HomeLibraryThe Problem of Torture and Cruel and Degrading Treatment in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus

The Problem of Torture and Cruel and Degrading Treatment in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus

November 29, 2006 08:32

The legal framework for the “counterterrorist operation” in the Chechen Republic

NC.1.       In the very first paragraph of Russia's Periodic Report dealing with the armed conflict in the North Caucasus (par. 36), the State describes the legal framework for the "counterterrorist operation" by referring, in addition to Federal Law No 130-FZ of 25 July 1998 “On Combating Terrorism,” to the documents of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism[1], and the Agreement of States Parties to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Concerning a Regional Counterterrorist Structure[2].
NC.2.       The reference to SCO documents is surprising, as this organization is guided by values which are strikingly different from those of the UN and European systems; for SCO the interests of the states prevail over human rights - which are declared to be part of the state’s internal affairs. What we see here is an obvious conflict between the two legal concepts regulating the use of force by the state and human rights restrictions.  However, upon a closer look at the situation, we see that the Russian Government is right in referring to SCO agreements, as its actions in the armed conflict zone were consistently incompatible with the international human rights conventions.
NC.3.       Starting from the early days of the Second Chechen War, the Russian Government has denied an armed conflict in the North Caucasus, thus preventing the application of the international humanitarian law. As a result, Additional Protocol II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions was intentionally not applied to protect the local population.
NC.4.       The Federal Law against Terrorism contravenes the Convention by containing no ban on the use of torture. Moreover, art. 21 of the said Law relieves government agents of responsibility for causing harm to citizens. The Law fails to provide any legal remedies to the public nor any guarantees of fair criminal procedure. Thus, art. 24 provides for closed judicial hearings, without public access.
NC.5.       Russia’s report mentions that the Council of Europe reviewed the Law against Terrorism for potential conflicts with the international human rights conventions, but failed to find any. However, it is not true: in fact, the Council of Europe recommended substantial changes in the said law, but the recommendations were not honored.
NC.6.       Any claims that the treatment of civilians in the conflict zone was consistent with the requirements of the European Convention for Human Rights (including restrictions of freedom and integrity of the person, freedom of movement, respect for private and family life, and freedom of expression) made in par. 38 of Russia’s report are unfounded, because Russia had not followed the established derogation procedure and had not declared a state of emergency. Reference to the Law against Terrorism, originally designed for local, short-term security operations, to justify long-term (more than six years) and large scale (tens of thousands of square kilometers) restrictions of human rights is arbitrary, reflecting an excessively broad interpretation of the law. While the said law defines a counterterrorist operation as local and limited in scale, it was used to justify large-scale military operations involving powerful weapons, and random attacks in the North Caucasus.[3]
NC.7.       In fact, the use of the federal armed forces in the Chechen Republic is unlawful, because the Federal Law against Terrorism does not allow using the army in internal conflicts.[4] The unlawful actions of uniformed forces are the cause of persistent and massive use of torture against civilians in Chechnya.[5]
NC.8.       On 6 March 2006, the Russian President signed into force a new federal law – Law No 35-FZ "On Opposing Terrorism"; earlier, on 15 February, he had signed Decree No 116 “On Measures to Oppose Terrorism.” Combined, these acts grant authorities even more power to use force, restrict human rights and civil liberties, and avoid accountability.

Torture, cruel and degrading treatment as methods of “counterterrorist operations” (ranging from “sweep" to "targeted" operations)

NC.9.       Large-scale fighting in the Chechen Republic took place between autumn 1999 and March 2000, and then broad "sweep operations" continued, such as "ID checks" by combined uniformed units, including the army, internal forces, the Ministry of Interior, Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Ministry of Justice forces. They would seal off local communities to conduct blanket searches and massive, random, unlawful detentions. Detainees were then taken to “temporary filtration points” set up nearby in the armed forces' deployment area. There, detainees were usually subjected to massive beatings and cruel torture. Many cases are known where individuals “disappeared” following their detention during a “sweep operation” and transfer to a “filtration point.” Bodies of some of those “disappeared” were later on accidently found by local residents. As a rule, a few people would “disappear.” The use of force during arrest, escorting, and detention, as well as during questioning and investigation, became a modus operandi for uniformed personnel, penitentiary officers, and investigators.[6] The arrest was usually performed in an extremely brutal manner, involving the use of violence and the threat to use firearms not only against the detainee, but against all other people present, including women and children. Reasons for arrest were arbitrary – it could be ethnicity, age (ability to carry weapons), appearance or even a mark on the shoulder suspected to be left by a gun holster. Whenever locals were detained by the armed forces, primarily intelligence or spetsnaz (special purpose) units, detainees were not guaranteed even the right to life - most were killed after an “intense interrogation,” i.e. cruel torture; in many cases, saving their lives was never considered. When detainees were transported to other location, they were usually treated in extremely cruel ways to rule out any possibility of escape (such as transporting bound detainees in trucks stacked over each other, etc.).
NC.10.   From the first days of the conflict, torture and beatings were virtually always an integral part of investigation. It was seen as a necessity, because from the onset of the “counterterrorist operation,” the law enforcement lacked intelligence on terrorist suspects, and detainees’ confessions were usually the only evidence there was against them. It all took place against the backdrop of an active anti-Chechen campaign and a total lack of supervision over the federal forces' conduct. The armed conflict in the Chechen Republic revealed that the federal uniformed forces saw “torture” (including physical torture, cruel and degrading conditions of detention, humiliating treatment, etc.) as a necessary, normal and even desirable practice, rather than something forbidden.
NC.11.   With time, as federal forces were taking the Chechen territory under their control and established a network of informants, their tactics changed - they switched from deployment near local communities and blanket "sweeps" to "targeted security operations," where armed, camouflaged and masked people arrived in armored vehicles with painted-over license plates in a local community, broke into specific homes - usually at night - detained and took away some of the occupants. Being more selective did not make them less cruel -   the people they detained, or, more precisely, kidnapped, usually disappeared.
NC.12.   Another important recent development has been “Chechenization” of the conflict. In 2003-2005, uniformed units made of ethnic Chechens were formed in the Chechen Republic. Alongside regular police, specialized units were set up to combat rebel fighters; these units are granted the power to use unlawful force.[7]
NC.13.   People detained by these troops “disappear” for the rest of the world; they are kept in secret prisons without any records of their detention; they are tortured to force “confessions” underlying fabricated criminal prosecutions. In about half of the cases the kidnapped people disappeared without trace, or their dead bodies were later found.[8] Starting in 2004, threats of violence and hostage-taking against relatives have been widely used to force rebel fighters to surrender.[9]

