Russia

Memorial: Information of the supervisory mission in the zone of the armed conflict in Chechenia

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From February 6 till February 10, 2000, the joint mission, composed of three representatives of the International Federation of the Human Rights League (FIDH) and two observers from the "Memorial" Human Rights Centre worked in the Republic of Ingushetia. About fifty testimonies of forced migrants from Chechenia were collected.
1. MILITARY ACTIVITIES IN THE "SAFETY ZONE"

ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL DATA, at the beginning of February, 2000, the Federal Forces liquidated a military resistance in the surrounded Grozny and completely took under its control the flat land Chechenia. The commanders of the federal forces stated that the guerrillas were intentionally opened a corridor from Grozny that lead to mine fields and ambush, the remainders of Chechenian detachments were blocked in the mountains.

However these sources informed practically nothing about what happened in those villages to which a corridor was opened for guerrillas.

Here is the testimony of people (two of many), who went to the village of Katyr - Yurt, which was included into the "safety zone" by the federal command.

Here is an abstract the story of Ruslan Bochaev, 1966, the inhabitant of the village of Katyr - Yurt, who went out of it on February, 5.

Previously - both in the past war, and in this - there were practically no destructions in Katyr Yurt. Guerrillas that left Grozny entered the village; early in the morning, about 4 o'clock a.m. they left the village.

Approximately in half an hour a massive shooting started, houses were destroyed and burning, there are a lot of people that died. The family of Guikaevs (about 8 persons) died, Khasiev's house was bombed ...

I found out about the existence of the "corridor" by chance, from neighbours. I myself did not use the "corridor" as I did not trust to the military. Together with two more inhabitants of the village I was crawling in the direction of Achkhoy-Martan. I saw how the column of refugees, moving along the "corridor" was shot.

Abstract from the story of Yunusov Abukhar, resident of the village of Katyr - Yurt, the brother of the father of wounded Yunusov Kemran, 10 years, of whom he takes care of at the traumotological department of Nazran hospital; parents, brothers and sisters of Kemran are also wounded, are placed into Achkhoy - Martan hospital.

The families of two Ynisovs' brothers live in the outskirts of Katyr - Yurt. On February 4, 2000, the centre of the village started to be bombed. The village itself was blocked, the federals that entered the outskirts of the village made both families go into the basement and opened the fire at them from grenade throwers. In the basement there were one brother, wives of both brothers and children: 3 girls and 4 boys, the eldest of whom was 12 years old; everybody was wounded. Relatives could take wounded Yunusovs only in a day - sniper was shooting an there was bombing all day and all night.

On February 5, about 7 o'clock in the morning the residents went out to the road, leading to Achkhoy - Martan. The military that met them commanded : "everybody should be back to the village in 4 minutes, otherwise you will be shot." Cars turned back but did not go. Transport and refugees on foot were made to go away from the road and kept about an hour in the field. There came bases from Achkhoy-Martan for wounded women and children, but they were not allowed to sit into them About 10 o'clock in the morning everybody went on feet.

Documents were checked at the post, grown up wounded men were not allowed, turned back to the village.

Altogether during bombardment, shooting and subsequent "purging" in the village of Katyr-Yurt perished about two hundred peaceful residents, who were buried in the brotherly grave, dug by an excavator. Together with guerrillas up to four hundred men, local inhabitants, left - they knew the price of both the "corridor" and what happened in the village of Shaami - Yurt, from were guerrillas came to Katyr Yurt.

From the story of the resident of the village of Shaami-Yurt:

The village was subjected to intensive shooting, for more than 20 hours the inhabitants could not leave the basements. We found out by chance about the possibility to go during two hours to the West along the road Rostov - Baku. During the exit all men at the age from 17 to 50 were taken and left in the unknown direction; until now nothing is known about them.

Similar picture is formed from the stories of two refugees from the villages of Zakan - Yurt, Shaami-Yurt, Katyr - Yurt, through which guerrillas that were leaving Grozny passed.

Federal troops turned out to be unable to block their departure from there - as previously though the "continuous surrounding ring" from Grozny to Alkhan - Khala. At close consideration the purposes of the federal troops at the plane are not reached, it is early to speak about victory.

Guerrillas were able to go away from "point shots", missile, rocket, bomb and artillery, which caused destruction and numerous victims among peaceful inhabitants. Detainment with the aim of "Filtration" was also conducted on a non - selective basis: guerrillas' detachments were going without roads and using folds of terrain from village to village to the South, to the mountains, but detained were peaceful residents, going to the West along roads. Guerrillas left to the mountains. Their losses, obviously, shall be successfully replenished at the expense of relatives of killed peaceful inhabitants and men, trying to save themselves from "filtration". They preserved forces for a long-tern guerrilla war - and that means that they will again enter residential areas and go away from there, and federal troops will be surrounding, bombing, "filtering".

Victory and close peace are still present only in a "virtual reality" of official publications - similarly to other phantoms: "humanitarian corridors", "pointed blows", "continuous ring" and a "safety zone".

"Humanitarian corridors" for the escape of peaceful inhabitants were opened only for a short period of time and were far from being safe, people were not informed about them.

The most horrible is that it takes place in the so-called "safe zone", proclaimed by the Federal command.

