War Resisters' International:
The Russian Federation: Human Rights and the Armed Forces
Report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee
The aim of this report is to provide a general overview of the human rights situation within the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation as well as in its interactions with civil society. In its 1995 comments on the Fourth Periodic Report by the Russian Federation, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed its concerns regarding human rights violations against Chechens, conscription soldiers, and the absence of substitute service to military service. The Committee also expressed its concern of an atmosphere of impunity caused by insufficient investigation of alleged human rights violations and possibly biased military tribunals. In 2003, the armed forces continue to be responsible for grave human rights violations:
Military officials in conjunction with police forcefully detain young civilian men through mass detentions at public places such as educational institutions, student residences and metro stations, or target individuals in private homes. Many detainees have never intended to ignore the draft summon. They take the detainees to military recruitments offices, where they deny them lawful reasons for exemption or deferral such as health, student status, and family issues. The officials also deprive detainees of the right to appeal the decision to enlist them into the armed forces, and transport the detainees to their designated unit on the very day of detention. Detainees' relatives are usually not informed or misinformed of their son's whereabouts, and it can take them several months to disclose it.
At present conscientious objectors to military service are prevented from exercising their constitutional right to perform unarmed substitute service. Although there is no consistent approach towards declared conscientious objectors, many are punished financially or imprisoned. Others are forcefully sent to perform military service despite their objection. The first law on substitute service is due to enter into force in January 2004, but is punitive in length with 42 months served in substitute service compared to 24 months in military service. It also fails to protect conscientious objectors against exploitation at their service place such as unlimited working hours, and hard or hazardous labour. Nor does it recognise military personnel's right to declare conscientious objection during or after military service.
During the two year military service period, conscription soldiers are exposed to grave human rights violations by senior soldiers and officers known as "dedovshchina". Such violations include extortion, forced labour, slavery, torture including rape, extra judicial executions, disappearances, refusal of medical treatment, racism, and other serious ill-treatment. In a disturbing new development, unit officers and commanders do not only encourage violations, but also actively take part in them. It is especially the minority from Northern Caucasus, who have been allowed to abuse the majority from non-Caucasian regions in order to encourage national and racial hatred by non-Caucasians towards Caucasians such as the Chechen population.
The soldiers are effectively prevented from fleeing the abuses, as they risk charges for desertion. Those who leave their unit to report alleged abuses to the Military Procurator's Office are often sent back to their unit. Instead, the Military Procurator delegates responsibility for the investigation to the local unit commander. In many cases, this has led to insufficient and partial investigations, which do not lead to criminal charges. In addition, the soldiers are in serious risk of reprisals from the alleged offenders who are not suspended during the investigation.
Despite Russian claims that the armed conflict in Chechnya has ended, independent reports prove that not only do Russian forces continue to fight the Chechen fighters, but also that the fighting recently has spread to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. It is therefore particularly worrying that both local and federal authorities continue to threaten internally displaced persons from Chechnya in order to pressure them to return to the republic. This includes the closure of the Aki-Yurt tent camp for displaced persons in December 2002.
As of this year, reports indicate that Russian forces have begun to carry out military raids against the internally displaced persons in Ingushetia. This follows a pattern of abusive military raids in Chechnya in which entire villages and towns are encircled by military vehicles before armed soldiers raid houses and arbitrarily detain young Chechen men of conscription age. As part of some raids, soldiers also rape women and girls as well as loot and destroy the civilian property. Detainees are often tortured by beating or electrical shocks at so-called "filtration camps," and a number of the detainees are either killed or disappear in Russian custody. The federal government continues to exclude international monitors from investigating alleged abuses as it refuses to invite United Nations special rapporteurs and representatives as well as to renew the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya's mandate.
In addition to the atmosphere of impunity, both local and federal authorities harass human rights groups in order to hinder that violations by the armed forces being documented and published. Authorities have arbitrarily detained human rights workers on false charges, denied international staff visas, and filed lawsuits against several organisations. Below are the main concerns of this report:
* Military officials forcefully conscript young civilian men into the armed forces despite lawful reasons for exemption or deferral, and deprive them of the right to appeal.