Abusive security operations targeting peaceful civilians in 2004-2005

NC.14.   Russia’s report places a major focus on the efforts by prosecutorial offices to establish the rule of law, and refers to numerous administrative measures, rules and regulations.[10] These formal efforts were designed in the first place to regulate "sweep operations." Indeed, the number of "sweeps” in residential areas has decreased significantly.  In 2004,  all sweeps were less cruel, with fewer human rights violations. However, the cruelty of certain “sweep operations” in 2005 were comparable with those of the first years of the war. An illustrative example was the operation in Borodzinovskaya, Shelkovsky District, neighboring with the Republic of Dagestan. Until recently, the local community totaled 1118, with 90% ethnic Avars.
On 4 June 2005, in the daytime, servicemen of Vostok special purpose battalion manned mostly by ethnic Chechens, but under the Ministry of Defense command, conducted a security operation in the village of Borodzinovskaya to detain "11 local villagers suspected of assisting rebel fighters.”[11]
At 3 p.m., two APCs and at least 15 other vehicles carrying armed men entered the village. The men were wearing gray police uniforms and camouflage. They broke into homes and forced all men to get into the vehicles. The men were brought to the local schoolyard,  forced to lie face down on the ground, with clothes covering their heads. All, including elderly, teenagers and disabled people, were kicked and beaten with rifle butts. The villagers were forced to lie face-down on the ground until 10.00 pm, although it was raining heavily. The villagers gathered from the servicemen's  words  that they were suspected of killing the local forester and attempting at the life of the local head of administration, events that preceded the raid by two days.
11 men were called by name and taken out of the schoolyard, never to be seen again.[12]
Around 10.00 pm other men were brought to the school gym, where the servicemen beat them again with batons and trampled on their backs. Then the servicemen told the villagers to stay where they were and left.
In Lenin Street, two houses were burnt – No 9 and No 11 –  belonging to Nazirbek Magomedov and his son Said. The servicemen also burned the house of Kamil and Zarakhan Magomedovs, and the house of Magomad Magomadov, aged 77. Magomadov’s wife and daughter were lead out of the house, and the old man was burnt alive.
After the servicemen left, the villagers found that a few private cars had disappeared, as well as people. None of those who conducted the "security operation” identified themselves, but the villagers recognized one of them, named Khamzat (nicknamed The Beard) who served in Vostok Battalion and was the leader of the local United Russia Party chapter. 
On 14 July, local villagers found human remains in the burnt out home of Nazirbek Magomedov. The Chechen Ministry of Interior forces whom the villagers called to the site put the remains in four bags and attempted to drive away, but the villagers shocked by their behavior surrounded them and blocked the way. In response, the police beat father and son Batayevs, threw them in one of the police cars, and drove along the village streets, shooting randomly. On the same day, they tossed Batayevs out of the car on the road to Gudermes District of Chechnya. Following these events, on 16 June, fearing for their safety, 230 Avar families left Borodzinovskaya in an organized manner, crossed the administrative border to the Republic of Dagestan, and set up a tent camp outside the entrance to the city of Kizlyar.
The prosecutor’s office launched a criminal investigation into the arson attacks, killings and abductions. An ad-hoc group of investigators went to the scene of the crime and spent a long time in Borodzinovskaya. Given this fact and the active discussion of events in Borodzinovskaya in the press due to the scandal and the exodus of villagers to the neighboring Dagestan, there was hope for some time that this crime would be an exception, and the culprits would be brought to justice. Unfortunately, these hopes were frustrated.
It was proven during the investigation that on that day, servicemen of Vostok Battalion conducted a ‘sweep operation’ on their own initiative. One of the officers of the battalion was sentenced to a probational term for “abuse of power.” At the time of this publication, no one else was punished for the crime. Moreover, soon after the events described above, the commander of Vostok Battalion, Sulim Yamadayev, was awarded the highest Russian military decoration, the Hero of Russia Star. The destiny of the "disappeared” people is still  unknown, except that in November 2005 two servicemen of Vostok Battalion, speaking informally to Demos Center staff, said, without identifying themselves, that "[the victims] had long been buried.” As of today, virtually nobody has any doubts that the victims had been killed.
NC.15.   In the south of the Republic, - a mountainous forest area - where the federal forces have failed to establish control over the territory, the fighting sometimes is similar to that in the early days of the war.
NC.16.   In 2005, the security operation by federal forces on 14-16 January in the mountainous village of Zumsoy, Itum-Kalinsky District and surrounding areas, was the cruelest.
During the operation, the village of Zumsoy and its outskirts were shelled with missiles and bombed. On 14 January, helicopter-borne troops landed in the village. Prior to the landing, helicopters fired missiles and shelled the village from machine-guns. These actions of the military were not warranted by the circumstances, as there were no rebel fighters in the village, no one fired or offered any resistance to the forces.
After landing from the helicopters, the troops conducted “a sweep operation” in the village, which involved armed robbery, destruction of property, and kidnappings. Servicemen would break into homes, yelling obscenities at the residents, destroyed or grabbed whatever they could put their hands on, including money, gold jewelry, clothes, medications, TV sets. In some homes, they took away all IDs and other personal papers they could find. Thus in Mukhaevs’ home, they took away the passports of the hostess and her daughter, birth certificates of younger children, documents needed for accessing the husband’s disability pension, gold jewelry and 250,000 rubles in cash received as compensation for the destroyed house. In some households, the military shot horses and turkeys, and blew up an UAZ car, which belonged to Saidamin Khadzhiev. Then they loaded all the stolen property on helicopters, in front of the villagers.
Late on 14 January, servicemen kidnapped local villager Shirvani Shakhidovich Nasipov, born in 1956. In the morning of 15 January, they kidnapped a number of people from the same household: Vakha Mahmudovich Mukhaev, born in 1955, his 15-year-old sun Atabi Vakhaevich Mukhaev, and 30-year-old Magomed-Emin Khabilovich Ibishev. On the same day, the military left the village in helicopters, taking along the people they kidnapped.
The kidnapped people’s destiny is unknown ever since.
The villagers of Zumsoy complained to the military prosecutor, but to no avail. Moreover, on 28 January, servicemen entered the village again and stayed until 2 February. The abuse continued; fortunately for the villagers, they no one was kidnapped this time.

