkpoint to 50 rubles.98 Two other witnesses also said they had to pay 50 rubles at the border checkpoint.99
Beatings and arrests also take place at checkpoints. Young men are especially at risk, but they are not the only ones. A 61-year-old man reported to PHR that when he went to Grozny to get his pension, he was unable to obtain it because the office closed at 5 p.m., before he reached the front of the line. He walked home, but did not make it in time for the curfew at 6 p.m. At a checkpoint near the Minutka section of Grozny, he was interrogated by soldiers regarding his being out after curfew. Although initially let through, he was then attacked by several men and beaten until he lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he was lying on a heap of rubbish outside Grozny.100
Violations of Medical Neutrality
Russia's federal forces subject health professionals and the health care system to much the same abuse and brutality as they inflict on the general population, in violation of principles of medical neutrality. These principles derive from international humanitarian law and protect health facilities, health providers and health conveyances (such as ambulances) from interference by military forces.
PHR has previously reported on violations of medical neutrality in Chechnya by both sides to the conflict.101 During the December 2000 investigation, the PHR team learned that these violations continue. Moreover, the violations take place against a background of destruction of health facilities during the bombing last year. Russia's widespread bombing and shelling has damaged many hospitals in Chechnya and destroyed others.
Searches, Arrests and Interrogations in Hospitals
Federal troops have searched, interrogated and detained health professionals and patients in hospitals in Chechnya. For example, a physician reported that at the Urus- Martan hospital in October, federal troops occupied the hospital, checking all the wards and taking lists of medical staff and patients, especially those who were wounded. Troops have returned on other occasions looking for individuals and reviewing medical records.102
Soldiers have on occasion tried to arrest patients from the hospital, but in some cases the staff convinced them that the patients needed to remain hospitalized. Medical staff have been interrogated and soldiers have taken information from medical records, the physician told PHR. In one instance the check led to the detention of one person for two hours. As a result, the physician said, medical staff are careful of what they put in records.103
Two doctors at the Argun Hospital were arrested in November while working, according to another physician who has worked there. One night in November, federal soldiers came to the hospital, arrested and interrogated them before detaining them in a pit for 24 hours. 104
Delay and Obstruction at Checkpoints
Both patients and health professionals are held up and arbitrarily detained by Russia's forces at checkpoints. It is virtually impossible to cross a checkpoint at night, so people with life-threatening medical conditions die or suffer medical complications while having to wait until morning to reach a hospital. One physician reported that a man wounded at 10 p.m. could not get to a hospital in Grozny until the next morning because of the inability to cross a checkpoint. The result, according to the physician, was that the patient's leg had to be amputated, though it may well have been saved without the twelve -hour delay in obtaining medical care.105
The harassment by Russia's soldiers at checkpoints affects staffing of medical facilities. One physician explained that he has to cross several checkpoints to reach Hospital #9 in Grozny. His certificate as a doctor was useless to get through the checkpoints, he said. Moreover, at times, checkpoints closed, with no exceptions for health personnel. As a result, he reported, virtually every day the hospital was short of staff. 106 Further, deliveries of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals were delayed or prevented from reaching their intended destination by conduct of soldiers at checkpoints.
Occupation of Health Facility
Russia's federal forces occupy one partially destroyed hospital, in Shatoy, obstructing its use as a hospital. The result is that individuals who live in the area must travel a significant distance to get to a hospital and cannot reach one at all during the night.
Health Consequences of Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law
The violations of international humanitarian law - indiscriminate attacks on civilians, disproportionate use of force in civilian-populated areas, destruction of homes, hospitals and clinics - combined with the atmosphere of insecurity stemming from human rights violations - have created a humanitarian crisis affecting almost a million people and lasting more than a year. The bombing and shelling of Grozny and other areas by Russia's federal forces led to destruction of Chechnya's infrastructure, including buildings, clean water supply, and equipment for generating electricity. At the end of November 2000, the Danish Refugee Council, which registers displaced persons, estimated that 170,000 Chechen displaced people were living in Ingushetia and 764,000 people remaining in Chechnya.107 Of those remaining in Chechnya, an estimated 150,000 are without homes. At the time of its February-March 2000 study, PHR found that an estimated 99% of those displaced (to Ingushetia) blamed their flight on Russia's forces.
The insecurity and risk that is a product of the practices described in this report, as well as continued fighting, have prevented the reconstruction program Russia committed to earlier in the year and hamper the distribution of humanitarian aid. Although some aid groups are furnishing materials for roof and other repairs of homes, they can only reach a small number of people. Such insecurity has also prevented restoration of electricity and water supply. For most, plastic sheeting for windows is the only source of repair.
The result is that the hundreds of thousands of people who remain in Chechnya are spending their second winter in circumstances of severe deprivation. Within Chechnya, about 60,000 people remain in Grozny, in cellars, severely damaged houses, or half-destroyed apartment buildings. In the rural areas and villages, where 80% of the population now lives, residents still have to cope with a lack of gas, electricity and clean water.
