Human Rights NGO’s and Kremlin

https://i0.wp.com/www.davidicke.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/legacy_images/stories/July20126/767dbd7b7b8dc3f745f05caf50be6242.jpg

source: HWR

 Russia: “Foreign Agents” Law Hits Hundreds of NGOs

(foreign agent = spy in Russian vocabulary)

In early March 2013 the Russian government launched an unprecedented, nationwide campaign of inspections of thousands of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify advocacy groups the government deems “foreign agents” and force them to register as such. The list below tracks the legal consequences of the law on dozens of NGOs.

Since the beginning of the “foreign agents” campaign, the Ministry of Justice filed 9 administrative cases against NGOs and 5 administrative cases against NGO leaders for failure to register under the “foreign agents” law.

The Ministry of Justice ordered the two NGOs against which it had filed administrative cases (both Golos groups) to suspend their activities for several months.

The prosecutors also filed at least 13 administrative cases against NGOs for refusing to provide documents during the inspection campaign and lost four of them (against the Foundation for Development of Modern Civil Society Institutions in Lipetsk, “Petersburg Aegis” in St. Petersburg and two against the Rainbow Foundation in Moscow).

On May 23 the State Duma adopted new amendments which allow Ministry of Justice to register independent groups as “foreign agents” without their consent.  On May 28 the Council of Federation endorsed the amendments. On June 4, 2014 President Putin signed the amendments into law.

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Moscow Blacklists Russian NGO Office That Announced Soldiers’ Deaths In Ukraine

source: rferl.org

Russia’s Justice Ministry has placed the Saint Petersburg branch of the Soldiers’ Mothers rights group on a blacklist of NGO’s acting as “foreign agents.”

The moves comes a day after Ella Polyakova and Sergei Krivenko, two members of the Russian presidential human rights council, announced more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in eastern Ukraine on August 13 near Snizhnye while helping pro-Russian separatists fight Ukrainian troops.

Polyakova heads the Soldiers’ Mothers branch in Saint Petersburg.

The Justice Ministry placed the office on the blacklist under a controversial 2012 law requiring many NGOs which receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

Under the law, every public statement must be accompanied by a notice that the speaker represents “an organization fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent.”

Russian denies its soldiers are fighting in Ukraine.

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Russia: A year on, Putin’s ‘foreign agents law’ choking freedom

Amnesty International report

The “foreign agents law” is part of a raft of repressive legislation brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.

The “foreign agents law” is part of a raft of repressive legislation brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency

A restrictive “foreign agents law” adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said today.

“One year after came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

The “foreign agents law” is at the center of a raft of repressive legislation that has been brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.

“The ‘foreign agents law’ was designed to stigmatise and discredit NGOs engaged in human rights, election monitoring and other critical work. It is providing a perfect pretext for fining and closing critical organisations and will cut often vital funding streams,” said John Dalhuisen.

Russian NGOs have unanimously and vocally refused to be branded “foreign agents”. The unannounced mass “inspections” of some 1,000 organizations during the spring and autumn of 2013 were widely publicized by media aligned with the Russian authorities.

The “inspections” were followed by persecution of several NGOs and their leaders through administrative proceedings and the courts, and more cases are expected to follow.

Since the “foreign agents law” came into being:

•        At least 10 NGOs have been taken to court by the Russian authorities for failing to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”.

•        At least five other NGOs across Russia have been taken to court following the “inspections” for purported administrative violations such as the failure to present requested documents.

•        At least 10 Russian NGO leaders have been ordered to comply with the “foreign agents law”.

•        And at least 37 NGOs have been officially warned that they will be in violation of the law if they continue to receive foreign funding and engage in arbitrarily defined “political activities”. This includes publishing online materials on human rights in Russia and not registering as “foreign agents”.

Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the Russia-wide movement “For Human Rights” told Amnesty International: “If we have to close down, thousands of people across Russia will suffer. If other NGOs are forced to close down – tens of thousands will suffer. Civil society will be doomed.”

“The ‘foreign agents law’ violates Russia’s national and international obligations to safeguard the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.  It should be repealed immediately,” said John Dalhuisen.

Chechnya today – “worse than war”

“It’s worse than a war. During the war, we weren’t so scared. We knew that we might be hit by a bullet, no one was safe from that. But now how can one
sleep through the night? They wake people, take them away, shoot them. I’m
terrified to talk, the prosecutor’s office is terrified – we’re all scared! At any moment [the security forces] might come after anyone of us. Ask anyone here – we are all weeping from fear.”
A father of a young man who was summarily executed in June, 2004, Chechnya, February 4, 2005

“During the war, you could always hide from the bombs. There was always somewhere you could run to. But today you don’t know who to trust. You start to doubt and be suspicious of even your own colleagues. That’s the most frightening thing, worse than during the war.”

Kheda Saratova, Human Rights advocate and head of the Information-Analytical Agency “Objective”

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The war is officially over in Chechnya. However, human rights violations continue to take place.