Abductions, disappearances and summary executions during the “anti-terrorist operation”

NC.17.   While currently sweep operations” are rare, abductions, "disappearances” and summary executions continue. Now they take place as part or as a result of "targeted security operations" which are not subject to any legal regulation or intentionally unregulated. Attempts to reform investigation and prosecution did not result in practical improvements in terms of preventing or investigating crimes, in particular “disappearances.”
NC.18.   The problem of “disappearances” in Chechnya remains acute. In most cases, people who “disappear” have been kidnapped by uniformed forces, rather than rebel fighters, and recently most of the uniformed kidnappers are locals. Currently we observe a slight decrease in the number of abductions documented by human rights defenders, but this decrease is not as significant as officials claim it to be. Partially, the decrease is due to "Chechenization" of the conflict, and the high latency of violence in the Chechen territory – avoiding documentation by either human rights defenders or law enforcement authorities.[13]
NC.19.   Official data on the number of people who were kidnapped or "disappeared” are contradictory and incomplete. 
NC.20.   It is true of general statistics as well. In September 2004, during a visit of the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights to Russia, the Office of the RF Prosecutor General informed him that over the past three years [apparently, since autumn 2001] in Chechnya, a total of 1,749 criminal investigations were launched into abductions of about 2,300 victims. On 13 October 2004, the acting Ombudsman in Chechnya, L. Khasuyev said that “over the last four years [apparently, since autumn 2000], more than 2,500 people have been kidnapped in the Republic.”  On 27 December 2004, A. Arsentyev, Head of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in the Southern Federal District, said that “since the start of the anti-terrorist operation [i.e. since autumn 1999] in Chechnya, a total of 2,437 people were abducted and 347 freed by the law enforcement authorities.”  In addition, in September 2005, Chechen President A. Alkhanov said that since 2000, a total of 1898 people disappeared.[14] A month later, Head of the Chechen President’s Office for Constitutional Rights N. Nukhazhiev  announced 2500 disappearances[15]. In February 2006, the same N. Nukhazhiev reported a total of 2780 disappearances over the entire period of conflict.[16] However in early 2003, the lists of disappearances  maintained by a working group of the Chechen Government contained more than 2800 names - so it almost looks like no one disappeared in Chechnya in three years.
NC.21.   The current official statistics look even less convincing.
NC.22.   Speaking about abductions in 2004, Chechen President A. Alkhanov said, “In 2003 there were 362 abductions. This year [i.e. 2004], 175 facts were reported. … our measures resulted in 47 persons returned to their homes.”[17] Two months before, the figure of 185 abductions was quoted at the meeting of the Collegium of the Chechen Interior Ministry. Shortly before, Chechen Minister of Interior R. Alkhanov said that, “over the outgoing year 2004, abductions in Chechnya dropped by 40%.” [18] On 21 January 2005, 168 abductions in 2004 were reported to the Ministry of Interior Collegium, which was supposed to mean that abductions had dropped by half as compared to 2003, where, according to the same official, 440 people were abducted.[19]
NC.23.   Official statistics for 2005 and comparisons with 2004 share the same inconsistency.
NC.24.   In October 2005, President A. Alkhanov said that “since early [2005], a total of 143 abductions have been reported in the republic; whereas last [2004] year, 128 abductions were reported over a comparable period.” [20] Ten days later, he said that “there is a general downward trend for this type of crimes in the republic."[21] A few days later President Alkhanov clarified that in fact, only 65 people were kidnapped in Chechnya in 2005, while most of the 143 had been kidnapped before, but the crimes were officially reported in the current year.[22] In end-December he reiterated, “Abductions are on a downward trend; last year, there were 168 cases, and this year, there are 67 cases.”[23] In January, he said, “A total of 77 abductions took place this year, while there were 213 such incidents last year.”[24]
NC.25.   In view of these contradictory statements we are surprised that par. 98 of Russia’s report describes a “computer database created in June – September 2002 and regularly updated, with data on criminal proceedings into abductions and killings over the entire period of the anti-terrorist operation"; this database is presented as a major breakthrough in the investigation of these serious crimes.
NC.26.   Data available to human rights defenders on abductions and “disappearances” in Chechnya are far less optimistic - please see below a summary table for 2002 to 2005, provided by Memorial Human Rights Center.:
Table 5. Summary Table on Abductions in the Chechen Republic
of them, freed or ransomed
of them,
of them, disappeared
of them, under investigation
NC.27.   More or less detailed data are available to Memorial to support the above statistics, including the victim’s name, surname and patronym, residence address, circumstances of abduction, etc. In total, over the “second Chechen war,” Memorial has data on about 1600 “disappearances” of people who were detained or abducted (including cases where the body was later found). Memorial monitors the situation on about 25-30% of the Chechen territory, and its data even for these areas may be incomplete. To obtain a realistic estimate, you should multiply the figures above by a factor from two to four, according to different experts.
NC.28.   By extrapolating Memorial’s findings and analyzing the official data, we can assume that over the entire period of “counterterrorist operation,” disappearances of people as a result of abductions, unlawful arrests and detentions were between three thousand and five thousand people. Unfortunately, we do not have more accurate numbers available to us.
