Doc. 8948

23 January 2001

Conflict in the Chechen Republic - recent developments

Opinion1

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur: Mr Rudolf Bindig, Germany, Socialist Group

I.       Conclusions of the Committee

1.        The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights fully supports the draft resolution and the draft recommendation tabled by the Political Affairs Committee.

2.        The Committee concludes that the key problem from a human rights perspective remains the lack of accountability for crimes committed by federal servicemen and the personnel of law-enforcement agencies against civilians and the resulting impunity which, in turn, encourages further human rights violations by the Russian federal forces operating in the Chechen Republic and leads to unnecessary and unacceptable suffering among the civilian population. Whatever else the Russian authorities do to improve the situation in the Chechen Republic, including economic and social reconstruction efforts, if they do not tackle and solve the problem of impunity, there will be no settlement of the Chechen conflict, nor peace in the Republic. It is high time for the Russian authorities to act.

3.        The Committee condemns the violation of the rules of international humanitarian law perpetrated by Chechen fighters, who menace and kill civilians (and their families) co-operating with the Russian-appointed Chechen administration, who take hostages, and lay mines and other explosive devices in ways aimed at causing maximal civilian casualties. These actions are not only deeply reprehensible in and of themselves, but also further weaken the chances of any political settlement of the Chechen conflict.

4.        The Committee thus proposes the following amendments:

To the draft resolution:

Amendment A:

In paragraph 8 (iii), insert between “disappearances” and “and homicides” the following words:

“arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, ill-treatment”

Amendment B:

Add the following sentence at the end of paragraph 9:

Amendment C:

Add the following new paragraph after paragraph 14:

      “The Assembly deplores that the responsibility for the federal operations in the Chechen Republic has been shifted to the FSB (domestic secret service), and is of the opinion that the Chechen civilian administration should be strengthened instead.”To

To the draft recommendation:

Amendment D:

Add a new paragraph at the end of the draft recommendation, worded as follows:

*****

II.       Explanatory Memorandum

by the Rapporteur

A.       Introduction

1.        In the framework of the preparation of the January 2001 part-session debate on the conflict in the Chechen Republic, I went with Lord Judd, Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee, to Moscow from 8 to 11 December 2000 and to Moscow and the Chechen Republic from 13 to 18 January. A variety of meetings were arranged for us by the Russian parliamentary delegation during both visits, which included inter alia meetings with the Minister of Justice, the Minister for Chechen Republic Affairs, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, the Deputy Prosecutor-General and the Chief Military Prosecutor, the President of the Supreme Court, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for human rights in the Chechen Republic, the Head of the Chechen Administration and the President’s Plenipotentiary Representative in the Southern Federal District of Russia. In addition, visits to Znamenskoye, Grozny and Chernokosovo were arranged at our request. Further meetings were arranged by the Secretariat of the Assembly with representatives of national and international non-governmental organisations, international organisations and two of the Council of Europe experts working in Mr Kalamanov’s Office. The full programme is appended to Lord Judd’s report2.

2.        I would like to thank Lord Judd for the very close co-operation and concertation in the drawing up of the draft report submitted to the Political Affairs Committee. In fact, our views converge on most matters, which has been an asset in the relationship between the two Committees.

3.        For obvious reasons, Lord Judd and I have had no access to territory where Chechen fighters remain active. Despite the claim of General Baranov, the Chief Commander of the Federal united troops in Chechnya, that the Russian authorities control 100% of Chechnya’s territory, it is obvious that the security situation in the Republic remains very tense, and that – in some areas (including Grozny) – Russian military control is precarious at best. Thus, it is very difficult for me to accurately reflect the extent of human rights abuses committed by Chechen fighters in the part of the territory they control. “Behind enemy lines” the situation is different – while it is unclear who is really responsible for the reprehensible kidnapping of the humanitarian aid worker Kenneth Gluck, other kidnappings must most definitely be attributed to the Chechen side. It is also clear that Chechen fighters are violating the rules of international humanitarian law, by menacing and killing civilians (and their families) who co-operate with the Russian-appointed Chechen administration, and by laying mines and other explosive devices in ways aimed at causing maximal civilian casualties. These actions have to be condemned in the strongest terms. They are not only deeply reprehensible in and of themselves, but also further weaken the chances of any political settlement of the Chechen conflict.