Insecurity stemming from human rights and humanitarian law violations also place severe limits on the distribution of food and medical care. At the time of PHR's investigation, only a few international agencies, led by the Danish Refugee Council and Action Against Hunger, distributed food within Chechnya.108 Deliveries of food, however, were often halted or delayed by harassment at checkpoints or security restrictions on travel. Other groups helped rebuild parts of hospitals and supply pharmaceuticals to hospitals and clinics, but distribution was often hampered by harassment at checkpoints and the atmosphere of insecurity.
On January 9, 2001, an American aid worker employed by Médecins sans Frontières-Holland was abducted while engaged in distribution of humanitarian aid in Chechnya. As of this writing, the abductors have not been identified and he has not been released. As a result of this abduction, most international aid groups have suspended operations in Chechnya.
The inability to engage in reconstruction places the health of people living in Chechnya in serious jeopardy. The capacity of the health facilities is very limited. There is no functioning medical laboratory within Chechnya, an extraordinary deficit given the need for a laboratory for detection of Hepatitis A and tuberculosis. Treatment for tuberculosis and certain other diseases that pose significant risks to the population is virtually non-existent.
The more than 150,000 people displaced in Ingushetia live in comparative safety but are also enduring their second winter in difficult conditions solely because the insecurity in Chechnya prevents them from rebuilding homes. Families are often living in very overcrowded conditions. Within tent camps and what are called 'spontaneous settlements' such as railroad cars, warehouses, and stables, families of up to ten people live in small tents or in tiny rooms constructed within warehouses or stables. Gas lines running throughout the camps permit stoves for heat and primary health care is supplied by international aid agencies. Still, health risks remain serious, especially through exposure to infectious diseases like tuberculosis and Hepatitis A. 109 Residents of the camps told PHR how difficult it is to obtain treatment for chronic conditions.110
Life in the camps is very difficult. Even on dry days, mud is everywhere. When it rains or snows, the mud becomes a sea. Just keeping clean requires tremendous effort. Most displaced people have virtually no access to jobs. Because of the mud and cold, people are basically confined to their overcrowded tents.
In spontaneous settlements people live in the worst conditions of all. Lacovas, in the middle of Nazran, is an old warehouse or factory building. Inside, displaced persons have constructed walls from materials such as fiberboard to create little rooms for each family. One 'house' visited by the PHR team was so small that after the space taken for beds, there was only room for two or three people to squeeze into the room. Another settlement is in a huge, dark, former stable at MTF Karabulak; partitions erected inside create living spaces.
Although PHR did not perform a clinical survey, the damage to the mental health of the survivors of these multiple traumas appears very serious. At one level, the most commonly expressed sentiment was hopelessness and despair. People in the camp have not only lost homes, possessions and loved ones, but any sense that there is an end to their ordeal. They have also suffered overwhelming trauma - in witnessing violent deaths of family and friends, in suffering through shelling, in losing their belongings and the lives they led, and in the experience of abuse and displacement.
One woman111 recounted what she had been through to the PHR team. During the 1994-96 war, an 11-year old nephew was injured by a landmine and died in her arms. In the same war, a 15-year cousin died while taking out rubbish and two other relatives were killed when an armored personnel vehicle ran over their car. Then, in November 1999, a large group of people was attacked by helicopters while trying to go through a checkpoint, including her brother-in-law and three members of his family, all of whom were killed. In January 2000, she said, Russian soldiers shelled the village where other relatives lived, killing three of them.
She told PHR that her house, in the center of Grozny, was destroyed in the first war. When the war ended, with help from relatives, she and her husband built a new one. That house was destroyed about a year ago. Since then she has lived in a camp in Ingushetia with her four children. 'I never thought I could live through so much. I am surprised I am still alive,' she said. But for her, the worst aspect of her current situation is her inability to respond to her 10-year-old daughter's asking to go home.
There are few psychosocial programs to help people cope with all that has happened with the exception of a psychosocial rehabilitation program for children and adolescents provided by Médecins du Monde in two of the largest tented camps in Ingushetia.
IV. Conclusion: A Policy to Protect Human Rights in Chechnya
The human rights violations described in this report are more characteristic of an anarchic society than of a modern state that aspires to be a full participant in the economic, political and financial institutions of Europe. It is not only the brutal behavior of the individual perpetrators that must be condemned and punished. Accountability must extend to the military and civilian leadership that condones a military that arrests and detains people without the slightest evidence, that routinely beats and tortures detainees - sometime to seek to extract confessions and sometimes for no reason at all, that allows its military to extort vast sums of money from civilians; that allows commanders to launch vicious attacks on civilians shopping in a market and to shell areas containing schools, and that has created an atmosphere of terrifying insecurity for all who live in Chechnya. When the displaced people in Ingushetia, suffering dislocation, poor conditions and ill-health and are included as victims of this brutality, the number of people suffering grievous harm from Russia's conduct is close to one million.
Russia has ratified and is bound by the Geneva Conventions and several major human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel and Inhuman Treatment. It is also bound by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two Protocols, including the one applying to internal conflicts. Some of the conduct described here amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity, when committed through widespread or systematic attacks directed against civilian populations.
That such conduct is tolerated by Russia's political leadership, especially by President Vladimir Putin, shows utter disregard for the instruments and commitments Russia has made. The practices described here violate virtually every human rights instrument that Russia has signed, as well as commitments it has made to the European institutions it has joined.