NC.29.   As a rule, neither the prosecutor’s office, no human rights defenders succeed in identifying concrete perteprators in abduction cases. There is one single case where the kidnappers were stopped by local police and forced to show their identification documents. This happened because staff-members of the Chechen Republic brach of FSB were actually abducting people in the neighboring Ingushetia[25] and transporting them to the territory of Chechnya. The case of Adam Medov is unique, in and of itself, because it contains documental evidence of FSB’s involvement in kidnapping.
On 15 June, 2004, about 2000, habitual resident of Ingushetia Adam Kazbekovich Medov, born in 1980 (registered at 4 Chkalova St., Karabulak; temporarily lived in Nazran, Nasyrkotskaya St.), left home in his car and never came back. On 17 June, in the daytime, at the Ingush Traffic Police (GAI) Post next to Caucasus-I Checkpoint, Ingush police stopped two cars heading to Chechnya: a green Volga GAZ-3110 and a Zhiguli VAZ-21099 for a check.  They heard knocks from the Volga trunk, opened the hood and saw a bound man who said: "I am an Ingush! They are trying to take me away!” He was Adam Medov. The other car immediately started and left for Chechnya.[26]
The armed people in the Volga car said that they were FSB agents, and police were not allowed to stop them; they offered resistance. The Ingush police stopped the kidnappers. They found another bound man on the floor in the back of the car – Aslan Iznaurovich Kushtonashvili.  All were taken to Sunzhensky ROVD. There, Adam Medov testified that on 15 June, in Karabulak, his car was stopped by armed men – four ethnic Chechens and four ethnic Russians. He had a passenger in his car. Both men were taken to the FSB building in Magas, where they were tortured. А.Medov was detained by agents of the FSB Office in Chechnya headed by Subcolonel V.V.Beletsky[27], and including agent A.G. Shurov, Ensign D.А.Panfyorov and Sergeant I.Yu.Minbulatov[28]. Sunzhensky District Prosecutor contacted the local department of FSB and was informed that the detained FSB agents were performing their duty and should be released immediately. The prosecutor allowed them to leave for Chechnya taking the two detainees along.[29]
On 18 June 2004,  the Sunzhensky District prosecutor sent enquiries to the Chechen Republic Prosecutor and UGF Military Prosecutor Mokritsky, asking them where Medov and Kushtonoshvili had been taken, where they were at the moment, and what were the charges against them. The response from the military prosecutor’s office was that their review failed to find on the lists of FSB agents in Chechnya the names of V.V.Beletsky, А.G. Shurov, D.А.Panfyorov and I.Yu.Minbulatov; the destiny of A.K.Medov remained unknown.[30]
Sunzhensky District Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal investigation in the kidnapping of A.K.Medov, but they were unable to investigate the crime, while military prosecutors rejected the case because from their perspective there was no evidence that the kidnappers were FSB agents. The investigation was suspended “due to inability to identify those responsible,” then it was resumed under pressure from relatives and their representatives, and then suspended again. The record of Medov's questioning "disappeared" from Sunzhensky ROVD.[31] Adam Medov’s wife, Zalina Medova, complained to court about the local prosecutor’s office that refused to grant her requests, such as to question a number of staff members of Ingush FSB and Ministry of Interior, and the Caucasus-I checkpoint guards; to review the logbooks kept by the checkpoint, etc. The investigator refused to give her information on the progress of the criminal investigation. On 25 January, 2005, the court rejected her complaint; according to the prosecutor’s office, “all investigative actions that are necessary have been carried out.” The court found that it was lawful for the investigator to deny the victim access to the case file. The court failed to request the case file from the prosecutor's office to verify their reasoning.
On 16 July 2004, the Memorial Center filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Medov's relatives.  On the same day, the Court assigned No 25385/00 to their application. The President of the Court's Chamber decided that the application should be processed as a matter of priority under article 41 of the Rules of the Court.
One of the most outrageous cases is the abduction and “disappearance” of Bulat Chilaev, one of the employees of the humanitarian organization “Civil Assistance”. In the morning on Aprip 9, 2006 he was abducted by the members of an unidentified armed formation on his way from the village of Sernovodsk to the Rostov-Baku intercity road. A citizen of Grozny, Aslan Israilov, was detained together with him. All attempts to free Bulat Chilaev on the side of the head of the “Civil Assistance” organization and the member of the Presidential Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights – Svetlana Gannushkina – were in vain. Heads of various enforcement units of the Chechen Republic gladly agreed to help in searching for Chilaev and Israilov, but their enthusiasm evaporated quickly and mysteriously. The criminal investigation was started, and the detective officer had the evidence in his hands from the very beginning. The license plates on one of the abductors’ cars was received upon the written request of the commander of Khotin armed formation (issued on September 6, 2004), and in the place of the abduction there had been found an officer tag # F142733, which belonged to an officer from the “Zapad” unit of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division. However, the prosecutor’s office failed to bring this officer for interrogation for several months. When the interrogation finally took place, the officer claimed that he had lost his tag in the woods several days prior to the crime and assumed that the tag had then been deliberately left on the abduction spot by the separatists. The investigators were quite satisfied with this answer.