* At present the absence of a federal law on substitute service has denied the constitutional right to conscientious objection to military service resulting in imprisonment or financial punishment of some objectors. The newly adopted federal law fails to protect conscientious objectors against various forms of exploitation, is punitive in length and does not recognise military personnel's right to conscientious objection during or after military service.
* Conscription soldiers are exposed to grave human rights violations including extortion, forced labour, slavery, torture including rape, extra judicial executions, disappearances, refusal of medical treatment, racism, and other serious ill-treatment.
* The warfare in Chechnya has killed thousands of innocent civilians and conscription soldiers forced to serve in Chechnya, while more than one hundred thousand civilians have become internally displaced.
* Russian forces in Ingushetia threaten internally displaced persons to return to Chechnya despite continued fighting in the republic. In addition, the forces have closed one tent camp by force, and they conduct abusive military operations against displaced persons.
* Russian forces convey the internal pattern of human rights violations onto civil society in Chechnya and Ingushetia in particular through indiscriminate military operations targeting entire communities. Such violations include looting, arbitrary detention, torture including rape, extra judicial executions, disappearances, and other serious ill-treatment.
* Federal and regional authorities prevent comprehensive investigation of alleged violations against civilians as well as Russian servicemen, and harass human rights organisations. This has resulted in an atmosphere of impunity, which has further escalated the violations.
* The Russian Federation has failed to address most of the above concerns in its Fifth Periodic Report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
This main section outlines the present treatment of draftees and conscientious objectors, and examines the first Russian law on substitute service. Although the present treatment may change when the law comes into force in 2004, it is nevertheless important to document the present problems regarding the treatment of draftees and conscientious objectors.
The draftee must sign for his summon in person on receiving it, as it is otherwise invalid. According to Human Rights Watch, there have been no cases of draftees refusing to sign their summons and the consequences for refusal are therefore unknown. After receiving his summons, the draftee is required to appear for medical examination and a draft board reviews his case. However, a number of people do not receive their summons, and may consequently risk charges for draft evasion without prior warning.
Medical examination is often inferior and military doctors tend to ignore diagnoses from independent doctors, while required specialists are often not available. This is particularly worrying due to the poor state of health among young Russian men. One Ministry of Defence official has claimed that 54 per cent of draftees in 2001 were deemed unfit for military service, whereas another has been quoted as saying that while 400,000 were declared fit, 600,000 were unfit. According to unofficial sources up to 90 per cent of draftees are unfit for service. The ministry's difficulties to find enough healthy draftees have led to a reduction of the conscript quota from approx. 200,000 to approx. 160,000 per year. This might also explain why many draftees are unlawfully refused exemption due to health issues. The fact that every second recruit has had an alcohol problem and that one in four has used drugs before his recruitment, underlines the medical examinations' inferiority.
The draft boards are likewise known to ignore valid reasons for exemption or deferral such as student status or family reasons, which is against current regulations. Once the draft board has reached a decision, it informs the draftee of his military branch and the collection-point where he is due to report. Draftees are given between one day and three months before reporting at the collection-point. Many are therefore unable to exercise their right to appeal before appearing at the point. In any case, most draftees are unaware of this right, as they have not been informed about it. Others are denied the right to appeal when they want to exercise it.
The military recruitment office can request local police to "ensure the presence" of a draftee when the draft board reviews his case, but only if it has been unable to deliver a summons or fear the draftee might not appear. Annually about 30,000 draftees ignore their summon or fail to appear. Prior to its request, military authorities gather personal information on the draftee's daily life, which is subsequently handed over of the police. "Ensuring the presence" of the draftee has been interpreted as authorising the police to forcefully detain the draftee before taking him to the draft board. In Moscow and Saint Petersburg, police detain draftees at random identity checks at metro stations, educational institutions, student residences, and other public places. In other cases, police arrest draftees at home.