In 1999 during the second Chechen war, Vladimir Putin ordered federal cleansing operations during which all men aged 15-60 were held for interrogation. Following these operations, thousands of people have disappeared without a trace in the last 15 years.

Today, the operations have switched to “anti-terror operations” and they spread to Ingushetia and Dagestan, and occasionally to Kabardino-Balkaria or Karachai-Cherkessia.

In 2003, Vladimir Putin handed over responsibility to local militias in Chechnya after appointing Pro-Russian Ramzan Kadyrov as acting president, although Russian troops are still present in large numbers in the Chechen republic to carry out various operations. This process has been called “Chechenization” of the conflict.

As noted by photographer Stanley Greene who documented the Chechen conflicts for a decade – some of the men who work to “maintain order in Chechnya” are criminals released from prison. Photo and text by Greene

Vladimir Putin and Beslan Gantemirof. This poster plastered on the wall of a pro-Moscow Chechen shows Gantemirof, a criminal released from prison to take command of the pro-Russian forces in Chechnya. He was serving time for stealing reconstruction funds for Chechens from the 1995 war in Chechnya. Vladimir Putin, who has made the military campaign in Chechnya a deterrent to other would-be secessionists, has brushed aside any suggestion of foreign involvement on Russia’s turbulent southern rim.

Vladimir Putin and Beslan Gantemirof. This poster plastered on the wall of a pro-Moscow Chechen shows Gantemirof, a criminal released from prison to take command of the pro-Russian forces in Chechnya. He was serving time for stealing reconstruction funds for Chechens from the 1995 war in Chechnya. Vladimir Putin, who has made the military campaign in Chechnya a deterrent to other would-be secessionists, has brushed aside any suggestion of foreign involvement on Russia’s turbulent southern rim.

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Disappearances in Chechnya – Crime against humanity

A Human Rights Watch report (see here ) argues that the pattern of enforced disappearances in Chechnya has reached the level of a crime against humanity. It shows that, as part of Russia’s policy of “Chechenization” of the conflict, pro-Moscow Chechen forces have begun to play an increasingly active role in the conflict, gradually replacing federal troops as the main perpetrators of “disappearances” and other human rights violations.

Read more on Missing in North Caucasus – Where do people disappear?

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The following are reports of torture and murder against civilians, human rights activists and journalists which are taking place during peace-time. 

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Bombing of civilian targets continued

Although the second Chechen war ended in May 2000, bombing campaigns continued to take place.

In April 2004, the village of Rigakhoy was subjected to aerial attack. A family of 6 was killed, including 5 small children. Upon seeing the house ruins, the Military Prosecutor’s Office told Imar Damaev (father of the children) that there were no grounds for opening a criminal case, and that the house had been destroyed as a result of the explosion of a gas cylinder or an explosive device that Damaev himself had been storing.

Human Rights Center “Memorial” and the European Human Rights Advocacy Center assisted Imar Damaev in suing the Russian authorities for “violating the right of life” in respect to his relatives. The Court found Russia guilty.

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The following report describes the repeated looting, kidnappings and aerial attacks which took place in the village of Zumsoy in 2005 – click here

As a consequence, all the residents were forced to leave the village. In 2008, upon the return of a handful of residents in what was to be a state-sponsored rebuilding plan – the village was yet again attacked for unexplained reasons.

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Human rights abuses continued after war

Photographers Stanley Greene and Thomas Dworzak captured two such incidents.

Aki-Yurt, january 2003 Zulpa Zakrieva, 52, and her daughter in law Medina Vizirova, 28, left Sputnik refugee camp to attend a funeral in Urus Martan in Chechnya. Close to the checkpoint Kavkaz-1, a Russian tank drove straight over the little Zhiguli car in which they were travelling. It did not stop. Her car was crushed in an actthat the injured and concussed Zupla describes as “common practice”. She has seen many civilian cars smashed by tanks.

Aki-Yurt, january 2003
Zulpa Zakrieva, 52, and her daughter in law Medina Vizirova, 28, left Sputnik refugee camp to attend a funeral in Urus Martan in Chechnya. Close to the checkpoint Kavkaz-1, a Russian tank drove straight over the little Zhiguli car in which they were traveling. It did not stop. Her car was crushed in an act that the injured and concussed Zupla describes as “common practice”. She has seen many civilian cars smashed by tanks. Photo/ text by Stanley Greene

Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Hospital #9. More than a dozen civilians where heavily injured when a Russian Army APC run into a bus with Chechen civilians. Reckless APC driving is a common complaint of Chechens. Photo/ info by Thomas Dworzak

More of Dworzak photo series here

Grozny Chechnya after war 2 North Caucasus wars

 

Inside the torture chambers of Grozny

For six years, the torture chamber lay hidden in the cellars of what had once been an orphanage for deaf children. The residents of Grozny’s October district knew about it. They could hear the screams emanating from its sinister bowels.