Impunity of Federal and Local Uniformed Personnel

NC.30.   As to investigation and prosecution of crimes against civilians in the conflict zone, selective impunity prevails.
NC.31.   Sentences are always tough for rebel fighters, regardless of the level of their crime. Things are different concerning crimes by federal or pro-federal uniformed personnel. Official statistics are falsified. Investigations of most crimes suspected to involve uniformed forces are suspended “due to inability to identify those responsible.” Only a small proportion of cases find their way to court. Most defendants get merely symbolic sentences for major crimes.
NC.32.   Official sentencing statistics, again, are contradictory and apparently falsified.
NC.33.   In February 2003, Deputy Prosecutor General S.N.Fridinsky responded to an enquiry by MP S.A.Kovalyov by stating that “over the period of the counterterrorist operation, prosecutorial bodies in the Chechen Republic investigated 417 criminal offenses against the local population, suspected to have been committed by members of federal forces.” As of the time of enquiry, 341 of the cases (82%) were suspended "because it had been impossible to identify the culprits."
NC.34.   In August 2004, Prosecutor Fridinsky responded to a similar enquiry by the Federal Ombudsman that “over the period of the counterterrorist operation, prosecutorial bodies in the Chechen Republic opened 132 criminal investigations into offenses committed by members of federal forces against the local population,” and only ten investigations had been suspended at the time.
NC.35.   In May 2005, responding to Chair of the Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights E.А.Pamfilova, RF Deputy Prosecutor General N.I.Shepel stated that “over the period of the counterterrorist operation, prosecutorial bodies in the Chechen Republic opened 143 criminal investigations into offenses suspected to have been committed by members of the federal forces.”[32]
NC.36.   Russia’s Report (p. 94) provides specific statistics on the number of abduction cases, which were investigated and sent to courts (“In 2003, prosecutorial investigators sent to courts for consideration on the merits 15 criminal case files on 25 episodes of abduction; 26 defendants were brought to justice over 4 months of 2004, four criminal case files were forwarded to courts, and six persons brought to justice. In total, over the period of the counter-terrorist operation, 51 criminal files were sent to courts, covering 78 episodes; a total of 84 persons were brought to justice”).
NC.37.   However, over the entire period of the second Chechen war only two members of the federal forces were convicted for kidnapping: Colonel Yuri Budanov and serviceman Sergey Lapin of Hanty-Mansiisky Special Task Police Force (OMON). Moreover, art. 126 of the Criminal Code (“kidnapping”) was only mentioned in the sentence of Yuri Budanov who kidnapped and then brutally killed a Chechen girl, Elsa Kungayeva. The other convict – policeman Sergey Lapin – did not have kidnapping included as part of his indictment, although he was actually convicted for kidnapping Zelimkhan Murdalov who was subjected to extreme torture in the Hanty-Mansiisky OMON deployment camp, and then “disappeared.” No other kidnapping case involved uniformed personnel as perpetrators, so the statistics quoted in the report are limited to prosecutions of civilians - local residents, participants of rebel armed units opposing the federal troops, and criminals.
NC.38.   Russia’s report (p. 95) also mentions the number of criminal proceedings launched by prosecutors into kidnappings and "disappearances": "Over 2004, a total of 66 prosecutions were instigated into kidnappings of 95 people; of them 36 prosecutions into kidnappings 51 persons committed this year [2004]. Over a similar period [i.e. one year, in the context of the report] of last [2003] year a total of 70 criminal proceedings were launched into the kidnappings of 116 persons. Of all people kidnapped in 2003, 70 were released. Over the four months of 2004, out of all people kidnapped, 27 were released.”
NC.39.   However, even by the incomplete data available to Memorial, a total of 497 people were kidnapped in 2003, 330 of them disappeared or were found dead; in 2004, a total of 448 people were kidnapped, 234 of them disappeared or were killed; moreover, in virtually all documented cases of kidnappings, disappearances and summary executions, Memorial approached prosecutorial offices with enquiries. However, criminal proceedings were only opened in less than one fourth of all abduction cases (and in less than 2/3 of "disappearances" or summary executions).
NC.40.   Russia’s report (p. 96) expresses a regret that “outside the focus of international organizations remain those crimes that are committed against members of law enforcement bodies, heads and staff members of administrations, local self-government, religious leaders, peaceful population, - by members of illegal armed formations (IAF). Over the period of counterterrorist operation, a total of 2,722 criminal proceedings were opened into these facts.” Undoubtedly, this number here and further on stands for the totality of criminal cases registered in the “data-base of criminal cases on abductions and killings for the entire period of the counter-terorrist operation”, which is mention in Russia’s report.
NC.41.   In the context of continued armed conflict in the Chechen Republic, frequent victims of armed separatists' attacks are local residents, primarily both uniformed personnel (accoriding to the monitoring findings of the “Memorial”, the number of such individuals killed in 2003 is 72; in 2004 – 105; and in 2005 - 44 persons), and administrative officials (according to the “Memorial”, in 2003 – one such individual was killed; in 2004 – seven; in 2005 – eight persons).