There is no doubt that the conduct of fighters on the Chechen side also violates international humanitarian law. Their leadership, too, should be held accountable. But overwhelmingly it is the Russian military, with its tens of thousands of troops in Chechnya, that is responsible for the grave human rights violations that occur day in and day out.
That the United States and European countries stand by while Russian inflicts such carnage on innocent people is inexcusable. The moral outrage these governments expressed after Serbian attacks on civilians in Kosovo just two years ago has been altogether missing. The Clinton Administration's failure to mount a strong human rights campaign aimed at persuading President Putin to end atrocities in Chechnya was the most serious abdication of its human rights responsibilities since the Rwanda genocide.
In April 2000, after widespread atrocities had been amply documented, Under Secretary of State Strobe Talbot declined to call Russia's murder, torture, and bombing of civilians in Chechnya by their rightful name - war crimes. This was an important signal that the United States would not take a strong stand against Russia's conduct. Moreover, the Clinton Administration squandered an important opportunity to seek international accountability by declining to support a formal commission of inquiry at the United Nations. Instead, Washington endorsed Russia's plans to investigate itself, a strategy that yielded no end to impunity for human rights violations. Finally, in November 2000 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright publicly and forcefully called for the presence of OSCE monitors in Chechnya.
Only the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has taken a strong stand, suspending Russia's voting rights and, in early January 2001, sending a delegation to investigate human rights abuses on the ground. But it has not implemented the request of thirty human rights organizations to initiate a lawsuit against the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights.
This abdication of responsibility must be stopped. As a new American President, George W. Bush, takes office, he inherits a human rights crisis, recently exacerbated further by the abduction of an American aid worker in Chechnya in early January 2001; that in turn has led humanitarian aid organizations to suspend operations needed to feed and support medical care for hundreds of thousands of people in Chechnya. But Mr. Bush also has an opportunity to address the crisis forcefully. The 2000 Republican Platform speaks out plainly about human rights in Chechnya: 'The rule of law is not consistent with state-sponsored brutality.' There are ample opportunities for action.
Physicians for Human Rights urges President Bush to make human rights in Chechnya a priority in his presidency, and in his dealings with Russian President Putin.
Moreover, the new chairman-in-office of the OSCE, Mircea Dan Geoana, from Romania, early in January announced that Chechnya would be one of his key priorities
So it is time for unequivocal demands by the United States and Europe for the abuses and impunity to end. The next section of the report contains detailed recommendations. Below is a broad outline for action:
First, the military and civilian leadership in the Russian Federation, led by President Putin, must take control of their military forces, as any country that claims to have a modern army should. They should make it absolutely clear to all of Russia's forces operating in Chechnya that the military command does not tolerate bribery, extortion, arbitrary arrests, torture, beatings, attacks on civilians and any conduct of Russia's troops in Chechnya that violates international humanitarian law and human rights norms.
Second, the military and civilian leadership in the Russian Federation, again led by President Putin, must end the impunity of Russia's soldiers. The abuses have been abundantly documented, but military prosecutors have begun only a handful of cases. Prosecution for the serious crimes that Russia's soldiers are committing must go forward.
Third, international human rights monitors must be on the ground. The United States and European nations have urged Russia to accept independent human rights monitors in Chechnya under the auspices of the OSCE and the United Nations, but to date President Putin has refused to permit their deployment. The presence of independent monitors in Chechnya could save many lives and could provide Russia with inestimable aid in helping to bring its undisciplined, corrupt, and brutal troops under stricter control. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) general secretary Jan Kubis said, in January 2001, that he hoped the security body's mission to Chechnya could soon return to the field. President Bush and European leaders must ratchet up the pressure on President Putin to prevent any further obstacles to this deployment of human rights monitors.
It is the responsibility of the Russian Federation to assure that these three steps take place; and it is the responsibility of the international community to use significant political, diplomatic, financial, and other levers at its disposal to assure that Russia takes these essential steps. Once again, the Platform that President Bush embraced provides a guide for action: 'When the Russian government attacks civilians in Chechnya - killing innocents without discrimination or accountability, neglecting orphans and refugees -it can no longer expect aid from international lending institutions-'
Physicians for Human Rights supports extensive Western assistance to Russia, both bilateral and multilateral, for purposes of addressing its vast humanitarian needs, particularly in the health sector. PHR does not believe, however, that structural adjustment or general budgetary support should be provided unconditionally to Russia so long as the government continues its atrocities in Chechnya and thwarts international efforts to place monitors there which could help address the problem and aid the victims. The United States and European countries should use their considerable influence at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to press for a delay in consideration of new financing for the Russian Federation. They should also hold the release of previously approved, unrestricted funds until such time as OSCE monitors are in place in Chechnya and operating with the full cooperation of Russian civilian and military authorities.
Physicians for Human Rights also believes that the breadth, duration, and character of Russian abuses in Chechnya are such that the U.S. and European nations should pursue the establishment of international accountability. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights will meet again in March 2001. The Bush Administration should begin immediately to lay the diplomatic groundwork for consideration of a resolution establishing a formal commission of inquiry to gather comprehensive information about Russian atrocities in Chechnya. Russia should be condemned for committing war crimes, and the Commission should demand immediate access for OSCE and UN-authorized human rights monitors.