The Russian authorities who first controlled it, though, insisted that it was just an ordinary prison.

56-year old teacher returned a crippled man after 3 months of detention

The Chechen government the Kremlin appointed to succeed them denied it existed at all. But when representatives from the Russian human rights group Memorial managed to sneak in this summer just before the building’s demolition, the truth was finally laid bare.

The chilling graffiti on the prison’s walls, some of it written in blood, gave some of the most compelling evidence yet of what activists had claimed for years: state-sanctioned torture had been carried out in Chechnya, perhaps systematically, ever since Russian forces took Grozny in early 2000.

Inmates had scrawled their names and even the dates of their incarceration across the chamber’s fetid walls alongside desperate messages of the ordeals they had suffered.

“What day is it?” read one. “What year is it? Am I still alive?”

Those inmates who survived at the October prison had frequently tried to complain about their experiences, but they had been ignored. With the new evidence, however, the Kremlin may now have to listen to their stories.

One of the most harrowing is told by Alavdi Sadykov, a 56-year-old former PE teacher, who spent three months in the prison in 2000. Mr Sadykov does not know for sure why he was arrested, or why he was tortured for 83 days or even why he was released when so many of his fellow inmates were killed.

Six years later, still looking for answers and justice, Mr Sadykov told his story from his grimy one-room home on the outskirts of Grozny.

Moments after he was dragged into the October prison in March 2000, a sack over his head, he felt the blows of rifle butts smashing down on to his body that would become part of a grim daily routine for the next three months.

He vividly recalled a mock execution ordered by one of his chief tormentors, a man he identified as Igor who would frequently make him eat his own excrement.

“There was blood everywhere,” he recalled. “On the floor, on the walls. I could see brain tissue on the ceiling. Under my foot I saw a severed finger.

“They made me face the wall and then fired a few rounds above my head. After that they said they were going to play football and I was the football. I prayed for my own death.”

Soon after, Igor entered the cell with a colleague called Alexander. “Alexander knocked me off my feet and then stepped on my leg. He took a large souvenir dagger from his vest, pinched my left ear and cut it off.”

Barely conscious, he watched as Alexander cut off the ears of other inmates and killed at least one of them. The next day Alexander returned wearing a necklace of severed human ears.

When a new unit took over the prison, Mr Sadykov was eventually released without explanation.

Despite his harrowing ordeal, he remembered and then recorded the names of his tormentors – officers from the Khanty-Mansyisk division of the Russian army.

With the help of sympathetic officials in the Chechen administration, he even tracked down their addresses in Russia, evidence that could become crucial in the quest of so many held at the October prison for justice.

According to Natalya Estemirova, the head of the Memorial office in Grozny, there may be 15 secret torture chambers still operating in Chechnya.

It is not something the Kremlin, which is intent on showing that things have improved in Chechnya, wants to hear.

There is no doubt that some things have changed. Beneath the freshly painted facades of newly built internet cafes and coffee houses, drivers in recently purchased Ladas do battle on the Grozny’s Victory Boulevard.

Even if most of the city is still a ruin, Grozny is finally being rebuilt, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is able to show some tangible evidence to support his claims that the brutal second Chechen war is over.

Yet people still live in fear, not of the handful of militants still lurking in the mountains or even of Russian forces who brought misery to the province for so long, but of the fellow Chechens the Kremlin has chosen to lead them.

Around the city are placed militiamen in army fatigues – members of a 10,000-strong private army that pledges fealty to Ramzan Kadyrov, the lion-owning, 30-year-old prime minister anointed by the Kremlin.

Former rebels turned loyalists, many are radical Muslims bent on imposing the strict Islamic strictures Russia once fought to eradicate from the province. In recent months, they have shaved the heads of women accused of adultery, before stripping their victims and beating them.

Video footage of their ordeals are circulated by mobile phones as a warning to others.

It is not just women who have suffered at their hands, as anyone present in the village of Kurchaloi on Aug 5 would testify.

From a gas pipe suspended in the village square, hung the severed head of a rebel leader the Kadyrovtsy, as they are known, had captured two days earlier.

Russia’s top investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, was among those watching the gruesome scene that late summer’s day. She was shot dead by an assassin.

In an article published posthumously, Mrs Politkovskaya alleged that the man responsible for the atrocity in Kurchaloi was Mr Kadyrov’s former deputy, Idris Gaibov. Among other cases she highlighted was the ordeal of Mr Sadykov.

Mrs Politkovskaya had dedicated her professional life to chronicling human rights abuses in Chechnya, and her murder caused outrage around the world.

She had worked courageously and methodically to expose the lie that torture in Chechnya had died.

