By Oleg Orlov | 31 March 2010
In the Northern Caucasus (including Chechnya), underground militia which use terrorist methods are fighting the Russian state.
In the spring of 2009 it became clear that a serious destabilisation was taking place in the Chechen Republic.
This destabilisation has marked all the activities of the republic’s authorities and military structures.
From 2007, to the first half of 2008, we could note that in Chechnya – despite big problems with human rights in the preceding years – that peace and stability were coming to the region.
There were less armed clashes and less losses in the armed forces, and human rights defenders testified that there were less incidents of abuses on the part of the state.
However, events from the end of 2008 signalled a reverse.
In the summer of 2009 there was an increase in losses of government forces, especially in Chechnya, they doubled in comparison with the summer of the previous year.
In 2009 in Chechnya there was a series of terrorist acts, including by suicide bombers.
The “Chechenisation” of the conflict had a notable effect on the war with armed rebels in the past few years.
However, it’s clear that this resource has been exhausted, the republic’s forces are not capable of fulfilling all the promises of Ramzan Kadirov [the president of Chechnya] to completely destroy the underground fighters.
More than that, the totalitarian regime, based in fear and violence, is itself giving rise to more resistance.
Young people again are taking to the hills to join the rebels. The response from the government has been harsh, with a sharp rise in lawless violence.
This violence is being carried out in an ever wider scale, demonstrable and open.
For example, the number of kidnappings has gone up. In 2009, the Memorial office in Chechnya counted 96 disappeared (2.3 times more than the previous year).
The circumstances of these kidnappings show clearly that the organs of the state security are involved.
We should note that from July to mid December 2009, Memorial was forced to temporarily suspend the work of its representatives in Chechnya.
Besides, in recent times, victims of kidnapping and their relatives are more and more afraid to report incidents to officials or human rights organisations, for fear of retaliatory repression.
For this reason Memorial is of the opinion that it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the real quantity of such crimes.
In Chechnya, the authorities routinely use hostage taking, and in 2009, there was also a campaign by the security forces to burn the houses belonging to rebel fighters’ relatives.
The defence forces of the Chechen Republic have been infiltrated by people, who carry out training in extrajudicial armed violence, completely ignoring any understanding of laws.
They believe themselves above the law, able to carry out “operations” with any methods they deem necessary.
Illegal violence in Chechnya, including extrajudicial punishments, has been openly established by its rulers.
Memorial has had access to recordings of such statements by Kadirov and other officials on the republic’s television.
On June 7, 2009, it got to the point where there was a public extrajudicial punishment of a man who was accused of collaborating with rebel forces in the village of Akincha-Borza.
Activists from non-state human rights organisations in Chechnya are confronted with various types of pressure.
In public appearances, senior Chechen officials in 2009 didn’t hold back in portraying human rights workers as enemies of the state and terrorist collaborators.
This means that within the republic the human rights worker is seen as a dangerous individual, who can be subjected to persecution.
On July 15, 2009, Memorial’s Natalya Estemirova was kidnapped in Grozny [Chechnya’s capital] and then killed.
The events following this killing and the circumstances of the crime led us to suspect that it was organised and carried out by representatives of the state.
After Estemirova’s murder Memorial was obliged to temporarily (until December 16, 2009) suspend our activities in Chechnya.
The authorities have consistently put so much pressure on local Non-Govermental Organisations (NGO) that they have been forced to stop any kind of human rights activities and just concentrate on social work while practising self-censorship.
On August 11, 2009, the head of the “We save the Generation” NGO in Grozny, Zarema Sadulayeva, and her husband Alik Djabrailov, were kidnapped.
Armed attackers who were not wearing masks and said they were “from the state” took them away in a car.
Their bodies were found the next day in the boot of a car in Grozny, with gunshot wounds.
It’s clear that only people working for state organs can kidnap people in the middle of the day in Grozny, without hiding their faces, and openly bearing weapons.