(Nazran, February 7, 2000) -- Human Rights Watch today charged that Russian forces had summarily executed at least twenty-two civilians, mainly women and old men, in the Staroplomyslovoski district of Grozny during recent weeks. Human Rights Watch researchers have also received second-hand information about fourteen additional murders of civilians and are continuing to investigate these and other reports.
Human Rights Watch urged that the Russian troops responsible for the atrocities be brought to justice, and called upon the Russian authorities to take immediate steps to stop such abuses.
"The Russian troops who did this have crossed a terrible line," said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "These are not acts of war; they are acts of murder."
Human Rights Watch researchers working in Ingushetia have interviewed more than a dozen survivors, eyewitnesses, and family members of victims who provided detailed and consistent information about the killings of twenty-two residents of Staroplomyslovski district of Grozny, in eight separate incidents. The Staroplomyslovoski district is located in the north-west of the capital city, and was the scene of heavy fighting between Russian forces and Chechen fighters in early to mid January. 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.
Because of the continuing Russian offensive and encirclement of Grozny, few eyewitnesses to killings have been able to travel to Ingushetia. Russian military officials continue to deny Human Rights Watch access to Chechnya, making additional on-site investigations impossible.
Human Rights Watch interviewed "Lora" (not her real name) in an Ingush hospital where she was recovering from bullet wounds. On January 19, Lora was staying with three other women and two men in a cellar in Neftyanaya street in the Staroplomoslovski district of Gronzy. In the afternoon, they heard machine gun fire outside the cellar. Soon, several shots were fired through the wooden door of the cellar. Khava, a woman about fifty years old, was wounded in the leg, and Lora also received some splinters in her legs. They yelled out to the soldiers, "Please don't shoot us, we are local civilians," and the soldiers ordered them to come out of the cellar with their hands up.
When they came out of the cellar, there were six soldiers in the yard. One had a grenade with the pin already pulled out, and wondered what to do with the grenade until another soldier told him to throw it out in the street. The soldiers accused the group of hiding Chechen fighters. However, the group denied the accusations, saying that they were only civilians.
The soldiers then told the group: "Get back to the cellar and don't show up until the evening," but after the group went back down into the cellar, the soldiers threw down several hand grenades. Lora cried to the soldiers: "What are you doing? You promised not to kill us!" All six of the civilians in the cellar were wounded by the grenades.
The soldiers ordered them to come out of the cellar again. One of the women was so seriously injured that she couldn't walk anymore. Lora told Human Rights Watch what happened next:
Then they started shooting at us from close range. When Natasha fell down she didn't already have fingers on her hand. People lying around me were still moving. I was all in blood and brains from other people. I was also wounded in the right side of my chest and blood was coming out through my mouth. Then soldiers decided that we were all dead and left.
Lora was the only survivor of the incident. She identified the five persons killed as Khava, a dress designer of around fifty, Kosym Reshiev, about forty, Natasha Chernova, around fifty, Lyusya, about forty-five, and an unidentified neighbor from Shatoi, aged about forty-five.
Human Rights Watch has documented similar summary executions in the village of Alkhan-Yurt, just south of Grozny, in early December. 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. Despite promises to investigate the abuses in Alkhan-Yurt, Russian military officials appear to have done little to bring those responsible to justice or check abuses by their forces.
"There is no evidence that the Russian command is taking any steps to prevent these abuses or investigate them when they take place," said Cartner. "This lack of action makes the Russian command ultimately responsible for these abuses."
According to the testimony of eyewitnesses and other family members collected by Human Rights Watch, the twenty-two persons who were killed are:
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-seven
22. Zenap Gairbekova, aged about sixty
Based on its interviews with eyewitnesses to the atrocities, Human Rights Watch will release a detailed report of the executions in the next few days.
For more Human Rights Watch coverage of Chechnya, visit http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya
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