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Unofficial Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights published a list containing unofficial places of detention in Chechnya, which were under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, and were then gradually transferred to the militias lead by Pro-Russian leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

” The existence of numerous places of illegal detention is a novel trait of the present penitentiary system of Chechnya. Filtration camps, zindan pits, metal storage containers put into pits and filled with water, underground pedestrian street-crossings used as illegal prisons – everything of this kind has existed for quite some time now in in the Chechen Republic. “

Click on the link below to see the full 37 page report, including the full list of detention sites.

http://www.refworld.org/docid/46963b020.html

 Usam Baysayev, a Human Rights Center “Memorial” employee recounts one of the hundreds of stories he worked on, which involved the use of a detention place as those described above – a tank filled with water.

The 21st Century: Is it Still Possible to Hide Monstrous Crimes?

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January 13,  2009 – 27 year-old Umar Israilov ran on the streets of Vienna when he saw two men approaching him. The men pursued him and shot him repeatedly. Umar died on the way to hospital.

Umar Israilov Austria Russia chechen men murder

Umar Israilov (left) and Ramzan Kadyrov (right)

Umar had pledged for protection from police, fearing his life was in danger. According to an Austrian news report, his pledges were ignored and an important key-witness was deported back to Russia, where he disappeared without a trace. After Israilov’s murder, the police was accused of negligence (source).

Within a few months, the Austrian police linked Chechen president Kadyrov to the murder case.

Ignorierte_die_Polizei_Hinweise_auf_bevorstehende_Tat-Israilov-Mord-Story-219038_476x250px_2_Jy8UeVXtkZn3M

Umar Israilov was a former bodyguard of Ramzan Kadyrov. He had arrived in Austria two years earlier as political refugee. He formally accused Russia’s government of allowing a macabre pattern of crimes in Chechnya.

In written legal complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, Mr. Israilov described many brutal acts by Mr. Kadyrov and his subordinates, including executions of illegally detained men. One executed man, Mr. Israilov said, had been beaten with a shovel handle by Mr. Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov, now a member of Russia’s Parliament. Another prisoner was sodomized by a prominent police officer and at Mr. Kadyrov’s order put to death.

Mr. Israilov said he and others had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov, who amused himself by personally giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.

Israilov’s father had also been detained and tortured for a period of 11 months. According to him, Umar fought against the Russian forces during the second Chechen war, most probably as revenge for his mother’s death during the first war. He was captured in 2003 and forced to become part of Kadyrov’s team. This didn’t spare him from being tortured and threatened and he also was forced to witness various crimes.

The application of Umar Israilov’s father at the European Court of Human Rights is available here Israilov application (pdf file). He describes the tortures he was subjected to and other events he witnessed during the 11 month detention period.

Read Umar’s full story here, including details of the tortures applied by Ramzan Kadyrov himself – Slain Exile Detailed Cruelty of the Ruler of Chechnya

In June 2014, Gerard Depardieu (friends with Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin) hit Russian theaters with his new movie “Viktor,” starring Depardieu and British actress Elizabeth Hurley. Shot in Moscow and Chechnya, it purports to be a revenge film, with Depardieu taking on the criminal underworld that killed his son. It also presents the “extraordinary redevelopment” of Chechnya under Russian rule.

The movie contains torture scenes, an uneasy detail considering human rights organizations have accused  Ramzan Kadyrov of such crimes. On a different note, another movie presenting Chechen deportations was banned this year in Russia

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DISTURBING CONTENT

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Prosecuting human rights violations in Chechnya

Former Russian army colonel Yury Budanov had been convicted of killing 18-year-old Elza Kungayeva.

Yuri Budanov

elza kungaeva's mother chechen girl murdered

Elza’s mother

elza kungaeva chechen girl murdered

Elza’s father and brother

Russian officer Yuri Budanov was one of only a handful of Russian officers to be prosecuted over what human rights groups say are widespread atrocities in Chechnya. In 2003, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the kidnap, rape and murder of Elza Kungaeva, 18-year-old girl from Chechnya.

On 24 December 2008, the court satisfied Budanov’s request to release him prior the end of the term.

Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov presented the interests of the family of Elza Kungaeva‘s family; he appealed the court ruling on granting Budanov parole.

Markelov had also represented Anna Politkovskaya (journalist murdered in 2006), Mikhail Beketov (journalist severely beaten in 2008), victims of the Moscow theater hostage crisis (who seeked compensation from the Russian state for the mishandling of the rescue operation) and Chechen civilians who had been tortured.

After attending a press conference regarding Budanov’s release, the lawyer was shot in the face in broad daylight together with a female colleague, 25 year old Anastasia Baburova.  According to Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, the details of the murder indicate the involvement of Russian state security services.

Stanislav Markelov

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Detention and “questioning”

On 27 April 2010, 20 year-old Zelimkhan Chitigov was taken away by 30 armed officers from his home. He was a Chechen refugee living in Ingushetia.

zelimkhan chitigov chechen men victims russia

On 29 April 2010 at 14:05, police officers from the Karabulak OVD conducted a search of the rooms where Chitigov lived with his family while his family was absent. While searching the children’s room, they allegedly found a grenade. His mother is certain that the grenade was planted.