Detained draftees are immediately handed over to the military, which force them through medical examination and the draft board before taking them to their military service place on the day of detention. In some cases, draftees have been locked in recruitment offices for days until departure. The draftee is typically prevented from contacting his family in order to prevent the family from producing relevant documents or testimonies on valid reasons for exemption or deferral. As a result, the family is either not informed of the immediate recruitment or misinformed. It can take months for the family to locate their son, who is forced to serve away from home.
Below are three examples of forced conscription:
* Alexander Yurevich Zazunov was recruited against his will on May 20, 2002. Despite a criminal record for stealing cars and other offences, and documents proving he suffered from tuberculosis, military doctors declared Mr. Zazunov elegible for military service. Mr. Zazunov suffered from nose bleeds, concussions and 21 times from pneumonia during his service time, but never received any medical examination. Mr. Zazunov served three months in Chechnya on orders. * Alexander B. was detained by police at a metro station in Moscow on November 27, 2001. Police bought him to a local recruitment office together with eight other detainees. Recruitment officials ignored documents proving that Alexander B. was legible for exemption after finishing an officers' training program at university. They also refused to verify it with the relevant university. Instead, he was designated as an ordinary soldier in the border troops.
* Anton Aleksandrovich Ivanov, who had never received his summon, was handcuffed at a metro station in St. Petersburg in November 2001. He was brought to the military recruitment office, where he was declared fit for military service despite suffering from hypertonia of the 1st degree. He was immediately sent away to his appointed military unit.
The right of conscientious objection to military service is guaranteed by article 59.3 of the Russian constitution, which states that those citizens "whose convictions and faith are at odds with military service (...) shall have the right to the substitution of an alternative civil service for military service." In addition, article 17.1 of the constitution recognises and guarantees "the commonly recognised principles and norms of international law." This is in line with resolution 2002/45 recalling resolution 1998/77 of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which declares conscientious objection as deriving from article 18 on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the absence of a federal law on conscientious objection has so far prevented the constitutional right to be exercised in practise.
Consequently, Russia has no known procedure for applying for conscientious objector status and thereby substitute service. The first federal law on the issue was adopted by the State Duma in July 2002 and will enter into force on January 1, 2004. War Resisters' International's concerns with regard to the law are dealt with in the next sub-section, while this sub-section focuses on the present treatment of conscientious objectors.
Not much is known about the treatment of conscientious objectors or total objectors in Russia. This seems to be partly because article 59.3 of the constitution is unknown to most people and partly due to a hostile attitude from relevant authorities towards soldiers' rights groups. Those who know the constitution and declare their objection to military service are typically well educated and from major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. They avoid military service by not responding to summons sent to them by post, which are invalid until they sign for them. Failure to respond to summons could lead to detention as described in the above sub-section.
Others take up federal employment, which in many cases give them the right to deferral. Vacancies in federal employment are therefore highly contested and many bribe officials to make sure that their application process is successful. Others are known to bribe recruitment officials such as doctors or draft board members in order to grant them exemption from service. Official recruitment statistics indicate between 50 and 60 per cent of those who appeared for draft board review in Moscow were granted education-related deferral and 30 per cent were declared unfit. While 6,000 were recruited in Moscow in 2001, 10,000 failed to appear at the draft board review. According to the Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg, the same pattern is reflected in St. Petersburg.
There is no consistent approach towards declared conscientious objectors in Russia. Although imprisonment occurs regularly throughout Russia, many are fined or not charged at all depending on the presiding judge and region. A number of objectors seem to be charged with desertion, and some are subsequently sentenced to between one and two years prison under article 338 of the Criminal Code on desertion. It is unclear what will happen to those who are currently imprisoned once the law on substitute service comes into force.
Nizhni Novgorod region is of special interest, as the mayor ordered the draft commission in 2001 to implement the right to conscientious objection. In an unprecedented decision, the commission allocated nine out of fourteen applicants to substitute service. However, concerns were raised about allegedly "provocative questions" as a part of its interrogation of the draftee. In addition, the Military Commissariat has reported the order to the Regional Office of the Public Prosecutor as a part of its resistance to the practise. As of October 2001, it was planned that substitute service should be carried out in e.g. Hospitals or schools.