Physicians for Human Rights recommends:
To the Russian Federation:
The President of the Russian Federation and senior military commanders direct that all of Russia's federal forces and units of the Interior Ministry comply with obligations under treaties and conventions on international human rights and humanitarian law to which Russia is a signatory. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Geneva Conventions. The directive must make clear that local commanders are responsible for assuring such compliance and will be held accountable if they do not. An effective command structure must assure that such directives are carried out.
Russia's federal forces and units of the Interior Ministry must stop engaging in arbitrary and illegal arrest and detention in Chechnya and extortion and demands for bribes to release those detained. All arrests and detentions must follow procedures under law, and must include notice of charges, the right to speak to counsel, detention in an authorized facility, notification of families of the fact of arrest and detention, and allowance of visits by families. Identification and other official papers must be returned to individuals arrested upon their release. Allegations of mistreatment, illegal arrest, and extortion or bribery in connection with arrests and detentions should be thoroughly investigated and violators prosecuted. Lists or registers of numbers of individuals arrested or detained should be made available publicly.
Russia must completely halt the indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing and shelling of civilian areas as well as shooting into houses, mining of apartment buildings and murders. Commanders of military units should be instructed on the limitations international humanitarian law places on military activities and held accountable for violations.
Russia's forces and units of Interior Ministry must stop the use of torture, including beatings, physical abuse, mutilation and use of psychological terror that accompanies arrests and detention. Allegations of violations must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.
Russia's forces must cease destroying homes and personal property, looting and other theft and destruction of civilian property in connection with sweeps. Allegations of violations must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.
Russia's forces must adhere to the principles of medical neutrality. Commanders of military units should be instructed on the limitations of international humanitarian law as it pertains to medical neutrality and be held accountable for violations.
Russia's forces and units of Interior Ministry must stop practices that deny freedom of movement and other fundamental human rights as people travel in Chechnya. This includes ending beatings, extortion and harassment at checkpoints and on roads. Commanders of local units should be instructed in the limitations that human rights and humanitarian law place on their conduct at checkpoints and on roads. Allegations of violations must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.
Russia must follow through on its pledges to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and other human rights abuses documented here and by other organizations. This includes establishing an independent commission of inquiry, in accordance with the April 2000 United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution, with adequate powers including the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. Although there have been at least three Russian agencies working on human rights issues in Chechnya, none of these bodies has come close to achieving the standards outlined in the UN resolution of establishing accountability and preventing impunity. In addition, Russia should prosecute crimes committed by its forces in Chechnya thoroughly and transparently.
Russia must permit unconditional access by agencies of the United Nations with jurisdiction to examine and investigate human rights violations in Chechnya, including special rapporteurs and representatives with jurisdiction over arbitrary detention, torture, violence against women, extrajudicial- summary- or arbitrary executions, internally displaced persons, and children in armed conflict. It must also allow complete access to human rights monitors from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Europe's Assistance Group and other governmental and non-governmental human rights agencies. Russia should also permit access to detainees and detention facilities by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Special Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya must continue to collect information on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Chechnya and initiate investigations of arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture, summary executions, destruction and taking of property (including identification) of non-combatants, and restrictions on freedom of movement, and recommend prosecution of perpetrators. This should include regular visits to places of detention, checkpoints, and other locations where violations take place.
Russia must end the humanitarian emergency by assuring the provisions of food, shelter, health care, and other basic needs for the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in both Ingushetia and Chechnya or persons with their homes and livelihoods destroyed by the war. Humanitarian assistance should include psychological services both to assist and rehabilitate victims of torture and to meet the needs of individuals who have suffered psychological trauma. Further, Russia must allow unfettered access to Chechnya for humanitarian organizations for the provision of desperately needed aid in an environment where their security is protected.
To the Fighters on the Chechen Side:
Chechen forces, like Russia's federal forces, must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and human rights law, and refrain from extrajudicial killings, threats of killing, property destruction of non-combatants, hostage-taking and other violations. Commanders should be instructed in the requirements of international human rights and humanitarian law. Perpetrators should be held accountable.
Chechen forces must take measures to ensure that armed actions, such as mines and booby traps, do not endanger the lives of other civilians. Chechen forces must stop the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in civilian areas.
Chechen forces should state and make public that they abide by international humanitarian law and steps taken to respect it.
To the International Community, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe:
Governments and relevant international organizations must:
Publicly identify and condemn Russian violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Chechnya. Where the violations are war crimes, publicly state so.
Demand unconditional access for international investigators and monitors, including the OSCE Assistance Group and relevant agencies of the United Nations, to investigate and monitor violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Chechnya itself and in the detention facilities in the surrounding region. The demand should include an ongoing presence by the OSCE Assistance Group to monitor human rights in Chechnya
3. At the next UN Commission on Human Rights Meeting in March 2001, call for and establish an international commission of inquiry to conduct a sustained, independent and international investigation of human rights violations in Chechnya since the commencement of hostilities in September 1999. The commission should have the authority to assist Russian investigators and also to recommend prosecutions.
Advocate intensively and at the highest levels for the release of illegally imprisoned and tortured civilians from Chechnya now detained in detention centers, so-called 'filtration' camps, and other ad hoc places of detention.
