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Chechnya: Counter-Terrorism Routine, End 2012
The Human Rights Center “Memorial” has been informed that within the last three months of 2012 Chechen Interior Ministry officers carried out several operations aimed at seizing the accomplices of militants in the village of Assinovskaya, Sunzhensky District, Chechnya.
As part of the counter-terrorism efforts, at least 16 young men residing at the village were illegally detained or abducted. Mostly, neither those abducted nor their relatives are willing to elaborate and are reluctant to file official complaints.
However, “Memorial” was able to obtain some information from local residents. For safety reasons, the names and addresses of those involved in the incidents are not included.
On October 21, 2012, at 6:30 a.m. armed siloviks wearing camouflage outfits came to the house of V., a 22-year-old resident of the village of Assinovskaya. Both he and his mother were at home at that time. The siloviks said they were officers of one of district police departments. They detained V. and drove off.
V.’s mother attempted to file a statement with the public prosecutor regarding her son’s abduction. However, local officials declined to accept the statement. “If you do not bring back my son,” V.'s mother said, “I will complain everywhere. You won't be able to stop me - you'll have to kill me first!”
Having heard that, the officials accepted her statement. Three hours later V. was released.
V. is unable to say where exactly he was held. His guess is that he was taken to ORB-2, an investigative body in the Chechen capital Grozny. There he was questioned, including about people whom he does not know. The interrogation was accompanied by beatings.
After V. had been released, a local police officer called on him at his home and persuaded his mother to withdraw her complaint to the public prosecutor’s office. He threatened with “problems” should she disagree.
V.’s mother agreed to withrdaw her statement on the condition that law-enforcers leave her son alone.
A 24-year-old resident of the Assinovskaya village, named K., was abducted by siloviks on December 4, 2012. On that day K. went to a neighbouring village because his acquaintance asked him to do so. He never got back, though.
As his relatives found out later, while he was on his way to the neighbouring village he received a phone call from another acqaintance of his, a resident of the village of Samashki. The acqaintance asked if they could meet somewhere. K. said yes adding that he would be waiting for him at one of Assinovskaya's streets. Some minutes later a Lada Priora car approached K., armed men in camouflage outfits got out of the car. They were speaking Chechen. They pushed K. into their car without giving any explanations.
K.'s Samashki acquaintance was sitting in the car as well. It appears that he had been detained a few days earlier, although no details are available to “Memorial.”
On the same day, siloviks detained another resident of the village of Assinovskaya.
When the procession was approaching the Baku-Rostov highway, the abductors put knitted hats on the heads of the three young men making sure they cannot see anything. Then, they were placed in three different cars and driven away.
Later K. told his lawyer that he found himself in an unknown room. That was where he was questioned. He was also severely beaten and tortured with electricity. The abductors wanted K. to confess that he had been involved in in the activities of the militants and in the murder of a security officer in summer 2012. The abductors charged K. with giving the gunmen a lift which enabled them to get from the forest to the crime scene.
Under torture, K. signed the documents.
However, the relatives say that on the day of the attack on the siloviks K. was away. He was in the city of Anapa in the Krasnodarsky Region. As to giving a lift to the gunmen, the siloviks claimed that K. had used the car belonging to his Samashki friend. In fact, though, the car was being serviced at the garage, the relatives say.
The siloviks released one of the three young men in the evening of the same day, December 4.
He informed K.’s relatives about what had happened. The relatives started a search and engaged a lawyer on December 6. The lawyer found out that after the abduction K. had been brought to the district police department first. Later he was transferred to the Grozny's investigative bureau, or OSB-2, in Grozny.
Importantly, official documents give the date of K.'s detention as December 6. K.'s mother was present at the court hearing aimed at deciding whether K. was to be detained. She says she could see hematomas and bruises on K.'s face.
K. is accused of attacking an officer of law enforcement authorities (Article 317 of the Criminal Code) and of organising an illegal armed group and being involved in its activities (Article 208).
As of January 30, K. was being held in a detention center in Grozny.
Pretrial investigation was underway.
On December 14, 2012 a resident of Assinovskaya named P., 22, was seized at his house by the siloviks and taken away.
At 3 a.m. armed people in camouflage outfits stormed into P.'s house. P., his wife and children were at that house while P.'s sister and relatives were in a neighouring building.
The security officers did not introduce themselves. They stated that they had reasons to believe that P. had purchased food for members of illegal armed groups during the previous winter.
P. confessed to having done that once. He told that he ran into some militants in the forest when he went to pick up ramson.
At the moment, P. is being held in a detention centre in Grozny. The relatives believe that P. was not tortured. He is accused of involvement in an armed formation (article 209, part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).
On December 16, 2012 six armed people in camouflage outfits burst into the house of M., who is 24 years old.
The intruders, who spoke Chechen, declined to introduce themselves and demanded that M.'s relatives say where M. was. The relatives just said that M. was at work. They refused to give his address. The introders took M.’s elder brother hostage. Thye said they would release him in exchange for M.
M.’s father had no choice but to say where his son was working.
Having taking M's brother, they headed to M.'s place of work and took hold of him. Only thereafter did they release M.’s brother.
For three days , M.'s relatives had no information about his whereabouts. M. was released on the fourth day.
M. said that he had been held in one of the police stations in Chechnya. He said he had been beaten and tortured. M.’s nose was broken, and there were numerous bruises and hematomas on his head and body. The siloviks wanted to confess to bringing two of his cousins to the forest. Both cousins had disappeared under mysterious circumstances a few months ago, and the siloviks believed that had they joined illegal armed underground.
M. refused to sign a confession.
Neither M. nor his relatives are willing to file official complaints concerning the abduction.
On December 16, 2012 armed officers of an unknown power structure abducted 20-year- old C. The siloviks arrived in the early afternoon in three UAZ four-wheel cars, a Toyota Camry, and two Gazel’ minivans at C.'s house. A group of siloviks stormed into it. C. was in the house along with some of his relatives. Without giving any explanations the siloviks seized C., pulled a cap over his eyes, pushed him into one of the cars and drove off.
C.’s father followed the abductors' cars. It emerged that C. was brought to a district police station. Soon C.'s relatives gathered near the police building, but they were old that C. was not there.
C. was released at about midnight. He says that he was beaten and tortured. Siloviks wanted him to confess in complacency in militants’ activities.
The locals in Assinovskaya say that on December 16 another two young village residents were detained illegally. Both of them were released later.
Their relatives are unwilling to elaborate further details.
According to the local residents, one of those detained in October was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for alleged involvement in the illegal armed underground activities. The relatives reportedly had to give a bribe of 250 thousand rubles to the officials to avoid longer prison sentence. However, “Memorial” was unable to verify that information because his family are unwilling to speak about what happened.
In the 2000s, Russian federal forces carried out massive illegal detentions and clean-up operations in the Chechen Republic. The siloviks' failure to conduct those selectevely was frequently criticised by the human rights defenders as ineffective.
The next phase, often termed as “chechenization” of the conflict, saw the rise of Kadyrov’s regime and more selective operations that were based on siloviks' awareness about the families and villages.
The analysis of the recent Assinovskaya events shows that the Chechen power structures are gradually going back to being extremely unselective. More and more Chechens are detained merely by pure chance and not on the basis of the so-called “operative information” that gives good grounds for suspicion.
February 11, 2013