When Zelimkhan’s mother went to question the authorities, the head of the criminal investigation told them that Zelimkhan would be shown on TV giving his confession. Officially, in accordance to the interrogator’s petition, Zelimkhan was officially arrested on 30 April 2010 at 20:00, more than two days after his abduction.

Zelimkhan became sick during the court proceedings and he was taken by ambulance with police escort to the hospital. In a conversation with a lawyer, Zelimkhan said that police officers beat and tortured him. The lawyer made a request for a medical examination, but it was not granted. The denial was challenged in court, but the court also rejected the petition.

While in hospital, Zelimkhan was allegedly forced to decline a lawyer. His lawyer was also advised to decline the case.

Chitigov was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair as he was not able to walk on his own. The arguments of the lawyers with reference to  Chitigov’s condition did not have an effect on the court and he was left under arrest.

As of 18 June 2010, Zelimkhan Chitigov remained under arrest in the hospital with the following diagnosis:

– burns caused by electrical shock

– muscle injuries

– brain trauma

– ataxic aphasia

– lower back injuries

– spinal chord injury

– lower body paralysis

– pelvic organ injuries causing incontinence

– severe post-traumatic stress disorder with a general stress-induced speech impediment

– kidney damage

– ear canal abscesses

– numerous injuries to the torso

– third degree burns on his feet.

Zelimkhan couldn’t walk on his own and spoke with difficulty.

Despite several attempts by Zelimkhan’s family to urge the authorities to identify and prosecute those responsible for his detention and torture, an investigation into his case began only after a protest was staged by local police officers who refused to obey what they called “unlawful orders to use violence”.

On December 5 2011, the mother of the victim Zelimkhan Chitigov moved a petition on providing her family with state protection after reportedly receiving threats from the defendants. The judge rejected the petition and the family was forced to leave Russia.

In October 2012, the court found several ex-officers guilty of torture. The case had gained attention due to the involvement of Memorial  group – basically the only Human Rights still acting in North Caucasus.

Zelimkhan has recovered from the vegetative state, but he was left disabled and has a speech impediment.

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Federal force abuses spilled into neighboring republics 

Suspected "terrorist" killed in his home in Dagestan. Over 100 bullets were found in his body. No proof has been brought to link the man to terrorist organizations. His family sued the Russian security forces, but to no avail. (source)

Suspected terrorist killed in his home in Dagestan. Over 100 bullets were found in his body. No proof has been brought to link the man to terrorist organizations. His family sued the Russian security forces but to no avail. (source)

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who devoted herself to uncovering human rights abuses in Chechnya during and after the end of the war. One after the other, she uncovered physical proof of serious human rights abuses, including the false amnesty promised by Vladimir Putin himself.

In 2006, she was shot in her apartment building.

anna-politkovskaya-russian-women-journalists-murdered

Her last (unfinished) report regarded proof of torture in detention centers. Photos from video extracts

Her last (unfinished) report regarded proof of torture in detention centers. Photos from video extracts

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Natalia Estemirova

Friends and colleague of Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova was another human rights activist and Memorial center employee who succeeded Anna in her work. She uncovered numerous abuses taking place in Chechnya and she was living in Grozny, when she herself fell victim to kidnapping and murder in 2009.

After Estemirova’s murder, Memorial Human Rights Group closed its offices.

Natalia Estemirova in Grozny Chechnya war Russia victim

Natalia in Grozny 2005

A month later, two aid workers (husband and wife) were abducted from their office. Their bodies were found 2 days later, the pregnant woman bared signs of beating. www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/2123

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Natalia's work is carried on by the "Joint Mobile Group", a group of human rights workers who work in teams of three people one month each (through rotation), to ensure continuation of the work in case one of them is hurt. The team received threats from the Chechen leader in a televised appearance in 2012 (source).

Natalia’s work is carried on by the “Joint Mobile Group”, a group of human rights workers who work in teams of 3 people through rotation – one month each, in order to ensure continuation of the work in case one of them is hurt. The team received threats from the Chechen leader in a televised appearance in 2012 (source).

More about Joint Mobile Group – Monitoring Rights in Chechen Region, a Month at a Time

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A few weeks after Anna’s murder, an ex-FSB officer who had accused Putin of ordering political killings and of orchestrating the 1999 apartment bombings (which were blamed on Chechnya) gave his last breath in London following intentional poisoning. These are his last words written on his death bed – from Alexander Litvineneko.

“As I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

“You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed. You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value.

“You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women. You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. “

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New Anti-Terrorism Law to Target Families of North Caucasus Insurgents

New legislation adopted by the Russian parliament in November aimed at punishing families and relatives of terrorist suspects, intends to legalize the “hard” form of counter-insurgency already practiced in several North Caucasus republics.