NC.42.   Thus, it is evident that most of the 2,722 criminal investigations mentioned in Russia’s report were launched into crimes against “peaceful population” - i.e. Chechen residents who were not part of uniformed forces or administrative bodies. Russia’s Report says that 2,105 of the cases have been suspended, because it has been impossible to identify suspects to prosecute. If this is the case, it is unclear why the authors of the official report are convinced that the crimes were committed by rebel fighters. The majority of these prosecutions are under art. 126 of the Criminal Code (“abduction”). Notably, in most cases of abduction, were human rights defenders were able to interview witnesses and clarify the circumstances, both the circumstances and the witnesses pointed to involvement of federal forces or other uniformed forces under their control (the use of armored vehicles, unhindered transit through checkpoints, etc.).
NC.43.   Prosecutorial statistics are obviously incomplete. Recently, prosecutors have increasingly responded to Memorial’s enquiries about kidnapped people by stating that “the facts have not been confirmed.” It usually happens when relatives succeed in buying out the kidnapped person from uniformed personnel: neither the victim, nor the relatives complain in such cases, or withdraw the complaint if it has been filed. Notably, recently police and prosecutors have often discouraged relatives from filing complaints; they usually say that complaining may worsen the fate of the victim and lower chances of his release through informal arrangements.
NC.44.   Even in the 188 out of the 2,722 cases, where, according to Russia’s report, charges were brought against specific Chechens, with subsequent convictions and sentencing, very often we have reasons to doubt the findings of preliminary and judicial investigations. For example, prosecutors reported successful investigation of the killing, in the night of 29 to 30 November 2002, of Malika Umazheva, former head of administration in Alkhan Kala; members of an IAF were convicted and sentenced for the crime. However, according to Umazheva’s relatives, federal servicemen arriving in an APC took her out of the house into the courtyard and killed her there. At the same time, four more APCs were cruising the village. Notably, rebel fighters do not have armored vehicles.
NC.45.   Russia has a dual system of criminal investigation: military prosecutors investigate crimes committed by servicemen under the command of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior Internal Forces, and the FSB. Crimes committed by civilians or the Ministry of Interior staff (other than Internal Forces)  are investigated by local prosecutorial offices, which are not allowed to investigate crimes by the military. Whenever a local prosecutorial office forwards a criminal case file to a military prosecutor’s office, the latter can refuse to accept it and to follow through with the proceedings, without giving any reasons for such refusal. So most cases where investigations were closed or suspended “due to impossibility to identify the suspects” remain the responsibility of local (civilian) prosecutors who are not allowed, by definition, to investigate such cases properly.
NC.46.   The meetings, orders, directives and instructions listed in paras 100-104 of Russia’s Report, including Joint directive by the Chechen Prosecutor’s Office and the UGF Military Prosecutor’s Office No 15 of 30 November 2002 “On setting up joint investigative teams” so far have failed to make any difference.
NC.47.   Over the entire period of the “second Chechen war” 103 servicemen faced trial for crimes against Chechen civilians as of mid-2005. [33] Eight of them were found not guilty. Thus, for example, the court acquitted four servicemen of GRU Spetsnaz (Captain Ulman and others) prosecuted for shooting detainees - peaceful civilians. With regard to three defendants, the court dropped the case due to decriminalization of the act in question. Twenty more servicemen were amnestied, - including for example, a contract serviceman who opened fire out of pure malice, killing a woman and wounding another one. 27 servicemen, most of whom committed murders of peaceful civilians while off-duty, were sentenced to various prison terms, ranging between one year of settlement colony to 18 years of strict regime prison. The absolute majority, however, received purely symbolic penalties, such as probation (including perpetrators of rape, robbery, extortion, torture of unlawfully detained civilians, theft, deliberate destruction of property, etc.), fines (for beating, unlawful detention of prosecutorial staff, etc.), and internal disciplinary sanctions.
NC.48.   As of mid-2005, a total of 34 police officers were convicted for crimes against civilians. Just as the army personnel, most police officers were sentenced to "symbolic" punishments. Only seven received real prison terms, others (including those guilty of drunk shooting and killing or wounding innocent people; extortion, bribes, threats of murder, “hooliganism,” etc.) were sentenced to probation.
NC.49.   Proceedings are still underway in a high-profile case of massive killings by federal servicemen of peaceful civilians in Staropromyslovsky District of Grozny, in Alkhan-Yurt, and in Novye Aldy. There have been no effective criminal investigations in any of the found massive burial sites.
NC.50.   The law enforcement officers seem to harbor no misconceptions as to who abducts people. Thus, the “Analysis of the Current Status of Operational Environment in Relation to People Abductions on the Territory of Oktyabrsky District of the City of Grozny from 1995 to September 2006” (see Annex for quotes) says that 9 people were abducted by the criminal groups, 58 – by the officers of Oktyabrsky temporary department of internal affairs, and 15 – by other military formations.