Demand unimpeded access to detention sites by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Demand that President Putin address the humanitarian emergency, reminding Russia of its obligation to provide food, shelter, and medical care to people in Chechnya and to displaced people. Assistance should include rehabilitation of victims of torture and psychological services for trauma. Additionally, donor nations, the United States and European nations must immediately address the very grave humanitarian situation in Chechnya and Ingushetia and increase humanitarian aid to the displaced population. Further, the international community should demand unfettered and secure access for humanitarian organizations seeking to provide aid inside Chechnya.
The international community should support intergovernmental initiatives to monitor and investigate human rights violations in Chechnya including: the rapporteurs and working groups of the United Nations, the OSCE Assistance Group, and the Council of Europe's human rights staff.
All international agencies should make humanitarian demining, landmine awareness campaigns, and a coordinated survey of landmine incidents an immediate priority to minimize the loss of life and limbs threatening civilians inside Chechnya.
At the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, governments should oppose new general budgetary financing or the release of previously approved unrestricted funds until OSCE monitors are in place in Chechnya and operating with full cooperation of Russian civilian and military authorities. They should also await Russia steps to end human rights violations in Chechnya, including the undertaking of appropriate investigations and the assignment of accountability to the perpetrators. PHR supports extensive Western assistance to Russia, both bilateral and multilateral, for purposes of addressing Russia's vast humanitarian needs, particularly in the health sector. PHR does not believe, however, that structural adjustment or general budgetary support should be provided unconditionally to Russia so long as the government continues its atrocities in Chechnya and thwarts international efforts to place monitors there which could help end the violations and aid the victims.
To the United Nations:
The UN should press Russia to adhere to the April 2000 UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia's actions in Chechnya and calling for Russia to conduct an independent commission of inquiry.
The UN should carry out the missions and investigations called for in that resolution - and which have not taken place because of obstruction by the Russian Federation - by the various special human rights mechanisms including: U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Special Representative of the Secretary General for internally displaced persons, and Special Representative of the Secretary General for children and armed conflict.
The UN should demand that Russia stop impeding the investigations of the two Rapporteurs for Torture and Violence against Women who were not granted the access to Chechnya even though Russia had said they could visit the region.
To the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE):
1. The OSCE should deploy the Assistance Group from Moscow back to Chechnya. Russian authorities permitted the OSCE independently to monitor human rights violations in Chechnya and, at the Istanbul OSCE Summit in November 1999, pledged to continue to seek to deploy monitors. The monitoring should be ongoing and should include evidence gathering, reporting, and recommendations for prosecution.
To the Council of Europe:
The Council should ensure the independence of its human rights staff now working with Russia's Presidential Representative on Human Rights in Chechnya, and publicly critique or report on the investigations carried out by Russia's authorities where warranted.
Given the Parliamentary Assembly's continued calls to keep under review Russia's compliance with its Council obligations, and following the monitoring visit of a COE delegation in January, the Council should carry out its own independent investigation of abuses in Chechnya, as part of a special investigation of Russia's compliance with Council obligations.
Given that the Parliamentary Assembly has stated that the Russian Federation's response to their call for Russia to internally investigate their own abuses has yet to produce substantial results, the Council should support an independent international Commission of Inquiry.
Until Russia investigates and prosecutes those responsible for the numerous credibly documented abuses, the Parliamentary Assembly should continue the suspension of Russia's participation in the Assembly in the January 2001 winter session.
Member states should file interstate complaints against the Russian Federation with the European Court of Human Rights for massacres, torture and other violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights and humanitarian law as recommended by the Parliamentary Assembly.
To the United States Government:
In addition to participating in and supporting the actions sought of the entire international community,
President George W. Bush should make the protection of human rights in Chechnya a high priority in his bilateral relations with Russian President Putin.
The United States should publicly and privately identify and condemn Russian violations in Chechnya and in circumstances where the violations are war crimes, publicly so state. President Bush should demand that President Putin establish accountability for human rights violations committed by Russian forces in Chechnya. President Bush should also demand that President Putin instruct Russian forces in Chechnya to comply with international human rights and international humanitarian law.
President Bush should demand that President Putin permit access to human rights monitoring as specified above. President Bush should reiterate United States support for the presence of independent monitors in Chechnya under the auspices of the OSCE.
The United States should immediately deploy staff from the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation to Ingushetia to collect testimonies from the displaced Chechen population to document war crimes. The State Department should reevaluate its prohibition preventing officers from collecting human rights data.
The United States should support an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on violations of human rights in Chechnya at the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2001. The Bush Administration should begin immediately to lay the groundwork for consideration of a resolution establishing a formal Commission of Inquiry to gather comprehensive information about violations of human rights in Chechnya.
President Bush should enlist the U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community, to begin a vigorous data collection effort to document war crimes in Chechnya. All available intelligence information sources should be collected and evaluated, including relevant U.S. knowledge of military and security command control, satellite photographs, and radio and telephone intercepts to identify the perpetrators of war crimes and their commanders.