Below are some examples of the treatment of conscientious objectors:
* Imprisonment: On 6 June 2002, Andrey Dotsenko from Novgorod Velikiy, Oculovka, was sentenced to 1 year in a penal colony for his conscientious objection. In 1999 Andrey Dotsenko wrote a statement that he refuses to perform military services, and is prepared to perform substitute service. However, this was not granted, and Andrey Dotsenko was put on trial. After he was sentenced by the court, he was handcuffed and transferred to Novgorod prison. He appealed, and on 27 June the court of Novgorod changed his sentence to a fine of 10,000 roubles. On 27 June 2002, Andrey Dotsenko was released from prison. In a similar case Ilia Barishnikov of Viksa, Nishegopodskiy region, was sentenced to 6 month imprisonment for draft evasion, because his request to be exempted from military service for reasons of conscience, and to perform substitute service, was not accepted. He too was handcuffed in court, and transferred to a penal colony, where he served his full sentence.
* Financial Punishment: In February 2003, Roman Gurulev was fined in court for avoiding military service. This decision was upheld by the Moscow Oblast Court on May 19 2003, when it reviewed his case. Mr. Gurulev was fined 20,000 roubles for his objection to military service. In addition, Roman Faizulin from Norilsk has been fined for his conscientious objection. Krasnoyarsk Oblast Court was to review Mr. Faizulin's case in July 2003, but the outcome of this review was unknown at the time of writing.
* Recognised Substitute Service: A regional court in the Russian Far East has recognised Sergei Panchenko's constitutional right to perform alternative service. Mr. Panchenko, 18, had appealed his case after a local court overruled his claim. The decision to uphold the right to substitute service was based on the constitution as well as the new law on substitute service and Mr. Panchenko's Christian belief. The case illustrates that some draftees are recognised as conscientious objectors according to the constitution.
* Religious Objection: Mikhail Nevskii and Aleksandr Bobrov were detained between November and December 2001 together with at least seven other Jehovah's Witnesses. They both refused to wear uniform and were consequently held in respectively Vladivostok and Arkhangelsk regions. Mr. Bobrov filed a complaint in court and was awaiting hearing on February 6, 2002, but was not released from his military unit. It should be emphasised that there are no procedures for release from military service even if the court rules in favour of the appeal.
The first federal law on substitute service is due to enter into force on January 1, 2004. Although it must be considered progress that conscientious objectors are given a choice to perform service outside the military, War Resisters' International has grave concerns about the law in terms of discrimination and derogation from Covenant rights. These concerns are dealt with below.
The Committee expressed its concern in article 21 of its 1995 comments that once introduced, Russian substitute service might be made punitive in length. Unfortunately, the law includes the characteristics of a punitive system with 42 months in substitute service compared to the 24 months served in military service, respectively 36 and 18 months for graduates of higher education. The law declares in article 5.1 that "alternative civil service is 1.75 times that of military service", which clearly underlines an intentional discrimination.
Substitute service will be required to "be performed outside the area where the person lives" by article 4.2. The limitations of liberty rights are underlined by article 21.2, which deprives the rights to strike and to leave a city in which service is performed. By contrast, the freedom of movement is enshrined in article 12.3 in the Covenant, as it would not compromise national security. Not only will this act separate a conscientious objector from his community, but it may also be in breach of article 12.1 of the Covenant, which declares that everyone has the "freedom to choose his residence."
According to article 10.1, conscientious objectors are required to undertake medical examinations as well as registering with military authorities before they are informed of their substitute service location. Failure to comply will result in military duty despite the fact that these requirements violate many objectors' conscience. It therefore seems likely that a number of people will be forced into total objection. Others might feel forced to violate their belief and perform military service, which compromises article 18.1 of the Covenant on the freedom of conscience.
No specific reference is made to military personnel declaring conscientious objection. It is stated in article 3.1 that substitute service is only granted to those, who are not in military service, while article 11.1 sets out the application deadline about six months before call-up. It is therefore assumed that conscientious objection during or after military service is not recognised by the new provisions. However, the right to conscientious objection for military personnel is recognised in paragraph 2 of resolution 1995/83 of the Commission.