2. "PURGES IN GROZNY" : ROBBERIES AND MURDERS

In the end of January 2000 the federal forces, located at the outskirts of Grozny, were making unsuccessful attempts to capture the city. Simultaneously they conducted "purges" in the quarters that were controlled by them. testimonies about how it was happening were already published by Human Rights Watch and "Memorial" (the story of Natalia Goncharuk see in the article of L. Graphova "Murder with a Smile", No. 6, 14-20.02.2000, page 7). Here is an extract, written in the hospital, of the story of one woman, Heda Makhauri, who survived in a "purge":

"On January 21, I together with Larisa and unknown woman went out of the bomb shelter, where we all lived. We decided to use the chance of a quiet and go an have a look at our houses. This is in Tashkala of Staropromyslovsky district. When we turned around the corner we saw soldiers - they were putting the things that they were taking from the house into the car. Knowing what such meetings are ended up with for witnesses, we hurried to come back. But the soldiers noticed us and quickly ran down to us.

They called us guerrillas informers and they ordered us to go to commandant's office to find out the circumstances. At the beginning they took documents and some personal things from us. They ordered to take out everything that was in our pockets. At the same time one of the soldiers was looking at my golden things - earrings, chain and a ring. Then, due to strong fear I did not understand the question : "Have you not forgotten something?" Now I understand that we had to give to them all gold immediately? However it hardly could save us from a bullet.

On the way to a so-called commandant's office we were stopped, taken to a semi-destroyed house, but we at that time, feeling that something was wrong, started to plead: "Do not kill us, we have children, we shall not tell anybody what you were doing here". These words influenced them in such a way that they started shooting immediately. First they killed our companion, a woman, who stood at the bottom of stairs, not willing to enter the house and pleading them not to shoot. Larisa and I at that time stood at the steps of the house. In several seconds the same happened to us. At that time I was standing behind Larisa's back. Probably that saved my life, all the blow was taken up by Larisa. I got a through wound of the back, and while falling down I strongly hit my head against the stairs and lost consciousness.

I came to myself from the pain in my ear. An earring was torn from it. Other earring, strange as it may seem, was taken, if it is possible to say so, accurately. Understanding my position I continued to pretend that I was dead. Then they started to take off the ring, but it would not go. One of them asked for a knife, but during that time he managed to take a ring from the finger. I lost consciousness again.

Next time I came to myself because of a strong pain in feet, smell of petrol and smoke. We were already lying, all three of us, under burnt mattresses. At that time I heard the noise of a departing car, and probably that brought strength to me. I could stand to my feet and even make several steps, after which I fell down again....

...

There are still many peaceful residents in Grozny. At least such was the case before my departure. I am very much worried for them. In school 54 a group or a team of SOBR (special quick response team) is dislocated, the members of which are especially cruel to peaceful inhabitants. They say that they are poring petrol and burning people alive. basically the members of this group are engaged in maraud. I had an impression that they are subordinated to nobody and do whatever they wish to".

What was described by H. Makhauri cannot be qualified in other way then a conscious murder of peaceful residents. "Memorial" has several stories of the people, who survived during "purges" - but they cannot be numerous - witnesses are left alive only by chance.

We have no ground to state that such things are happening in Chechenia everywhere - in some residential settlements there were established normal relations between local residents and federal troops. But the testimony available with us are enough in order to state the lack of safety and the absence of conditions for the return of refugees to "liberated territories". Besides, robberies and murder of peaceful residents will inevitably feed the mobilisation base of Chechenian detachments.

On February 14, the command of the federal groups declared about the closure of Grozny for peaceful residents who were returning there - possibly, this time the blocking will be reliable and will conceal the traces of committed crimes.

***

The death of a big number of peaceful residents, including purposeful slotters, numerous disappearances, random and illegal detainment of people, suspected in relations with Chechenian guerrillas, allow to speak about terror campaign, waged in Chechenia by federal forces.

The chief military procurator of the RF Yu. Demin, during the meeting with the members of the mission, which took place on February 11, only informed that the troops of the Ministry of Defence lost in Chechenia about 1000 people who were killed, and the number of peaceful residents killed can be established only by the end of "counter terrorist operation". he declared that testimonies, gathered by the mission at refugees camps were not valid, and that at least one third part of refugees are hiding terrorists. He also assured that a terrorist can be determined by "age, sex, build, indirect signs of wearing arms or a beard that was shaved off." The explanations of the procurator did not affect the conclusions of the mission.

***

Meanwhile, the situation in refugees camps Karabaluck, Spoutnik, Severny, where there are more than 22000 people out of 210000, located in Ingushetia, is at the border of a humanitarian catastrophe. Child's' meals for newly born is still absent. people are suffering from cold and catarrhal diseases , because of the insufficiency of food products.

Their legal status is still not defined - this people, which number is increasing by 500 people each day, are not given the status of a forced migrant, which would give certain rights to them. The refugees are sure that federal authorities are maintaining unacceptable living conditions in order that to force people that left Chechenia to come back into the so-called "safety zone", where military activities were resumed or can be resumed.

"Memorial" and FIDH demand that:

  • "counter terrorist" operation, causing a mass perishing of civil population should be immediately stopped;
  • humanitarian and non-government organizations, should be immediately admitted to the zone of the conflict, first of all for rendering assistance to the wounded;
  • a corresponding status should be immediately given to forced migrants form Chechenia, as their return to destroyed cities and villages is not possible;
FIDH and Memorial are appealing to the world community to apply to the Russian leaders with the demand to observe international agreements, in particular the European Convention on the protection of human rights and freedoms of a man, ratified by the Russian Federation in 1998.