Letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

About the Situation in Chechnya

To Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Distinguished Assembly members!

"Memorial" is the Russian NGO dealing with human rights protection. This letter from "Memorial" human rights center is dictated by our profound concern for the life, health, safety and human dignity of hundreds of thousands humans that find themselves caught in the area of military conflict in Chechnya and the adjacent regions. We are concerned over the future of the entire North Caucasus and the future of democracy in Russia.

This April the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has adopted a tough resolution on Chechnya. We are grateful for the principled position that the Parliamentary Assembly had taken in relation to the tragic events in the North Caucasus.

However, we have to state with regret that the majority of the appeals, recommendations and demands in this resolution are not implemented.


Military actions continue. They have been transformed into a guerilla warfare. Mountain areas are being bombed. Recruited young conscripts get into combat. According to the official reports (probably underestimated) the weekly military casualties (killed servicemen and policemen) in April - June 2000 have ranged from 22 to 51 men. The largest amount of casualties occurred this May when according to official information there were no combat activities.


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had recommended Russian leadership to start the political dialogue without preliminary conditions or limitations with all range of Chechen people representatives including the representatives of the legitimately elected Chechen authorities in order to achieve a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict. Nothing of the kind had been accomplished. On the contrary, in May the representatives of the federal power authorities had arrested or deported to an unknown destination such Chechen politicians as Vaha Murtazaliev (former justice minister in Maschadov government) or Ruslan Alikhadjayev (Chairman of parliament in the Chechen republic of Itchkeria). These politicians had not taken part in the military struggle and were open for a dialogue.


Media and international organizations' attention has been drawn to the position of the Tchernokozovo detainees. In the result of this involvement torture and beating had been stopped there and the conditions of keeping people in custody had improved. Yet, while the situation behind the bars in places visited by international delegations became better, violence cruelty, torture and even non-court-decision executions had shifted to other places of temporary
detention. It shifted to regional police precincts (most known custody in Urus-Mortan) and to different unofficial detention places (for instance, in Hinkala military base).

Deprived condition of the arrested and detained in Chechnya is exacerbated by the fact that their relatives for a long time are not told about the location of those arrested and detained and have no information about their charges. Actually people do "disappear" and only after a long while "re-emerge" in that or another place of detention. Lawyers' board had been reinstalled in Chechnya, but in most cases arrested and detained do not get their legal protection One can site an example of Vaha Murtazaliev case. He was detained by a group of people that claimed to be criminal police (MHA) servicemen on May 17, 2000 and taken to an unknown destination. Vaha Murtazaliev's lawyer and family failed to obtain any information about his fate either in the Ministry of home affairs (MHA), or in the Prosecutor's office.

During the June 14th meeting in the office of president's human rights Special representative members of "Memorial" and head of the Chechnya Lawyers' board Mr. Abdulkadirov rased the question of rampant violation of legal procedures in Vaha Murtazaliev's case. Prosecutor Kravtchenko had denied the facts that arrested and detained are
disappearing in Chechnya including Vaha Murtazaliev. He claimed that people who claimed to be from the criminal police could belong to guerilla units. Only when Mr. Abdulkadirov reminded that the arrested Vaha Murtazaliev had been shown on TV prosecutor Kravtchenko "recollected" that he arrested Vaha Murtazaliev who is currently kept
in Gudermez detainee center. Prosecutor had given no explanations to the apparent violation of the Russian legal provisions.

Vaha Murtazaliev is well known in Chechnya and public attention was drawn to his fate. His family had the means to hire a lawyer. Absolute majority of the arrested and detained find themselves in much worse position.

"Memorial" human rights center had send to the Prosecutor General and to president's human rights Special representative in Chechnya letters on the illegal practice of people long time "disappearance" after their arrest or detention on the territory of Chechen republic. Until now none of these official offices had given a response of substance to the "Memorial".

Unfortunately, there are multiple cases when people that had "disappeared" in this way can not be located in any of the detention places. This has happened recently in May - June this year. Memorial" human rights center is in the know about cases when corpses of people that had been detained by police or servicemen had been subsequently
found with evidences of torture and violent death. We do not know of at least one such case that had been investigated by Russian Prosecutor or Ministry of home affairs officials.


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had appealed to Russia to grant permission for the conduct of the independent investigations into the suspected violations of human rights and military crimes in the Chechen republic.

In response to such appeals Russia had formed up National public commission (NPC) headed by former justice minister Pavel Krasheninnikov. "Memorial" has transferred to the NPC all the materials it possessed on the facts of human rights violation and crimes against civilians on the Chechen territory. However, in our opinion, neither the composition, nor the way the commission was formed allow to claim that it corresponds to the international
requirements that should be observed in setting such commissions.


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had appealed to the Chief military Prosecutor General's office to launch systematic, real and comprehensive criminal prosecution of the federal servicemen that took part in war crimes and other violations of human rights. Chief military Prosecutor General's office demonstrates unwillingness
to investigate into mass crimes committed against civil population by the federal forces in the course of the military conflict.

Thus, for instance, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and "Memorial" human rights center have collected a large body of evidence on the intentional murder of civilians, on property looting, and destruction of civil property by the Russian servicemen in December 1999 in Alkhan-Jurt village. The same had been reported by Mr. Malik
Saidullayev, head of the pro-Russian State Council of Chechen republic. Russian government representative in the Chechen republic Mr. Nikolai Koshman had also become a witness to the removal of Alkhan-Jurt civilians' property by servicemen. This had been confirmed in his interview to correspondents and broadcasted on Russian TV. Yet,
the Chief military Prosecutor General's office in its response to the letter from "Memorial" human rights center informed that " in the course of preliminary investigation the version of federal servicemen being involved in committing the above mentioned crimes had not been confirmed".