According to article 20 of the law, the total weekly working hours for people performing alternative service may not be limited if deemed necessary. However, the law does not state which type of work will be performed with total working hours and which are performed without. It could therefore be feared that some people in substitute service might be exploited by their service place. In addition, article 19.2 of the law, states that those in "(...) positions and professions involving hard labour or hazardous and/or dangerous work conditions (...)" are entitled to compensation. This seems to imply that people in substitute service might be forced to undertake hard, hazardous, or dangerous labour.
Having completed substitute service, conscientious objectors are transferred to the reserves of the Armed Forces by article 24. Although not subject to periodical military training, it is unclear whether conscientious objectors may be called up for either substitute, unarmed or armed service during wartime. Yet, article 4 of the Covenant clearly states that article 18 may not be derogated from in times of public emergency. This is in line with the Russian States of Emergency Act, which is highlighted in its periodic report.
Unfortunately, in its periodic report Russia did not refer to the varying length of service, the limitations of freedom to choose residence and movement, unlimited working hours, dangerous/hazardous working conditions, the absence of military personnel's right to conscientious objection or the enlistment of conscientious objectors in the reserves. This is despite the Committee's previous concerns and Russia's obligations to adhere to international standards.
Whereas the legal aspects of the substitute service law have been dealt with in the above sub-section, the present procedure and practise of conscription and conscientious objection are dealt with below:
* Detention of Draftees: Although the police are responsible for "ensuring the presence" of the draftee, it is unclear whether this authorises them to detain the draftee rather than simply handing him the summons and informing him of his duty to be present. Police detention of draftees could therefore be characterised as arbitrary arrest. By contrast, article 301 of the Russian criminal code on unlawful detention and article 286 on abuse of office prohibits arbitrary arrest in line with article 9.1 of the Covenant. In addition, the police are authorised to check identity documents only if they have "reasonable grounds to suspect" that a criminal offence has been committed. To search persons between eighteen and twenty-seven years old solely due to their age is questionable under article 2 of the Covenant, which prohibits any kind of discrimination.
* Refusal of Lawful Exemption and Appeal: Russian Federal law prohibits the inferior medical examination process as well as derogation from the right to appeal. In article 25 of its 1995 comments, the Committee expressed its concern that military tribunals might lead to injustice, as "the army, even at the highest levels, is not familiar with international human rights law, including the Covenant." In light of the fact that recruitment officials and military doctors continue to refuse lawful exemption, this does not seem to have improved. Not only do recruitment boards and military doctors refuse draftees lawful exemption from military service, but many also prevent draftees from appealing their decision. However, the right of appeal to an independent body is enshrined by the principles of the Covenant.
* Punishment of Conscientious Objectors: In article 39 of its 1995 comments, the Committee urged that "(...) all charges brought against conscientious objectors to military service be dropped." This is in line with paragraph 5 of resolution 1998/77 by the Commission, which emphasizes that states should refrain from imprisoning conscientious objectors. However, in some cases, Russia continues to imprison conscientious objectors or punishes them financially. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of conscientious objectors have openly declared that they are willing to perform substitute service of the same duration as military service. In the transition towards the option of substitute service, Russia has not followed the Committee and the Commission's recommendations to grant amnesty to all conscientious objectors nor has it referred to the continued punishment in its periodic report.
During the two year military service period, conscription soldiers are exposed to grave human rights violations by senior soldiers and officers. Such abuses include extortion, forced labour, slavery, torture including rape, extra judicial executions, disappearances, refusal of medical treatment, racism, and other serious ill-treatment. A number of soldiers evade their unit either to report the alleged abuses to independent investigating bodies or to flee the ill-treatment they face. Official military statistics vary from between 4,000 and 20,000 annual evasions, while the Union of Soldiers' Mothers' Committees estimates that the figure is closer to 40,000 evasions. On September 21, 2001, the Chairman of the Military Board of the Supreme Court, General N. Petukhov, documented that the annual number of abuses continues to increase. He highlighted an increase in so-called "new crimes" such as mass killings of guard shifts and rapes by fellow soldiers. According to Russian human rights groups, between 4,000 and 5,000 soldiers die annually during peacetime.
