Persons in Chechnya continue to "disappear" in the custody of
Russian forces, Human Rights Watch charged today. Days after
the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva introduced a
resolution on the situation in Chechnya, Human Rights Watch
released a new 49-page report, Last Seen…: Continued
"Disappearances" in Chechnya, detailing 87 cases of
"disappearances" carried out between September 2000 and
January 2002. The actual total of "disappearances" is believed
to be far higher. "Ordering the military to behave will never
be enough to change things on the ground. The only effective way
to end 'disappearances' is to investigate and prosecute those
responsible for carrying them out." Elizabeth AndersenExecutive
Director, Europe and Central Asia divisionHuman Rights Watch
Related MaterialPhoto GalleryProfiles of the "disappeared"Video
clipInterviews with relatives of the "disappeared" Last Seen…: Continued
"Disappearances" in Chechnya view the report onlineDownload the report
(PDF) U.N. Commission Urged to Act on Chechnya HRW Press Release,
March 14, 2002 More on Human Rights in Russia and Chechnya
"There is no real accountability on 'disappearances' in Chechnya,"
said Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's
Europe and Central Asia division. "The U.N. Commission on Human Rights must
acknowledge this, and press Russia to invite U.N. monitors to investigate."
Human Rights Watch was strongly critical of the efforts of Russian authorities
to curb abuses by its security forces. Russian authorities have introduced
some improvements, including better access to complaint mechanisms, the
formal opening of investigations in most cases, and the introduction of
two decrees requiring the presence of civilian investigators and other
nonmilitary personnel during all large-scale military operations and targeted
search and seizure operations. These welcome changes notwithstanding, most
abuses remain uninvestigated and unpunished. Civilian prosecutors lack
authority to investigate crimes by the military and military prosecutors
make little effort to look into allegations of abuse. There is also
credible evidence that the military obstructs investigations, notably by
transferring accused security and law enforcement personnel to avoid having
"Ordering the military to behave will never be enough
to change things on the ground," said Andersen. "The only effective way to
end 'disappearances' is to investigate and prosecute those responsible for
carrying them out.
"While large-scale fighting in Chechnya nominally ended
in 2000, Russian forces continue to detain hundreds of people without
charges in the ongoing operations against Chechen rebel forces. Most are
subsequently released, but dozens remain unaccounted for - "disappeared" -
and are not seen by their families again. Relatives' inquiries to Russian
authorities as to whereabouts are met with denials that the "disappeared"
persons were ever in custody.
In March 2001, Human Rights Watch published
a report documenting 52 cases of forced disappearances that occurred from
September 1999 through February 2001. The new report documents 80 cases
of "disappearances" that took place in 2001 alone.
"The scale of the
ongoing 'disappearances' belies any notion that forced disappearances
of civilians in Chechnya is a problem of the past," said Andersen.
The rise in the number of disappearances in targeted raids on private
residences is a particularly disturbing new development. The case of
Adam Sagaev is typical. Masked men burst into Sagaev's home in the village
of Gekhi at 2:00 a.m. on December 14, 2001 and took him away. According
to a witness, the men identified themselves as part of the Urus-Martan
military commander's office and claimed they had proof that Sagaev was a
rebel fighter, an allegation his family has denied. Sagaev's relatives
were unable to locate him, as the military commander's office refused to
speak to them, and Ministry of Internal Affairs officials denied he was
in custody in Urus-Martan. His whereabouts remain unknown.