4.        Lord Judd’s explanatory memorandum is quite comprehensive, and I do not intend to repeat here the information contained in it. As befits my mandate, I will thus in this opinion concentrate on what I feel is the key problem from a human rights perspective: the problem of lack of accountability for crimes committed by federal servicemen and personnel of law-enforcement agencies against civilians and the resulting impunity which, in turn, encourages further human rights violations. It is my firm conviction that whatever else the Russian authorities do to improve the situation in the Chechen Republic, including economic and social reconstruction efforts, if they do not tackle and solve the problem of impunity, there will be no settlement of the Chechen conflict, nor peace in the Republic. What use is it to have a job (and a salary), even a roof over your head and a place in school or kindergarten for your children, if much of your salary goes for bribes to soldiers manning the checkpoints on your way to work, and you live under the constant threat of being arbitrarily arrested and thrown in a pit? If your brother is missing, your cousin is in detention on trumped-up charges, and your uncle was shot dead by rampaging troops six months ago – with no hope that the perpetrators of these acts will ever be brought to justice? I exaggerate, of course – but not much, I am afraid.

B.        Lack of accountability and climate of impunity

5.        Already in its resolution adopted during the September 2000 part-session3, the Assembly registered its concern about the most serious and ongoing violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic, and expressed its belief that “any continuing unwillingness or inability of the prosecuting authorities to investigate crimes committed by federal servicemen against the civilian population and to bring those guilty to court will lead to a lack of accountability and a resulting climate of impunity, which fosters further human rights violations and impedes a political settlement of the conflict”4.

6.        Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened. I have by now come to the conclusion that the decisive factor in the equation cannot be inability – it must be unwillingness. One of the Duma deputies at the September hearing in Moscow spoke of the “criminal inactivity” of the prosecutor’s office. Having read the latest replies of the acting Deputy Prosecutor-General of the Chechen Republic, Mr Abazov, on my requests for information regarding the fate of the former Speaker of the Parliament of the Chechen Republic, Mr Ruslan Alikhodzhiyev, and the alleged - and well documented - mass killings of the civilian population by Russian troops in Alkhan-Yurt, Staropromyslovski and Aldi (appended), I cannot but agree.

High profile cases: Alleged mass killings and the abduction of Mr Alikhodzhiyev

7.        There are three mass killings of the civilian population by Russian troops which have been well documented by Russian and international NGOs: in Alkhan-Yurt (December 1999), the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny (January 2000) and Aldi (February 2000). In addition, there seem to have been further mass killings in Mekenskaya (Naur district) and Chervlyonnaya (Cherkovsky district). During our visit to Moscow in December 2000, Lord Judd and I had been informed by the Deputy Prosecutor-General that the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic was dealing with the alleged mass killings in Alkhan-Yurt and Staropromyslovski, and the Prosecutor-General’s Office in the North Caucasus was dealing with the one in Aldi. No further information was forthcoming at the time5. On 20 January 2000 I received the appended letters by Mr Abazov, which – however – deal only with two of the alleged mass killings: those in Aldi and in Novaya Katayama (the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny). In the case of Aldi, where over 50 civilians were massacred, I was informed that “the investigation could find no confirmation of participation by the armed forces in the afore-mentioned events”. In the case of Novaya Katayama, “the operational investigation found no direct eyewitnesses to the murders by members of the Russian armed forces”, and the preliminary investigations into the criminal case were suspended as a result of "failure to identify individuals against whom proceedings could be brought".

8.        Concerning the fate of Mr Ruslan Alikhodzhiyev, the former Speaker of the Parliament of the Chechen Republic, the Deputy Prosecutor-General informed us in December 2000 that the file had been checked. Mr Alikhodzhiyev had been taken hostage on 17 May 2000 by unknown persons in camouflage uniform. He had never been apprehended by law-enforcement personnel. A criminal case had been opened by the Shali district Prosecutor’s Office. Upon my question on whether General Manilov, the commanding officer, had been questioned by the prosecutors on his announcement at a press conference on 25 May 2000 that Mr Alikhodzhiyev had been arrested, the Deputy Prosecutor-General answered that he had not been aware of this. He maintained that Mr Alikhodzhiyev had never been arrested, detained or questioned, and suggested that there might have been some confusion with names. In accordance with the information contained in Mr Abasov’s letter of 16 January 2001, the criminal case was closed on 12 December 2000 by the Shali district prosecutor’s office and was sent to the Office of the Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic to be checked.

