Deaths of Sixteen More Civilians Confirmed, Total now Thirty-Eight
"President Putin must act on these terrible war crimes committed by Russian soldiers. The Russian government failed to respond appropriately to earlier reports of summary executions, and now such abuses have happened again."
Holly Cartner, Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia divsion. "
(Moscow, February 10, 2000) -- Human Rights Watch today called on Acting President Vladimir Putin to investigate the summary executions of civilians by Russian troops in Grozny. The organization also confirmed the deaths of sixteen more civilians in the Chechen capital.
The total of confirmed summary executions in Grozny's Staropromyslovski district now numbers thirty-eight. Human Rights Watch has received further allegations that more than a dozen additional civilians may have been murdered in the district.
In a letter sent today, Human Rights Watch called on Acting President Vladimir Putin to investigate the executions immediately and vigorously. [The letter appears below]
"President Putin must act on these terrible war crimes committed by Russian soldiers," Holly Cartner said. "The Russian government failed to respond appropriately to earlier reports of summary executions, and now such abuses have happened again."
Human Rights Watch today also released a fifteen-page report (see: http//www.hrw.org/reports/2000/russia_chechnya) detailing the cases of the twenty-two people it named in a February 7 press release (See Human Rights Watch release, "Russian Forces Execute Grozny Residents," February 7, 1999), as well as the cases of the sixteen persons whose deaths it just confirmed.
Among the newly confirmed deaths are those of the entire Zubayev family. Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that when Russian soldiers entered their neighborhood on January 19, they began house-to-house checking. After the soldiers had checked the documents of the people in the cellar where the two witnesses were hiding, sixty-eight-year-old Said Zubayev, the patriarch of the Zubayev family, announced that he was returning to his home: "The Russians have come, now we are free. Let us go home." Said Zubayev left by himself, and an hour or two later, at about 3 p.m., his wife Zeinap and his daughter Malikah decided to join him. They found Said shot dead in the street on the way home, in an area which was then under Russian control. The two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they heard Zeinap and Malikah Zubayev scream, ran toward the scene, and then helped the women bring the body of Said Zubayev to the Zubayev family home.
The next morning, on January 21, the two witnesses paid a visit to the Zubayev family home, only to find eight dead bodies in the yard. One of the witnesses told Human Rights Watch:
What I saw was awful. All the members of the family were shot. Judging from the bullet casings, they were shot from a heavy submachine gun. Malikah and Luiza were holding their daughters. The house was still smoking, it had been burned. There were tracks of an armored personnel carrier in the yard. The gates were broken. Things from the house were thrown about, and all the luxurious things had been taken away. The house had been looted and the family had been killed.
The Zubayev family consisted of:
1. Said Zubayev - aged sixty-eight
2. Zeinap Zubayeva - the wife of Said, aged sixty-four
3. Ruslan Zubayev - the son of Said and Zeinap, aged thirty-five
4. Malikah Zubayeva - daughter of Said and Zeinap, aged forty-five
5. Alina Zubayeva - daughter of Malikah, aged eight
6. Mariet Zubayeva - daughter of Said and Zeinap, aged forty-three
7. Luiza Zubayeva - wife of Ruslan, aged thirty-three
8. Said-Magomet Zubayev - nephew of Said, aged forty-seven
9. Larisa Zubayeva - daughter of Ruslan and Luiza, aged twelve
A tenth family member, Eliza Zubayeva, the eight-year-old daughter of Rusland and Luiza, was never found. The witnesses believe her body may have been burned in the house.
February 10, 2000
Acting President Vladimir Putin
Dear President Putin,
Human Rights Watch is an international nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting human rights protection worldwide. I write to you today to urge a vigorous investigation into the conduct of Russian federal troops in the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny, where, according to our information, Russian soldiers summarily executed at least thirty-eight civilians. We also believe that you should invite international agencies - intergovernmental and nongovernmental alike - to conduct their own investigations. We further renew our request for access to Chechnya - in particular to Grozny's Staropromyslovski district and to the village of Alkhan-Yurt, the site of earlier summary executions - to continue our investigations.