One of the common punishment practices involves destruction of property (blowing up residences) on the basis of suspicion. Upon proof of innocence, no compensation is offered  (read more here).

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Conclusion from Human Rights Watch report regarding the current situation in Chechnya (and elsewhere)

Perpetrators of crimes against humanity are criminally responsible for their acts. Given the particular seriousness of these crimes, international law sets out special rules of responsibility for them. Thus, criminal responsibility cannot be avoided by invoking that the suspect holds an official position including that of head of state (referring to the lack of reaction from the international community). Statutes of limitations do not run in the cases of crimes against humanity and those responsible do not benefit from refuge in third countries.

Officials have often tried to attribute these crimes to Chechen fighters. However, it is inconceivable that ordinary criminals or Chechen rebel groups could so freely and openly stage the abduction and murder of hundreds of people without interference of the authorities in areas of Chechnya that have been under Russian control since early 2000. Thus, direct and circumstantial evidence points to forces under Kadyrov’s command and other Russian units.

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UPDATE: In 2013, Kremlin promulgated a law which restricts the activity of Human Rights organizations. More here Human Rights and Kremlin

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Abuses in the Russian army

source: Human Rights Watch, BBC News, English Pravda

Russian soldier boys North Caucasus

Young conscript soldiers being “disciplined” for being deserters or committing other petty crimes. WARNING video contains disturbing content 

Conscription in Russia is a 12 month draft, mandatory for all male citizens age 18–27. The mandatory term of service was reduced from 18 months at the beginning of 2008.

“Dedovshchina” is the subjection of new junior conscripts to brutalization by the conscripts serving their last year of compulsory military service, as well as NCOs and officers. It is often cited as a major source of poor morale in the ranks.

In the last 25 years, the abuse in the Russian army has risen to human rights violations.

Young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of dedovshchina. Tens of thousands of soldiers run away, while thousands more are left physically and or mentally scarred.
The Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia was created in 1989 in order to protect the rights of young soldiers.

In 2012, a draftee from Chelyabinsk region, Ruslan Aiderkhanov, was raped and tortured to death by his seniors. The lone witness who testified against the alleged perpetrators, Danil Chalkin, was later found shot dead in his military base. A contract soldier, Alikbek Musabekov was later arrested in this incident. (read news report here)

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Arkady Babchenko, veteran of the Chechen war:

Russian boy soldier Chechnya

Arkady and his parents before his departure for Chechnya

“It’s no longer a secret in Russia. It’s existed for 30 years. We never talk about it in the media, but nothing has changed. They’re just the rules of the game. If you have a son, you know one day he’ll have to leave for two years to do military service, and that for those two years, he’ll be beaten. The military reflects society, therefore, if society is cruel, the military will be cruel.”

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Russian soldier jailed for abuse

Bullying victim Andrei Sychev

The victim, Andrei Sychev, developed gangrene after being told to crouch

A Russian soldier has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for abusing a conscript soldier so badly that his legs and genitals required amputation.

The incident took place at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy in the Ural Mountains on New Year’s Eve 2005, while Sgt Sivyakov’s unit went on a drinking spree to celebrate the holiday.

The conscript soldier was tied to a chair and beaten, and made to crouch for so long that the blood flow to his legs was cut off and he developed gangrene.

Nine months after the attack, he remains in hospital.

Sivyakov, was convicted of exceeding his authority and using violence. He always denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution had demanded a penalty of six years in jail. Pte Sychev’s family denounced the punishment – even before it was handed out – as inadequate.

More than 6,000 soldiers were victims of abuse last year, the military has said.

Junior Sgt. Aleksandr V. Sivyakov is charged with abusing Private Sychyov. He has pleaded not guilty.

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SEX SLAVERY

According to the UN International Panel for Struggle against Sexual Exploitation, the Russian army is plagued with male prostitution. A small amount of money is enough to find a Russian soldier-prostitute in the center of Moscow.

Servicemen may become male prostitutes in the Russian army for various reasons. There are young men who voluntarily offer sexual favors to their homosexual clients; others are forced into prostitution against their own will. Newcomers, especially those who finished higher schools before joining the army, suffer from sexual harassment more often than others. Brave soldiers try to protect their honor and rights, although there is no one to help them: commanders and military officials may often be involved in the sex business too.

“When I was standing on duty, two bullies came up to me and shoved me into the stockroom, a soldier serving at one of Moscow’s military units recollects. “They raped me there in turn. It was very painful and revolting. It didn’t take them much time to finish, but the next day I started noticing other soldiers giving me strange looks. I instantly realized that those bastards let everyone know what they had done to me. An officer came up to me one day and said to me point-blank: “Tomorrow you will to serve two clients.” I knew that if I said “no” then I would spend my last days spitting blood. But still, I told him “no.” When the officer heard that, he pulled out pictures of me being raped in the stockroom. “If you don’t serve the clients, you mother will see these pictures,” said he. I was forced into prostitution,” the soldier said.

