Oleg Orlov (on the left) and Alexander Cherkasov. Photo by Yelena Sannikova (elena-n-s.livejournal.com)

13 September 2023, 21:46

Rights defenders recall unpunished kidnappings in Chechnya

During the years of the counterterrorist operation (CTO) and the rule of Ramzan Kadyrov, thousands of people disappeared in Chechnya, but Russia failed to take measures to investigate their disappearances, says the report by Oleg Orlov and Alexander Cherkasov, human rights defenders. They called on the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to take measures to investigate the kidnappings, in particular, to set up an international court for the crimes against humanity committed in Chechnya.

For more than 20 years, a brutal state-created system of enforced disappearances has been operating in Chechnya; thousands of people have fallen victim thereof. As a result, in the 21st century, Russia is the European leader in the number of enforced disappearances, states a report prepared by Oleg Orlov, a co-chair of the "Memorial" Centre for Defence of Human Rights, and Alexander Cherkasov, a board member of the Centre, for a joint project of the "Crude Accountability" Organization, the Working Group on Turkmenistan and the Working Group on Counteracting Torture of the "Civic Solidarity Platform" (CSP).

The above human rights defenders have noted that since 2009, Russian authorities "have completely ignored the calls of international organizations." Now this system works as a mechanism of terror against the population, by completely suppressing any opposition to Kadyrov's regime.

Already during the First Chechen War (1994-1996), many people detained by militaries or servicemen of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) then disappeared.

The Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial"* documented the disappearance of more than 1250 people in 1999-2001 (bodies of some of them were later found). In 2002-2009, the HRC collected information about the disappearance of 1976 residents of Chechnya.

The "Memorial" can claim that during the ten years of the CTO conducted in Chechnya, some from 3000 to 5000 persons disappeared as a result of kidnappings, illegal arrests and detentions.

It is noted in the report that in 2000-2004, federal law enforcement bodies were responsible for residents' disappearances. The most famous site of a mass grave of kidnapped people was found in February 2001 near Khankala, the main Russian military base in Chechnya, where bodies of 51 people were found, according to official figures. All those found were victims of extrajudicial executions: most had their throats cut, their hands tied, and they were shot in the head.

Natalia Estemirova, an employee of the HRC "Memorial", who covered the topic of forced disappearances for many years, fell victim to an abduction and subsequent murder.

Those who disappeared without traces included those suspected of involvement in the armed underground, critics of Kadyrov's regime, such as Salman Tepsurkaev, the moderator of a Telegram channel, and those who are "caught" in homosexual relations, for example, the famous singer Zelimkhan Bakaev.

Kidnappings continue: according to an opposition Telegram channel, 952 people were kidnapped in 2022.

*On December 29, 2021, by the decision of the Moscow City Court, the Russian legal entities of the "International Memorial" and the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" were liquidated. Activists of the organizations have reported that both organizations will continue their work without forming legal entities.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on September 12, 2023 at 08:26 pm MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

Source: Caucasian Knot

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