After interviewing more than a dozen survivors, eyewitnesses, and family members of victims from the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny, Human Rights Watch now has evidence that, after entering the district in December 1999, Russian soldiers committed a series of war crimes. Our research shows that Russian soldiers shot at least thirty-eight civilians, mostly women and elderly men, at close range. Six men "disappeared" from the district after Russian soldiers took them away from their homes. Eyewitnesses further recounted how Russian soldiers forced residents of the district to risk sniper fire to recover the bodies of fallen Russian soldiers, and spoke of Russian soldiers looting and destroying civilian property as well. Human Rights Watch interviewed nearly all witnesses separately and at great length, and their testimonies were consistent, credible, and mutually confirming. In most instances, Human Rights Watch was able to interview witnesses who personally saw Russian forces execute the civilians, or who had convincing information placing Russian soldiers at the scene of the crimes.
We have set out the details of these summary executions and "disappearances" in a fifteen-page report which we attach. Below, we list the names of the thirty-eight persons who were killed:
1. Anzor Taimaskhanov, aged sixteen
2. Lida Taimaskhanov, aged fifty-five
3. Adlan Akayev, aged forty-five
4. Larisa Jabrailova, aged forty-three
5. Heda, an ethnic Kumyk woman
6. Said-Selim Tungoyev, aged about fifty
7. Kosym Reshiev, aged about forty
8. Natasha Chernova, approximately fifty years old
9. Khava, aged about fifty
10. Lyusya, aged about forty-five
11. Unidentified neighbor from Shatoi, aged about forty-five
12. Mariam Goigova, aged fifty-nine
13. Abdulvagap Aslangeriev, aged seventy-five
14. Valentina Fotieva, aged sixty-seven
15. Hijan Gadaborcheva, aged sixty-seven
16. Ismail Gadaborcheva, aged seventy-four
17. Dugurkhan Archakova, aged fifty-six
18. Aisat Archakova, aged thirty- three
19. Abukar Yevloyov, aged sixty-seven
20. Saperbek Yevloyov, aged thirty-six
21. Minusa Ausheva, aged sixty-sevenb 22. Zenap Gairbekova, aged about sixty
23. Said Zubayev, aged sixty-eight
24 Zeinap Zubayeva, aged sixty-four
25. Ruslan Zubayev, aged thirty-five
26. Malikah Zubayeva, aged forty-five
27. Alina Zubayeva, aged eight
28. Mariet Zubayeva, aged forty-three
29. Luiza Zubayeva, aged thirty-three
30. Said-Magomet Zubayev, aged forty-seven
31. Larisa Zubayeva, aged twelve
32. Eliza Zubayeva, aged eight (her body was never found)
33. Khamid Taramov, aged seventy
34. Idris Uspayev, aged sixty
35. Mussa Guchigov, aged about forty-eight
36. Saidi, aged fifty-seven
37. Elza Kasayeva, aged fifty
38. Elza Kasayeva's mother, aged about eighty
Human Rights Watch has also received allegations that possibly more than a dozen other civilians were summarily executed in Staropromyslovski district. We are still investigating these allegations and will keep you informed of our findings.
In December, Human Rights Watch documented similar summary executions in the village of Alkhan-Yurt, just south of Grozny. According to interviews with two dozen residents from Alkhan-Yurt, Russian forces killed at least seventeen civilians after taking control of the village, and then engaged in widespread looting and burned down many of the homes in the town. Several cases of rape by Russian forces were also documented.
Russian soldiers' conduct in the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny and in Alkhan-Yurt violates Protocol II additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which protects, among other things, civilian immunity in internal armed conflicts. Article 4(2) forbids, inter alia, "violence to the life, health and physical or mental well- being of persons, in particular murder. . .," "pillage," and "outrages upon personal dignity."
We urge you to pursue vigorously an investigation of the war crimes described in the attached report. We are deeply disturbed that despite promises to investigate the abuses in Alkhan-Yurt, Russian military officials appear to have done little to bring those responsible to justice, and that they have allowed such abuses to happen again. We respectfully remind you that under international law, Russia is obliged to investigate the crimes mentioned above and to bring those responsible to justice.
We urge you personally to oversee the investigation into these war crimes. We also urge you to allow international bodies - intergovernmental and nongovernmental alike - to investigate the events and to grant them unfettered access to Chechnya, in particular to the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny and to Alkhan-Yurt. We take this opportunity respectfully to renew our own request, lodged in November, for access to Chechnya.
I thank you for your attention to the concerns raised in this letter, and welcome your response.
Europe and Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
cc: Minister of Defense Igor Sergeev
Acting Procurator General Vladimir Ustinov
Maj.- Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, Commander of the Western Group of Forces in the Northern Caucasus
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