Another serviceman, named only as Ilya, became a male prostitute during his second month in the army. The young man received a letter from his girlfriend. “The sergeant told me that day that I would no longer need girls. He and three other men forced me to go behind the barracks to the abandoned construction site. They made me kneel their, tied me up to a lamppost and hit me several times in the groin. The pain was so strong that I lost the will to fight them back. They made me open my mouth and raped me. I don’t remember how long it continued. When I came to my senses I didn’t want to live. I was seriously thinking about committing suicide. I was shocked that the rapists were visiting me regularly afterwards bringing fruit and vodka for me. When it ended they made me a prostitute,” Ilya said.

There were many incidents when soldiers prefer bid farewell to their lives being unable to cope with humiliation. However, military officials mostly say that such stories occur because of the unbalanced state of mind of the soldiers.

FULL STORY HERE http://english.pravda.ru/society/stories/15-02-2007/87441-army_prostitute-0

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  Boys beaten by older officer. The abuse gets gradually worse

International group Human Rights Watch has published a detailed study of what it calls “horrific violence” against new conscripts in the Russian army.

The 86-page report was called “The Wrongs of Passage: Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of New Recruits in the Russian Armed Forces”

The report says organized bullying has not only continued since Soviet times, but has become harsher.

Human Rights Watch says that although the abuse has been known about for several years, Russia’s leadership has done nothing to address the problem.

One conscript, Alexander D, told Human Rights Watch that “the one way to avoid physical abuse was complete submission – turning into a ‘lackey’ who does whatever he is asked no matter how humiliating or senseless”.

He says he was repeatedly beaten for refusing to sew collars on senior soldiers’ jackets. Another time Alexander D’s belongings were taken away and he was sent out, along with others, to beg for money to buy vodka.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that most conscripts are ill-educated and frequently come from backgrounds with severe social problems, the report says.

Many junior officers either do not care about the welfare of their soldiers, or passively encourage the bullying as it gives a certain “discipline” to the barrack block.

First-year conscripts could also be forced to act out an old army joke called “dried crocodile”, he says.

The conscripts had to put their hands and feet on the posts at the head and feet of the bed and remain in push-up position for long periods of time.

“They [the dedy] lie down on the bed [beneath you] and God forbid you fall. They beat you up and then start from scratch. Sometimes they even burn your leg from down there… when they were drunk they could make you hang all night.”

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March 1994 – Mass shooting committed by two abuse victims 

MOSCOW — For months, the two young draftees had been subjected to the routine cruelty inflicted on Russian army recruits. Then came a painful, ritualized hazing to mark the completion of basic training.

Such abuse is common throughout Russia’s armed forces. Its teenage victims frequently end up with serious injuries. An alarming number are killed or driven to commit suicide.

Almost always, the mistreatment is ignored or covered up. This time, though, the results were so unusual-and so ghastly-that there was no way the army could keep them secret.

The tragedy unfolded at a remote base on a bleak, impoverished island in the Pacific Ocean. In the wee hours of the morning last Tuesday, the two recruits decided they had had enough. They crept into the room where their tormentors were sleeping and opened fire with machine guns.

When the shooting stopped, 6 soldiers were dead and 3 others were badly wounded, according to official reports. The two recruits, identified only as Beltsov and Agdashev, then held off an army assault, even shooting down a helicopter, before finally surrendering hours later.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the barracks murders on the tiny island of Tanfilyev near Japan is how little they shocked ordinary Russians, who long have accepted vicious brutality as an unavoidable fact of military life.

“The relationship between older and younger soldiers is very primitive, almost on a savage level,” said Vladimir Romanov, a retired army colonel who did five years of research on the physical and psychological abuse of recruits and now teaches at a Moscow military academy.

“The root of the problem lies in the broader society, where people have been dehumanized and denied their rights for such a long time. The situation in the army is just a mirror of this. New recruits are treated like they have no rights. Older soldiers feel they can do whatever they like to them.”

FULL STORY HERE In Russia’s Army, Cruelty A Way Of Life

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SUICIDE OR MURDER?

It is suspected that many reported suicides in the Russian Army are in fact cases where the soldiers were simply “hazed to death”. Read about the case of Ruslan Ayderkhanov here The Ayderkhanov Case.