Systematic human rights violations in the Russian Armed Forces date back to the 1950s, and are known as "dedovshchina." During their first year in military service, conscription soldiers are obliged to follow orders from second year soldiers, who are known as "dedy" ("grandfathers"). The senior soldiers subject junior soldiers to extortion, and punish them with beating and torture if they fail to comply. In addition, a large number of senior soldiers force their juniors to participate in degrading activities or beat them for no apparent reason. Whereas military officers used to ignore violent ill-treatment of conscription soldiers, many have changed practise and now actively take part in violations or encourage senior soldiers to mistreat their subordinates. The aim seems to be to take away new soldiers' self-respect, so that they become indifferent about their personal safety during armed conflict as well as preserving "order" at military bases.
When senior soldiers are discharged after ending military service, the former junior soldiers become "dedy" themselves, and take revenge on the new junior soldiers. It is especially the minority from Northern Caucasus, who have been allowed to abuse the majority from the non-Caucasian regions. This has left many non-Caucasian soldiers with a national and racial hatred towards Caucasian people such as the Chechen population. Discharged soldiers bring the culture of violence and racial hatred with them into civil society, as the military does not offer them any rehabilitation. In this regard, it is worrying that many discharged soldiers go on to become police officers, possibly continuing their violent practises.
The participation of officers in human rights violations has not improved the atmosphere of impunity within the armed forces, which prevents or discourages soldiers from reporting alleged abuses. Instead, a number of soldiers evade their units to contact Soldiers' Mothers' committees throughout Russia to record the abuses. The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei B. Ivanov, said in January 2003 that soldiers should complain to their unit commander instead of to human rights groups. This is despite numerous reports of commanders involved in abuses, and violent reprisals against those who complain. In addition, the Military Procurators Office transfers those soldiers, who contact it to file a complaint, back to their unit. Not only do the soldiers risk violent reprisals, but it is also the local unit commander, who appoints the investigating officer. According to Amnesty International, some investigating officers have tried to falsify or cover up evidence to present torture and ill-treatment allegedly resulting in death as "accidents" or "suicides."
In many cases, senior soldiers have extorted money from junior soldiers. They usually demand between 100 to 200 roubles in provincial areas, or up to 2,000 roubles in the Moscow region. In some units, senior soldiers practise a system of debt when junior soldiers are unable to pay, which usually grows larger during the year. In other cases, junior soldiers are temporarily discharged against military regulations to provide senior soldiers with goods such as vodka, cigarettes, food, clothes, and money. This has led many junior soldiers to resolve to beg at metro stations in cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, or go from door-to-door. It could therefore be feared that some junior soldiers are forced to extort or steal from the civilian population. Other soldiers are told to provide goods from their parents' home, if they live in the area near the military base. In most cases, senior soldiers punish the extorted soldiers with severe beating and torture using hard objects such as stools if they do not provide the demanded goods within a certain deadline. In addition, senior soldiers prevent many junior soldiers from sleeping following the violent punishment.
Some military officers demand that soldiers perform forced labour or sell soldiers into slavery to the officers' own financial benefit. Soldiers in forced labour either perform services for the military officer's benefit such as renovating his private house or work in slavery for a private company. Solders have worked in factories, agricultural companies, private households, and even nuclear power plants, according to the Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg. The buyers are typically private companies, mafia organisations, and local residents especially in the Caucasus region. They pay the officers directly for the soldiers' forced labour, and the soldiers never receive any compensation for their efforts. During periods of forced labour, the soldiers are often registered as undergoing treatment at a military hospital to hide the illegal activities. If the soldier refuses to comply with arrangements of forced labour or slavery, the officer violently punishes him by severe beating and torture. Consequently, many soldiers have fled their service place in order to save their life. Soldiers, who flee their unit, could risk criminal charges for evasion.