9.        I refuse to believe that no federal servicemen were involved neither in the abduction of Mr Alikhodzhiyev, nor in the alleged mass killings. It must be possible not only to confirm the servicemen’s involvement, but even to identify the perpetrators, or at least the regiment they belong to. There are witnesses; there is material evidence, ranging from bullets in bodies to armoured personnel carriers used in Alikhodzhiyev’s abduction. Indeed, the explanation that these crimes have been committed by “unidentified persons in camouflage uniform” offered by the prosecutor’s office is an insult to my intelligence, and makes me wonder whether – despite its constitutionally enshrined independence – the prosecutor’s office is not acting on orders to “contain” these allegations, as many NGOs allege.

The daily grind of human rights violations by federal servicemen and personnel of law-enforcement agencies

10.        The high profile cases mentioned above, are, unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg. According to the annual report of Mr Kalamanov, the President’s Special Representative for the promotion of human rights in the Chechen Republic, in the year 2000 his Office received more than 12 000 complaints. Of the 5 485 written applications accepted, 2 097 concerned allegedly illegal actions by the federal authorities, 853 the lack of information about intercepted or arrested relatives, 357 cases of allegedly illegal arrest and /or detention and 212 complaints of violations of the freedom of movement and extortions at checkpoints.

11.        Mr Kalamanov’s Office has had some modest successes in its efforts to redress these human rights violations. The whereabouts of 48 missing persons were established; 250 detained persons were notified of their being amnestied in the presence of and with the direct participation of Mr Kalamanov and his personnel; Mr Kalamanov’s insistence on the importance of the accelerated issue of identity documents and the re-establishment of the judicial system in the Chechen Republic was probably a major factor in the achievement of these goals.

12.        Unfortunately, however, the complaints forwarded by Mr Kalamanov to the Prosecutor’s Office seem to receive little follow-up there. To be exact, in the last one and a half years, during which this conflict has been waged, the military prosecutor’s office6 has investigated only 35 crimes committed by military personnel against the civilian population, 12 of which were murder cases. Of these investigations, 6 had been stopped on amnesty, and 8 forwarded to the military courts. The number of crimes against the civilian population committed by Russian forces currently being investigated by the civilian prosecutor’s office is unclear.

13.        In these circumstances, it is vitally important that the victims of such crimes (or their families) make use of the possibilities under Russian law to bring their case to the competent court, in order to have criminal cases opened, re-opened or indictments issued where the competent prosecutor’s office has failed to do so. With 10 of the Chechen Republic’s district courts now working since 27 December 2000, this has become more than a theoretical possibility. (The military courts have, indeed, been working throughout the conflict). Both the military and the civilian prosecutor’s office claim that they are understaffed. Understaffing is not, however, a good enough reason for unsatisfactory investigations; in this case, the prosecutor’s office should simply be better staffed.

14.        When these figures are contrasted with Mr Kalamanov’s statistics, it becomes clear that the number of crimes committed by “federals” against the civilian population which are actually being investigated is ridiculously low, not to speak of the number of cases which reach court and end in convictions (even lower). Thus, there is obviously a lack of accountability, which has led to a climate of impunity in the Chechen Republic.

15.        This conclusion is born out by the reports of NGOs active in the area, from the Russian human rights centre “Memorial” over humanitarian organisations like “Médecins sans frontières” or “Médecins du Monde” to international NGOs such as “Human Rights Watch” and “Amnesty International”. They talk of a daily grind of human rights violations, a “reign of terror” as it were – even of a deterioration of the human rights situation. Ill-disciplined troops spend their nights in drunken stupor and shoot at anything that moves; harassment and extortion at the numerous checkpoints is the norm; the freedom of movement is extremely restricted, not only by the checkpoints and the curfew, but also by the fact that many roads (especially in Grozny) are blocked from 8 am until 12 noon every day to check them for mines; mop-up operations and random identity checks routinely end in looting, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention (including torture in earth pits, and the “selling” of detained persons to their relatives), disappearances and even murder. The cases put to us last week dated not from early on in the campaign; they were from September to December 2000, some as recent even as early January 2001.

16.        Alas, I must thus conclude that human rights violations are continuing in the Chechen Republic. This must stop immediately. It is high time that the Russian authorities take seriously the complaints lodged in Mr Kalamanov’s Office, and the reports addressed to them by NGOs. The prosecutor’s office must undertake systematic, credible and exhaustive criminal prosecutions of those members of the federal forces implicated in war crimes (such as mass killings), but also in other human rights violations (ranging from extortion over ill-treatment to rape, looting and murder). Only then will the terror which reigns over large parts of the Chechen Republic at last end, and a kind of peace come to the Republic.