Ineffectiveness of the judicial system in combating impunity

NC.51.   Attempts to overcome the "selective impunity" by judicial remedies have been frustrated in most cases. We will quote an example of criminal investigation into the abduction of two Chechen residents.
On 4 May, 2005, following a petition by the Memorial HR Center staff, a city court in Urus-Martan considered a complaint filed by villagers of  Martan-Chu, Urus-Martanovsky District, the Chechen Republic. The villagers, Salamat Meshayeva and Mukhtar Saidayev, complained about inaction of their local prosecutor’s office. On 17 December, 2002, about 3 a. m. their immediate relatives, Lema Akhmatovich Meshaev and Bislan Suleimanovich Saidayev, were kidnapped. The kidnappers arrived in an APC, Ural and UAZ vehicles. The prosecutor’s office in Urus-Martan District opened criminal investigation No 34002 under art. 126 of the Criminal Code into the incident. The applicants were recognized as victims in the proceedings. The criminal investigation was suspended on many occasions, because “the suspect was not identified” (par. 1, p. 1, art. 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code). The applicants filed complaints and petitions to prosecutorial offices in Urus-Martan District and the Chechen Republic, urging them to perform a number of investigative actions, which, they argued, would lead to successful investigation; the applicants received no response. On 6 April 2005, they challenged the prosecutorial inaction in Urus-Martan city court. The applicants challenged the suspension of criminal investigation; as victims in the proceedings, they demanded access to the criminal case file. The court ruled that the investigation had not been conducted “in full” - some of the key witnesses were never questioned - and ordered the prosecutors to resume investigation. The court denied the applicants access to the case file and did not allow making any copies of the case materials before the end of preliminary investigation. Lacking access to the case file, the applicants and their legal representatives cannot effectively urge the prosecutors to go ahead with the investigation, and it is likely to be suspended again.
NC.52.   The ineffectiveness of Russia’s judicial system is manifested in particular in its inability to put an end to the impunity of uniformed personnel committing crimes against civilians. A dramatic example of such failure of the Russian judiciary is the high-profile Ulman case mentioned in the sub-section on Impunity of Federal and Local Uniformed Personnel in this section of the report. Four members of the special-task force of the Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), including Captain Eduard Ulman, Captain Alexander Kalagansky, Ensign Vladimir Voyevodin and Major Alexey Perelevsky are charged with murder of six Chechen civilians on 11 January 2002 in the village of Dai, Shatoy district of Chechnya. Two jury trials have acquitted them. However, Ulman, Kalagansky and Voyevodin do not deny killing the civilians, but argue that they had followed Perelevsky’s orders. Perelevsky confirms that he gave that order and they’re witnesses to that event. However, Perelevsky, in turn, claims that the order was initially radioed to him but a higher-in-command in charge of that special operation, Colonel Plotnikov. Plotnikov, on the other hand, denies this allegation and there is no evidence to prove that the order did come from him.
On 11 January 2002, around 3.00 p.m. Captain Ulman’s group came in helicopters and landed outside the Dai village in an operation to set an ambush on a site of possible passage of field commander Khattab. Seeing an UAZ car on the road, which, as Ulman insists, failed to stop when ordered to do so,Ulman ordered to open fire at the car. The shooting killed one passenger – school principal Said Alaskhanov, and wounded two others. The five survivors - Khamzat Tuburov, Abdul-Vakhab Satabaev, Shahban Bakhaev, Zainap Dzhavatkhanova, and Dzhamlail Musaev - were told to get out of the car. The servicemen determined that the “detainees” were peaceful civilians. Then, Ulman radioed to Major Alexei Perelevsky, commander of his operative, to report the situation. According to Ulman, explaining in particular, “I’ve got one “200th” [military jargon for “killed”] and two “300th” [military jargon for “wounded”]. According to Ulman, the Major's answer to the question of what to do with the Chechens was to kill them, though this answer was not direct but communicated through a strong assertion, “You’ve got six “200th”[i.e. six bodies as apposed to one]!”.  Then Ulman gave the order, and Leutenant Alexander Kalagansky and Ensign Vladimir Voyevodin opened fire at the detainees. They loaded the bodies in the car and planted an explosive device under it to fake an accidental explosion. This was also done in compliance with Perelevsky’s order, which the Major does not deny.  The explosion failed to cause enough damage to the car, so the servicemen set the car on fire. This murder had great resonance, and resulted in criminal charges. In April 2004, a court of jury found the members of the “Ulman group” Major Perelevsky not guilty.
The accused no not deny either the fact of shooting the civilians dead or the fact of giving such and order to their subordinates but refer to the necessity of unreservedly following orders of the higher-in-command officers. Thus, Captain Ulman stresses that he followed Major Perelevsky’s order and Perelevsky explains that he was following the order by Colonel Plotnikov. Plotnikov, though, denies his involvement. To note, he wasn’t among the persons on trial as no charges were brought against him. Members of the jury, on the other hand, delivered the non-guilty verdict on the basis of their firm conviction that Perelevsky, Ulman, Kalagansky and Voyevodin were all following the orders and the military who’re executing an order cannot be held responsible for its implementation.
The Military Collegium of the Supreme Court overruled the verdict and sent the case back to the North Caucasus Military Court for a re-trial. The acquittal was overruled due to numerous procedural violations during the first trial: for example, the list of jurors was made up on the same day that the jury was formed, right in the courtroom - which is a violation, because by law, lists of jurors must be made in advance.
On 19 May 2005, a new jury unanimously found the defendants not guilty on all counts. The jurors considered it a proven fact that the accused acted as required by their service. The non-guilty verdict also allowed the court to reject the civil claims for damages by victims (the killed persons' relatives) to the military.
This ruling, again, was turned down by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. One of the reasons was the victims' demand that the jury must include representatives of the North Caucasus communities, such as people from Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia,[34] whereas the court selected only ethnic Russian jurors; as soon as the list of jurors was announced, the victims and their lawyers motioned to challenge the jury composition, but their motion was rejected by the presiding judge.
Notably, experts of the Independent Expert Legal Board, a prominent Russian NGO bringing together a number of imminent practicing lawyers and legal scholars in Russia, having studied the case materials, including the questions that the jurors were asked during the second trial and the judge’s instruction to the jurors, came to the following conclusion: either the jurors were manipulated, or the judge was not prepared to accept the responsibility and shifted it to the jury. In fact, the jurors were asked to make a legal assessment of the case, which is inappropriate.
By the close of 2005, preparations for the hearings on the “Ulman case” by yet another – third – jury hearings were already underway. This process wasn’t completed, though.
In summer 2006, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation examined a complaint by the Chechen President, Alu Alkhanov, who objected to the fact that among the jury members selected from the Southern Federal District of Russia there cannot be a single resident of Chechnya because with no court of jury functioning in Chechnya yet jurors from the republic are not recruited for participation in the work of the Southern Federal District Military Court. The Constitutional Court upheld Alkhanov’s complaint and ruled that until the jury recruitment mechanism is established in Chechnya, all cases pertaining to crimes by military servicemen again residents of the Chechen Republic would be heard without jury but by a court made up of three professional judges.
The “Ulman case” is therefore to be tired by a court of three judges but the defense councils of the accused requested to have the hearings postponed. Their request was complied with, Meanwhile, all of the perpetrators continue their service in the Russian military forces, and relatives of those murdered have been denied justice for more than four years.