At the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the United States should oppose new general budgetary financing or the release of previously approved unrestricted funds until OSCE monitors are in place in Chechnya and operating with full cooperation of Russian civilian and military authorities and Russia takes other necessary steps to end human rights violations in Chechnya, undertakes appropriate investigations and holds perpetrators accountable. PHR supports extensive Western assistance to Russia, both bilateral and multilateral, for purposes of addressing Russia's vast humanitarian needs, particularly in the health sector. PHR does not believe, however, that structural adjustment or general budgetary support should be provided unconditionally to Russia so long as the government continues its atrocities in Chechnya and thwarts international efforts to place monitors there which could help end the violations and aid the victims.
1 Extrapolations from survey results led Physicians for Human Rights to estimate that Russia's federal forces had killed more than 4,600 civilians and tortured more than 1,800. Physicians for Human Rights, 'Random Survey Conducted by U.S. Medical Group of Displaced Chechens Finds Widespread Killings and Abuses by Russia's Forces', February 26, 2000. Visit www.phrusa.org/research/chechnya/chechen_displaced.html
2 Human Rights Watch has released a number of reports on violations in Chechnya, including,'Civilian Killings in Stavopromyslovski,' 'No Happiness Remains: Alkhan-Yurt,' 'A Day of Slaughter in Novye Aldi,' and 'Welcome to Hell: Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Extortion in Chechnya,' www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/
3 PHR was unable to collect information about official detention facilities such as the Chernokozovo facility and did not collect first hand accounts of abuses by Chechen fighters.
4 Daniel Williams, 'For Russians, Chechnya is out of Control,' Washington Post, September 21, 2000.
5 Maura Reynolds, 'Russia Repeating Old Mistakes with Chechen Separatists, Experts Predict Continued Insurgency,' Los Angeles Times, January 1, 2001.
6 On December 16, Associated Press reported that in a 24- hour period, fighters on the Chechen side attacked 27 locations of Russian troops, including twelve military checkpoints and offices in Grozny, killing six Russian soldiers and wounding many more. Ruslan Muchayev, ' Russian Soldiers Killed in Chechnya', Associated Press, http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001216/wl/russia_chechnya_1.html
On December 18, pro-Russian Chechen officials reported that nineteen soldiers had died in the preceding 24 hours - sixteen in attacks on checkpoints and installations and three when fighters on the Chechen side blew up an armored personnel carrier in the mountainous Vedeno region in the south. Yuri Bagrov, 'Chechen Rebels Step up Attacks', Associated Press http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001219/wl/russia_chechnya_5.html
On December 23, AP reported that 25 attacks by fighters on the Chechen side in a 24-hour period killed eleven Russian soldiers.
Yuri Bagrov, 'Eleven Russian Soldiers Die in Attacks,' Associated Press http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001223/wl/russia_chechnya_2.html
7 See especially, Human Rights Watch, 'Welcome to Hell: Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Extortion in Chechnya' (October 2000), www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/. This report documents arbitrary arrests and torture in detention, including practices at the filtration camp Chernokozovo. Human Rights Watch has also documented massacres at Katyr Yurt and Aldi.
8 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Economic and Social Council, Fifth Session, Agenda item 9, 'Situation in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation,' Doc #E/CN.4/2000/L.32, April 12, 2000.
9 Report on the Work of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Observance of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic During the First Half of 2000, July 2000.
10 Agence France Presse, 'More than 12,000 Human Rights Complaints in Chechnya in 2000, January 4
11 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly - http://www.osce.org/pa/docs/bucharestfinaldeclarationenglish.htm
12 During the second half of 2000, the Russian human rights group, Human Rights Centre Memorial, issued numerous reports of arbitrary detentions and disappearances. In July, it reported that Russia's federal forces arbitrarily arrest individuals at checkpoints and place them in unofficial detention cells at checkpoints and detention facilities; that relatives are denied any information about the whereabouts of their detained loved ones; and that in many cases families are forced to pay considerable amounts of money in order to secure their loved one's release. Human Rights Centre Memorial, 'Situation with Violations of Human Rights in Chechnya June-July 2000,' August 6, 2000. http://www.memo.ru/eng/hr/ch000607.htm
In November, Memorial received reports of abuses on 23 different days that included: seven killings allegedly by Russia's federal forces, in six incidents in six different places; four people disappeared allegedly at the hands of Russia's federal forces, in three incidents in three different places; two mass detentions of about twenty people in two different places, allegedly by federal forces; four sweep operations in different communities resulting in dozens of people allegedly detained by federal forces; three shellings of three populated communities allegedly by federal forces; and five landmine explosions that killed seven people.
In December 2000, Memorial reported additional arrests, disappearances, shelling, killings, and detention. Statement of Oleg Orlov, Representative of the HRC ‘Memorial' at the Meeting of the Committee for Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe in Paris, December 2000.
PHR's findings are consistent with those of these and other human rights and humanitarian groups operating in the region.
13 In addition to the witness accounts, PHR consulted publicly available documents from the Russian human rights group Human Rights Centre Memorial (hereafter 'Memorial').
14 Human rights investigators at Memorial told PHR that there were approximately 100 arrests per month.
15 This event was confirmed by two witnesses. PHR interviews with Abdul and Zaindi, December 21, 2000. The names of the boys were supplied to PHR but it was not able to interview them or their families.
16 PHR interviews with Adem, Yakub, and Adlan, December 12, 2000.
17 PHR interview with Asja, December 19, 2000.
18 PHR received reports that contract soldiers were more likely to arrest civilians than conscripts, but the interviews did not allow us to draw any conclusions on this point.