C.       Conclusion

17.       The violation of the rules of international humanitarian law perpetrated by Chechen fighters, who menace and kill civilians (and their families) co-operating with the Russian-appointed Chechen administration, who take hostages, and lay mines and other explosive devices in ways aimed at causing maximal civilian casualties, cannot but be condemned. These actions are not only deeply reprehensible in and of themselves, but also further weaken the chances of any political settlement of the Chechen conflict.

18.        From a human rights perspective, the key problem in the Chechen Republic is the lack of accountability for crimes committed by federal servicemen and personnel of law-enforcement agencies against civilians and the resulting impunity which, in turn, encourages further human rights violations and leads to unnecessary and unacceptable suffering among the civilian population. It is my firm conviction that whatever else the Russian authorities do to improve the situation in the Chechen Republic, including economic and social reconstruction efforts, if they do not tackle and solve the problem of impunity, there will be no settlement of the Chechen conflict, nor peace in the Republic. It is high time for the Russian authorities to act.

APPENDIX:

Information provided by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic on certain criminal investigations

Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation

Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic

Gudermes, Lenin Street, 3

Ref: 3/179.01, 16.01.2001

Information

on criminal case N° 12009, instigated with regard to the murder of civilians in the settlements of Noviye Aldy, Chernoreche Zavodskiy rayon, Grozny

A criminal case was instigated by the Prosecutor’s Office of Grozny on 5 March 2000 on the basis of Article 105, paragraph 2, sub-paragraphs (a),(e) and (g)7 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, in connection with the discovery of the corpses of local residents on 5 February 2000 in the settlements of Noviy Aldy and Chernoreche.

In the course of investigations it was established that during the day on 5 February 2000, unknown persons, using firearms and dressed in camouflage clothing, murdered more than 50 residents of these settlements.

At the same time, these criminals stole gold objects and other valuable property. The bodies of the dead were found by relatives on the streets of the settlement and in the courtyards of houses. After the departure of the individuals responsible for the crime, the residents of the settlement buried each of the deceased provisionally outside the cemetery, in the courtyards of their homes and other places. Later, some of the bodies were reburied in the cemetery.

In order to conduct a fuller, more objective and thorough investigation of the circumstances of the case, an investigation group was set up, consisting of investigators from the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic and the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office.

In this connection, they questioned survivors and witnesses and visited the site of the events; 33 bodies, which had been buried earlier by survivors, were exhumed and the necessary forensic pathology was specified and carried out. Other investigation activities were also conducted.

From the witnesses’ testimony, it was established that on the morning of 5 February 2000, persons carrying firearms and dressed in camouflage clothing, without insignia or identification marks and aged from 20 to 35 years, appeared in the settlement, went from house to house, examined outbuildings and residential premises, and inspected documents.

While these armed men were in the settlement, witnesses on the streets heard the sounds of shots. When, after a few hours, the settlement’s residents began to go out of their houses, they found the bodies of their relatives and fellow-villagers, with gunshot wounds, in the streets and courtyards.

The investigation could find no confirmation of participation by the armed forces in the afore-mentioned events.

In May 2000, the criminal case was sent for supplementary investigation to the Main Directorate of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation in the North Caucasus, where it remains at present.

According to the information at our disposal, the preliminary investigation of the case has been suspended, as a result of the failure to identify the individuals responsible for this crime.

********

Ref: 3/180.01, 16.01.2001

Information

on criminal case N° 12038, instigated on 3 May 2000 with regard to the murder of civilians in the mikrorayon of Novaya Katayama, Grozny

The present criminal proceedings were instigated by the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office on 3 May 2000 under Article 105, paragraph 2 (a),(d),(e) and (g)8 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation in connection with the murder in February 2000 of residents of the mirkorayon (district) of Novaya Katayama in the Staropromyslovskiy rayon of Grozny.

The grounds for opening the case was the publication of the article “Freedom or Death” in the newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” N° 12, dated 27 April 2000, on the alleged mass murder of civilians by members of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.

In the course of investigations, it was established that in February 2000, after the Federal troops had entered Grozny, the bodies of murdered local residents were discovered in the Novaya Katayama mikrorayon of Grozny – Khashiyev Kh. A,, Taymaskhanov R.V., Taymaskhanova L.A., Taymaskhanova A., Kerimov M.M., Babayeva V.F., Akayev A.A., Goygov S.K., Goygova M., Goygov A.