Official letter from the Human Rights group “Memorial” addressed to the president of the Russian Federation Appeal to President Medvedev by Human Rights Defenders on the Death of Ruslan Ayderkhanov

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“The lost boys” – photo series by Heidi Bradner about Russian conscript soldiers in Chechnya, most of them inexperienced 18-19 years olds

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus lost boys

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus war tank

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus wounded

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys North Caucasus

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus wars

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys table

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers war

Russian soldiers boys mother

Russian soldier mother

Russian soldier in Chechnya war North Caucasus checkpoint

Russian soldier stands at checkpoint in Chechnya. Photo by Stanley Greene

The currency of passage at Russian checkpoints in Chechnya was often cigarettes. Sometimes it was food to fight off starvation. The Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committees of Russia joined with Chechen women in Nazran to find their lost sons, often lacking even basic information such as the regiment name. Critics claimed that the Russian army treated its conscripts as cannon fodder or slave labour for officers. Source: theaftermathproject.org

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News report

Two young conscripts humiliated, then physically abused by a larger group in the dorm rooms

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Read more in Torture and atrocitiesIn Russia, winning wars has always been a matter of quantity, not quality,” said one conscript. “They don’t even count us as losses. We’re just meat.” A few episodes describe young “poorly-dressed exhausted soldiers” being sent ahead of the infamous mop up operations to check passports. They warn villagers of the massacre that the “bloodhounds” (Special Forces teams and contract soldiers) are being sent to carry on soon.

Read more in Chechnya veterans – How Russia treats its ‘heroes’Orders given under the influence of alcohol lead to unnecessary loss of young conscripts’ lives. Neglect by government, authorities and medical staff. For survivors – the return to a life of poverty, social rejection and humiliation.

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya - first war

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya – first war

Conscripts

Russian conscript soldier

Chechen rebel “mole” – story of betrayal

source: Radio  Free Europe, Eurasia Daily Monitor

On January 23 2013, a group of rebel fighters lead by Gakayev brothers was “eliminated” during a shootout in the mountains of Chechnya, in Vedeno district.

The fighters had reportedly been pursued for days by a contingent of several thousand Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen police and security forces, who deployed combat helicopters and heavy artillery against them. They might have managed to escape, had their precise whereabouts not reportedly been betrayed, possibly under torture, by a member of the group.

At the time of the fighting, Chechen security forces was quoted as saying rebel fighter Islam Temishev (age 22) surrendered to the authorities following a gun battle on January 23 with Gakayev rebel group.

In the weeks after, it was revealed that Temishev was one of several “moles” who had infiltrated the rebels’ ranks over the past few years.

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In this video, Islam Temishev and other alleged “mole” Algiriev Beslan – are seen talking as unsuspected members of the rebel group. The third man showing up in the video, Islam Atiev (age 24) was killed later in December 2013.

Islam Temishev and

Islam Temishev and Algiriev Beslan

Chechen rebel spies infiltrated in the rebel group

Chechen rebel spies infiltrated in the rebel group

Islam Atiev (kiled in december 2013) and 2 rebel fighters killed with Gukayev brothers

Islam Atiev (killed december 2013) and 2 rebel fighters killed during the January 2013 rebel-army confrontation

chechen men-rebels-north-caucasus people-chechnya-war-32

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Video of the questioning of the second spy (Algiriev Beslan) dispatched by the government. The rebels also show devices the spy possessed: —miniature bombs that were to be planted under certain commanders, signaling devices that were supposed to alert government forces about rebel locations, and so on. Algiriev Beslan says he was tortured and coerced into cooperating with government forces.

The video was designed to show that the government’s successes were the result of the “moles” they plant among the rebels. At the end of the questioning, the alleged spy is executed.

http://vk.com/video201291309_164872333?hash=5cc27f17dc3b8d9d

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On January 23, the pro-insurgency website Chechenews.com reported receiving information that the group had telephoned with the news that they were surrounded and had no hope of surviving. Video footage shows Muslim Gakayev having a head wound bandaged; another fighter asks jokingly why the enemy can’t fire more quietly.

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Islam Temishev together with Russian and pro-Russian Chechen forces during the January 23 rebel-army battle

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Bodies of the rebel group members in the forest

GRAPHIC FOOTAGE

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Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov shows up on television with Islam Temishev, whom he questions (among other things) about life inside the rebel enclave. Kadyrov portrays rebels as cowards and promises severe punishment.

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On the night of February 18, the men accused by Islam Temishev of providing food and other essentials to the rebels – were brought to Vedeno and were humiliated by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in front of television cameras. One of the men was terminally-ill Said Gunkbayev (pictured below).

 

Said Gunkbayev on TV

Said Gunkbayev

At the end of the broadcast,  the media sources announced that “despite the severity of the crimes committed, Ramzan Kadyrov gave them a chance and let them go”. However, after the televised appearance a few of the men “disappeared” (common phenomenon in the region) and Said Gunkbayev’s body was found with signs of torture.

*A new measure to combat terrorism installed by Akhmad Kadyrov and later by his son Ramzan Kadyrov – extends the punishment of rebel fighters to their families and even neighbors, even if there is no proof of direct involvement or knowledge of their relative’s actions. Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights group and its member Natalya Estemirova accused Kadyrov of human rights violations in the “fight against terror”. Natalia Estemirova was murdered in July 2009 in Grozny.
(Source: “What Your Children Do Will Touch Upon You” Human Rights Watch report)