19 Report on the Work of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Observance of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic During the First Half of 2000, July 2000. Memorial reports, however, that this ruling is often ignored by federal troops, and the rule did not appear to be followed in the cases of individuals arrested during sweeps according to the men interviewed by the PHR team.
20 PHR interview with Rashid, December 22, 2000.
21 PHR interview with Movsar, December 16, 2000.
22 PHR interview with Adik, December 17, 2000.
23 PHR interview with Alisa, December 18, 2000.
24 PHR interview with Zaindi, December 21, 2000.
25 Representatives of the Memorial witnessed the entire scene. Memorial reports that 'tanks and bulldozers swept up kiosks and rows of market stalls. Soldiers opened machine-gun fire on anyone who tried to stop the massacre and some were killed. A minimum of twenty men were arrested. Some of the men have been not yet been released. Statement of Oleg Orlov, Representative of Memorial at the Meeting of the Committee for Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe in Paris, December 2000. Memorial also reports that a colleague of the Russian Federation Special Representative for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in Chechnya tried to put a stop to the assaults was sent away by the federal troops. When women who were trading on the market appealed to the municipal military commander's office, it refused to intervene in the incident.
26 PHR interview with Fatima, December 12, 2000.
27 PHR interview with Zita, age, 48, December 14, 2000.
28 PHR interview with Adlan, December 12, 2000, and Ilyas, December 13, 2000.
29 PHR interview with Issa and Khamid, December 20, 2000.
30 PHR interview with Akhmed, December 12, 2000. 'Bojeviks' is a word used to describe Chechen fighters.
31 PHR interview with Memorial
32 PHR interview with Munira , December 14, 2000.
33 PHR Interview with Said Ali, December 13, 2000. Another witness told PHR that her sister, then a waitress, was arrested in February after the soldiers were kidnapped from the café where she worked and has been incarcerated in Russia ever since. PHR interview with Miriam, December 18, 2000
34 PHR interview with Zita, December 14, 2000.
35 During the early part of 2000, many detention facilities were used. See Human Rights Watch, 'Welcome to Hell.'
36 PHR interview with Akhmed, December 12, 2000.
37 PHR interview with Adlan, December 12, 2000.
38 One man told PHR he was taken to a police station in Achkhoy Martan and one, who had been imprisoned for ten months, spent the last few months in a prison in Stavropol. One man speculated that he was taken to a military base at Alkan Khala. Other witnesses identified victims being taken to police stations in Zavadskoj and Shali First and a prison in Gudermes as well as pits. PHR received reports that the internat at Urus-Martan may no longer be used for detention.
39 PHR interviews with Abdul and Zaindi, December 21 and 22, 2000.
40 PHR interview with Adlan, December 12, 2000. He was blindfolded while shot, so could not determine how it happened. A soldier on the truck asked him later how he was doing.
41 Zemphira, December 19, 2000. Zemphira is Alimkhan's husband; he was not interviewed.
42 PHR interview with Adlan, December 12, 2000.
43 PHR interview with Rashid, December 22, 2000.
44 PHR interview with Yakub, December 12, 2000.
45 Yakub reports that the younger men were beaten worse than the older ones, and that some of them died. PHR was not able to verify this allegation.
46 PHR interview with Adem, December 21, 2000.
47 PHR interview with Movsar, December 16, 2000
48 PHR interview with Khamzat, December 14, 2000.
49 One took place in the internat in Urus-Martan, one in the Alkan Khala military base, one in the basement of a fuel storage station, and one in a place that the victim could not identify.
50 PHR interview with Akhmed, Khamid, and Rashid, December 22, 2000.
51 PHR interview with Aslanbeg, December 20, 2000.
52 PHR interview with Rashid , December 22, 2000.
53 A scar consistent with this description appears on Khamid's wrist.
54 PHR interview with Bislan, December 20, 2000.
55 PHR Interview with Aslanbeg, December 20, 2000.
56 PHR interview with Salim, December 22, 2000.
57 PHR interview with Akhmed, December 12, 2000.
58 PHR interview with Abdul, December 21, 2000.
59 PHR interview with Adlan, December 12, 2000. As this incident happened only a few days before, Adlan was interviewed in the hospital.
60 PHR interview with Issa, December 20, 2000.
61 PHR interview with Salim, December 23, 2000.
62 PHR interview with Adem, December 16, 2000.
63 PHR interview with Issa, December 20, 2000.
64 PHR interview with Adlan, December 20, 2000.
65 PHR has a copy of this map on file.
66 PHR interview with Bashir, December 17, 2000.
67 Memorial regularly receives reports of killings.
68 PHR interview with Kameta, December 20, 2000.
69 PHR interview with Leyla, December 20, 2000. The names of the men who were killed are Chamsat Isayev and Said Isayev.
70 PHR interview with Salim, December 23, 2000. The witness attended the funeral of the deceased.
71 PHR interview with Marina, December 19, 2000
72 Memorial reports that, in November, a letter was sent under the stamp of the Chief Headquarters of the Federal troops of the Republic of Ichkeriya demanding that village officials resign by 15 November. The consequences for refusal would be punishment by the Shari'a Supreme Field Court. Statement of Oleg Orlov, Representative of Memorial at the Meeting of the Committee for Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe in Paris, December 2000.