The fact that the afore-mentioned persons had been murdered was confirmed by the evidence gathered for the case – the conclusions of the forensic pathology of the bodies of Khashiyev Kh., Taymaskhanov R., Goygov S., and witnesses’ testimony.

Measures were taken by the investigation service to identify the persons responsible for the above-mentioned crimes. In general, all the witnesses who were questioned confirmed the fact of one or another person’s death and burial, and explained that their information to the effect that soldiers from the federal armed forces had committed the crime was based on what they had heard from unknown individuals. However, the operational investigation found no direct eyewitnesses to the murders by members of the Russian armed forces.

On 3 July 2000, the proceedings of the preliminary investigation were suspended on the basis of Article 195 (3) of the Code of Criminal Proceedings of the Russian Federation. This decision was overturned by the Grozny Prosecutor on 30 August 2000, and the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic was given instructions on the case.

On 30 September 2000, the preliminary investigations into the criminal case were again suspended as a result of failure to identify individuals against whom proceedings could be brought.

Operational investigations to identify individuals involved in the afore-mentioned crimes are continuing, including among members of the Federal armed forces.

******

Ref: 3/178.01, 16.01.2001

Information

on criminal case N° 22025

concerning the kidnapping of Alikhadzhiyev R.Sh.

Criminal case N° 22025 was instigated on 7 July 2000 on the basis of the crime stipulated in Article 126 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Shalinskiy rayon of the Chechen Republic and is currently being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office of that rayon.

Investigations in the case have established that on 17 May 2000 in the town of Shali, unidentified persons, dressed in camouflage clothing and travelling in an armoured troop carrier, burst into R.Sh. Alikhadzhiyev’s residence at N° 97, Suvorova Street, Shali, and took him away to an unidentified destination.

Several men who were in R.Sh. Alikhadzhiyev’s house at the same time were also held. On the following day, these persons, with the exception of Alikhadzhiyev, were released. However, they could give no information about where they had been held or about Alikhadzhiyev’s whereabouts.

In the course of investigations into the criminal case, eyewitnesses and witnesses to the crime, and the persons who had been held together with Alikhadzhiyev, were questioned.

Separate instructions have been sent to Department of the Federal Security Service, the Department of Interior Affairs for the Chechen Republic and the Provisional Unit of Interior Affairs (VOVD) in the Shalinskiy rayon, Chechen Republic, on the conduct of activities to determine Alikhadzhiyev’s whereabouts.

According to information from the head of the Shalinksiy VOVD, Alikhadzhiyev was not arrested by employees of this service, nor has he been held in the Shalinkskiy VOVD’s remand prison.

This criminal case is being examined by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic, and written instructions have been given with regard to the conduct of the investigations and operational activities to identify Alikhadzhiyev’s whereabouts. However, the steps taken to identify the individuals responsible for this crime have been unsuccessful, and as a result the preliminary investigation was suspended on 12 December 2000.

This criminal case is currently being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic.

Acting Deputy Prosecutor

Chechen Republic

Senior Legal Advisor

Yu. Zh. Abazov

Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee

Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Ref. 2470, Res. 1201 (1999), Res. 1221 (2000), Rec. 1444 and 1456 (2000), Res. 1227 (2000), Rec. 1478 (2000)

Opinion approved by the committee on 23 January 2001

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Plate, Ms Coin and Ms Kleinsorge


1 See Doc 8929 tabled by the Political Affairs Committee.

2 See Doc 8929.

3 Resolution 1227 (2000), Conflict in the Chechen Republic: recent developments (follow-up to Recommendations 1444 (2000) and 1456 (2000) of the Parliamentary Assembly).

4 Ibid, par. 9.

5 The acting Chief Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, Mr Tschernov, during our visit to Znamenskoye last week, informed us that “the alleged mass killings took place during the active combat phase – it is difficult for me to give you more information about them, since I have only been in office since last September”.

6 The military prosecutor’s office is responsible for investigating allegations of crimes committed by servicemen of regular army units and Ministry of the Interior troops. Crimes allegedly committed by policemen, special forces of the Ministry of the Interior (OMON, SpetsNaz) or the Ministry of Justice, are investigated by the civilian prosecutor’s office.

7 (а,е,ж)

8 (а, д, е, ж)