Falsification of criminal prosecutions and use of torture to force confessions

NC.53.   Courts, which formally resumed their functions in the Chechen Republic in early 2001, were not adequately staffed until 2004.  But even today, the investigative and judicial systems are unable to ensure access to justice, because courts are not independent, and are often involved in falsifying criminal prosecutions. In turn, prosecutorial bodies with their dual functions of investigating crimes and supervising over investigations are not willing to investigate and expose false prosecutions due to the conflict of interests.
NC.54.   In 2004-2005, many victims of kidnapping did not disappear without trace, but were later found in lawful or quasi-lawful detention centers and subjected to falsified prosecution. Here is a common pattern that we have identified. A person suspected of involvement in IAF is unlawfully detained by uniformed personnel who fail to identify themselves, to notify the detainee of the reasons for arrest or where they are going. The detainee's relatives do not know whether the person has been taken by servicemen or bandits, and where they are taken. The detainee usually “disappears” for a while, up to a few days. During this time, those responsible for his detention try to force a confession, usually by subjecting him to cruel beatings and torture.
NC.55.   A defense lawyer appointed by the investigator fails to complain about torture being used against the suspect, to demand medical assistance or forensic assessment of the detainee’s health. During this time, the detainee’s relatives do not yet know his whereabouts and cannot hire another defense lawyer for him. The detainee is subjected to torture to force a confession of any crime he is suspected of, plus any other undetected crimes, and to get him to disclose anyone he knows to be involved in illegal activity - or to give false testimony against any other suspect. There is evidence that in addition to beatings and torture, psychological pressure is used against the detainee or his relatives, such as threats of sexual violence against the detainee, his wife, other family members, - and such threats are often a strong factor forcing the detainee's "confession." In the atmosphere of physical violence and psychological pressure, the suspect is told that it is better for him to “cooperate” with the investigator and sign everything they are told to sign, so that later the investigator will try to “help” him and make things better for him when the case goes to court.
NC.56.   Confessions are usually signed in the presence of the investigator, and then confirmed in the presence of lawyers. Then torture is no longer used, but the suspect is warned in advance that should he deny his testimony later, he will be subjected to even stronger pressure. These threats are usually fulfilled immediately should a suspect deny his testimony at the preliminary investigation stage. Suspects are instructed in details of their made-up crimes, with a special focus on what exactly they should do during investigative actions. Usually, a lawyer hired by the family is given access to the suspect after the latter has signed his “confession.” Even thought the lawyer may know about the illegal methods used against the defendant, he does not usually challenge them, fearing for his/her own safety. The defendant’s confession of a crime he is charged with becomes the sole evidence of his guilt.
NC.57.   Even in cases where the use of violence against the defendant was raised in court, the judge was usually unable to detect the falsification, give an adequate legal assessment of the procedural violations, and pass a fair verdict. It is extremely difficult to document torture in pre-trial detention. This system leaves little chance for fair punishment of the guilty and acquittal of the innocent. Complaints to federal supervisory authorities are usually sent back to local supervisory authorities that cover up the abuse committed by law enforcement and security agencies.
NC.58.   Thus, Mehti Mukhayev, born in 1958, resident of the mountainous village of Zumsoy, Itum-Kalinsky District of Chechnya, whose family applied to the European Court of Human Rights, was unlawfully detained and tortured for the purpose of falsified prosecution against him.
Mehti Mukhayev was kidnapped by armed and masked men in the night of 29 to 30 December, 2005, based on testimony of some Issa Gamayev who identified Mukhayev as a rebel fighter, member of an IAF. Later, Memorial received a letter from Issa Gamayev saying that he had testified against Mukhayev under torture. Gamayev sent a similar letter to the Chechen Republic Prosecutor’s Office.