A physician interviewed by PHR reported that the head of local administration and his deputy were killed in their homes in Mesker-Yurt in November. Also, the Danish Refugee Council reported that on November 9, in Alkan Khala, an unidentified criminal murdered the Head of Administration of the village along with two secretaries. It also reported that, on November 9, a car bomb exploded in Gudermes and narrowly missed the Head of City Administration, who has been known for a strong anti-rebel position. Danish Refugee Council, North Caucasus Situation Report 30, November 10, 2000.
73 PHR interview with Yakub, December 12, 2000; PHR interview with Khamzat, December 14, 2000.
74 PHR interview with Chervaniy, December 22, 2000.
75 PHR interview with Rosa, December 19, 2000. Witness reported that perpetrator was Chechen and was arrested.
76 PHR interview with Salim. According to Memorial, during the autumn of 2000, rocket and artillery attacks were launched in civilian areas of Grozny, Argun and Urus-Martan, and against the villages of Valerik, Tangi-Chu, Mesker-Yurt and Tsa-Vedeno. Address given by Oleg Orlov, Representative of Memorial at the Meeting of the Committee for Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Council of Europe in Paris' December 2000.
77 Memorial reports that on October 6, federal troops surrounded a number of residential blocks around B Khmel'nitskiy Street in Grozny. They opened fire at the windows of residential buildings. They planted explosives and detonated three residential buildings on this street. After three hours, the military commander arrived and ordered it to stop. (The residents were told that on the evening before, a military truck had triggered a landmine and the soldiers decided to respond with this act of violence). Similar events occurred on this same street on October 12.
78 Agence France Press, 'At least six university students killed in Chechen attack.' December 20, 2000.
79 PHR interviews with Makka, Liza, and Emir, December 22, 2000 and Idris and Ibragim on December 23, 2000.
80 The two witnesses who said they saw shelling were Emir and Idris
81 PHR interview with Ibragim.
82 Yuri Bagrov, Russian Troops Blamed in Chechnya, Associated Press, December 25, 2000, http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001225/wl/russia_chechnya_9.html
83 PHR interview with Alla, December 18, 2000.
84 PHR interview with Dr. Adik, December 15, 2000. PHR was not able to interview the victim, who remains in Chechnya.
85 PHR interviews with Abdul and Zaindi, December 21, 2000.
86 Memorial also reports instances in which soldiers plant explosives in residential buildings. See statement of December 18, 2000.
87 PHR interview with Chervaniy, December 22, 2000.
88 PHR interview with Salim, December 23, 2000.
89 PHR interview with Zina, December 22, 2000.
90 PHR interview with Miriam, December 19, 2000.
91 'Chechens Say Russians Laid 300,000 Mines,' Kavkaz-Tsentr News Agency, June 5, 2000.
92 International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 2000, August 2000, pp.864-874.
93 PHR interviews with Askerkhan, December 12, 2000; Zhebir, December 12, 2000; Abu, December 12, 2000; Adem, December 12, 2000; and Adlan, December 12, 2000.
94 PHR also learned of a car bomb explosion in Grozny, near a local police station, that killed 31 people on October 12.
95 PHR Interview with Dr. Adik, December 17. 2000.
96 Landmine Monitor, pp. 841, 843.
98 PHR interview with Zaindi, December 21, 2000.
99 PHR interview with Marina, December 19, 2000. PHR Interview with Auza, December 19, 2000.
100 PHR interview with Ilyas, December 13, 2000.
101 Physicians for Human Rights, 'Random Survey Conducted by U.S. Medical Group of Displaced Chechens Finds Widespread Killings and Abuses by Russian Forces.' February 26, 2000. www.phrusa.org/research/chechnya/chechen_displaced.html.
102 PHR interview with Dr. Zurab, December 15, 2000.
104 PHR Interview with Rizvan, December 12, 2000.
105 PHR interview with Dr. Adik, December 17, 2000.
106 PHR interivew with Dr. Adik, December 17, 2000.
107 Danish Refugee Council, North Caucasus Situation Report, 30 November 2000. The DRC cites figures from the Ingush Territorial Representative of the Russian Federation Ministry of Federal Affairs, Migration and National Policy, that since the military conflict began in September 1999, more than 300,000 people have left Chechnya. Of these, 69,000 have left for other parts of Russia and 91,000 have returned to Chechnya. Based on PHR's interviews, many individuals travel back and forth between Chechnya and Ingushetia.
108 Because of donor requirements only about a third of people living in Chechnya meet the eligibility criteria for the distributions.
109 Danish Refugee Council, North Caucasus Situation Report No. 30, November 10, 2000. The head of the Ingush Parliament said that about 500 cases of tuberculosis had been reported. Local hospitals were full of refugees suffering from hepatitis and respiratory illnesses.
110 This report is not designed to assess the performance of agencies responsible for humanitarian aid. PHR learned that the problems are serious, particularly the administration of programs by the Russian coordinating agency, EMERCOM. For example, food deliveries to displaced persons are sometimes delayed or suspended by disputes between the national and Ingush governments over payment.
111 PHR interview with Tanzila.