"Memorial" human rights center together with other NGOs had collected evidences on military executions of civilians in the Staropromislovskii district of Groznii. Some of these evidences were collected from the eyewitnesses that had survived the execution by chance and were under medical treatment in Ingushetia hospitals. However, letters to the Chief military Prosecutor General's office with our requests to file cases on these crimes, which had been sent
in February 2000, still remain unanswered.

Military Prosecutor offices "respond" in the similar way to many other facts reported by human rights organizations.
Investigation into the case of Aldi settlement mass civilian execution is unduly (and, evidently, intentionally) protracted and until now nobody had been claimed criminal responsibility for it. Facts of firing that hurt civil people including children are merely denied, in spite of wounded children that were and are under treatment
in hospitals.

Russian Prosecutor's offices deny the facts of taunting and beating in Tchernakozovo detention unit. This is done despite the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CTP) delegation press release of February-March 2000. CTP reported that a picture of the detainees' physically
bad treatment by the guards had been revealed. In some cases the delegation had collected medical evidences confirming claims of bad treatment of prisoners. CTP delegation expressed a request that what had happened in the detention unit from December 1999 to early February 2000 would become subject to careful independent
investigation, so that the corresponding sanctions would be applied to those who was responsible for the degrading treatment. Following para 8, article 5 of the Convention, the delegation requested to immediately launch such an investigation. Russian authorities were called upon to inform CTP in three months' time on the results of
investigation. However, Prosecutor of Chechen republic Mr. V. Kravchenko who is responsible for monitoring situation in prisons and detention units on the territory of Chechen republic now claims that all the reports on violations and misconduct in Tchernakozovo detention unit are just unsubstantiated rumours. "Memorial" had
received prosecutor's official reply stating that "facts of exceeding authority by the employees of the detention unit have not found objective confirmation during the investigation check".

Russian president's special representative on human and civil rights in the Chechen republic Mr. V.Kalamaniv also publicly stated that "none of the delegations had confirmed the rumours on torture or taunting".

Looting and extortions on the part of policemen and servicemen in Chechen republic are widespread and usual. Yet, neither the military nor the civil authority takes any palpable measures to curb this evil practice.

According to the official statistics out of 467 criminal cases filed against federal servicemen on the territory of Chechen republic by the prosecutor's office only 14 are related to crimes against the peaceful civil population. For anyone who has objective information about the situation in Chechen republic it is obvious that such a figure is
ridiculously small compared to the number of different crimes against civilians committed by the servicemen.


None of the military commanders who gave orders that led to civilian casualties had been removed from office.
Below we quote the interview of general-lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov (given to A. Politkovskaya Novaja Gazeta, 19.06.2000) Until recent he was the commander of the Western army group in Chechya.
Question: What does that mean - "in this or another way related to bandits?" What do you call in your frame of references a wife of the guerilla ?
Answer:…a bandit.
Question: Why?
Answer: If she is not a bandit herself, let her quit him.
- Vladimir Anatolievitch, you apply Russian yardstick here.
Answer: What else is applicable. They live in Russia.
- But they have their own laws. She cannot quit.
Answer: And what if these laws of theirs contradict simple human moral! We all want to keep our hands clean! But this won't happen. It never happened. The good always had its limit. I do not profess a theory that if someone slaps you on your right cheek, you should offer your left one. If the bandits do not accept our moral they should be
destroyed. If a man gets sick, he becomes a patient and he may be hurt when surgery removes the ill member.
- But the relatives are not being operated in such case! Is the child of a bandit also a bandit?
Answer: Also. You tell me how to distinguish a wife form the active female sniper. Can you do it? It's easy to generalize, sitting here in Moscow in peace and comfort… Everything seems so clear and neat…

At present this man with a Hero of Russia award is promoted and appointed commander of the 58th army that has troops fighting in Chechen republic.


Today many humanitarian organizations have got an opportunity to work inside Chechen republic, though frequently the volunteers meet with instances of rudeness and extortion on many of the bloc-posts. At the same time human rights organizations still encounter obstacles when visiting Chechen republic. International organizations (like Human
Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others) are banned from entry to Chechen republic.

Mass media work in Chechen republic is far from being easy. In violation of the Russian legislation journalists are allowed to work on Chechen territory only if they have a special accreditation which authorities can grant them or no grant on their discretion. But even correspondents that work there cannot get rid of compulsory patronage.
The freedom of speech on Chechen territory is completely suppressed by the military authorities. For instance, on June 9, military commandant of the Urus-Martan district introduced censorship for the independent district newspaper "Marsho".


We can state with satisfaction that the plans of forced return of the displaced persons to Chechen territory have not been implemented. However, the position of the displaced persons both on the territory of Ingushetia and in tent camps on Chechen territory is extremely unfavourable. Several times during this spring and summer the food
supply had been downgraded. A new decrease is observed at present. This is explained by deficiency of financial resources that were allotted from the budget. Disaster is evaded only due to the help from the international humanitarian organizations.

Since mid May the citizens of Groznii have been stopped given free food. Free bread is distributed now every two days only to the disabled and the retirees over 65. In conditions when pensions and salaries have not yet started to be paid this puts the majority of people in the town on the brink of survival.


Events in Chechnya have a most adverse impact on all the sides of life in our country and threaten Russia's advancement in building the state of law.

We are concerned that the governments of the Council of Europe member states would be inclined to easily satisfy themselves with the symbolic steps and minor concessions with which the government of our country had responded to the criticism by the Council of Europe. Considering all the above said, we call the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe not to set back from its position towards our country in relation with the events happening in Chechnya; we appeal not to decrease critical attention to these events and not to concede
to officialdom rhetoric.

On behalf of the Council of the human rights center "Memorial"
Chairman of the Council
O. P. Orlov