Below are some examples of extortion and slave labour:
* Dmitri Makhiev: The young man was forcefully conscripted after being detained at his home in St. Petersburg and was designated to a military base at Mga near the city. Senior soldiers forced him to provide them with cigarettes and money from his day of arrival. As the base was located near his hometown, the senior soldiers forced Mr. Makhiev to bring cigarettes, money, as well as his own civilian clothes from his home on temporary discharges issued by an officer. The senior soldiers also punished him with beatings twice, as he had been unsuccessful in providing them with drugs. On January 2001, Mr. Makhiev went home to his mother and complained about the ill-treatment. Due to fear of reprisals, he decided not to file a complaint with a commanding officer, and chose instead not to return. Lieutenant Stepanov discovered him at a friend's house after a search had begun. The lieutenant violently attacked Mr. Makhiev and kicked him in the head. Mr. Makhiev was taken to an unknown building, where he was handcuffed to a radiator. Later, Lieutenant Stepanov drove Mr. Makhiev around the city handcuffed to some kind of handle in the car. Mr. Makhiev was able to escape when Lieutenant Stepanov had left the vehicle to make a phone call. He has since suffered from pain in the head, loss of appetite and fainting fits.
* Alexander Pozdeyev: The company commander in Volgograd, Plotitsin, sold Alexander Pozdeyev to work at 85a Dvinsky Street as slave labour. Mr. Pozdeyev worked at the address for two months from March 7 to the end of May 2000. He was later sold again as slave labour for another buyer in Volgograd. After overhearing a conversation about selling him to Chechnya, Mr. Pozdeyev fled to his hometown of St. Petersburg. He contacted the Prosecutor's Office, which transferred him to another unit in Pushkin. Mr. Pozdeyev was beaten at his new unit, and was submitted to a trauma clinic on June 21, 2000. In a letter to Mr. Pozdeyev dated August 2, 2000, an assistant to the military prosecutor of the Volgograd garrison rejected to open criminal proceedings against the officers, who sold Mr. Pozdeyev into slave labour. According to the assistant, Mr. Pozdeyev's personal testimony was not enough evidence for opening criminal proceedings. In addition, Mr. Pozdeyev's mother received a letter from Full Colonel Rybakov on November 7, 2000, stating that her son had deserted his unit in Volgograd since August 24, 2000, although he had been transferred to Pushkin on that date.
As mentioned in the above, the most common method of torture exercised by senior soldiers and officers in the Russian armed forces against junior soldiers is beating with hard objects such as stools or rifles. Others are burnt with hot objects such as cigarettes or receive electrical shocks applied to sensitive parts of their body. In some cases, the junior soldiers are killed either deliberately or as a result of the torture they suffer. According to the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, Russian servicemen deliberately killed 1,200 of their colleagues in 2002. The organisation has also claimed that a number of soldiers are driven to commit suicide by the torture and ill-treatment they experience in military service. In addition, other soldiers disappear after allegedly evading their unit. However, as many unit commanders fail to fully investigate such disappearances, it could be feared that some of the disappeared soldiers have been killed in the unit or sold into slavery by officers. In many cases of alleged "accidents" or "suicides," the bodies have been released to the families in sealed zinc coffins. Officers have prevented the families from opening the coffins. In one case known to Amnesty International, a family forced open their son's coffin, and found "abrasions, lacerations, bruises and contusions" on his dead body. This could give the impression that some officers might be hiding bruises and other signs of torture on the bodies by sealing the coffins.
Below are three examples of torture, ill-treatment, killings, and one disappearance:
* Oleg Stafeyev: In a letter to the Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg, Oleg Stafeyev has described the ill-treatment he and other conscription soldiers experienced at military unit 29483 at Vladikavkaz: The soldiers were forced to work continuously for 48 hours without sleep, and were often not fed during this period of time. At other times, the soldiers were forced to run the eight kilometres to the firing-range and then back again in striking heat. They would run until someone fainted followed by a cigarette break. The pattern would be continued repeatedly. The junior soldiers were beaten by both sergeants and senior soldiers for no apparent reason or as punishment if they did not provide them with the goods they demanded. Mr. Stafeyev witnessed the death of a conscript soldier after a sergeant had hit the soldier near his heart. The sergeant had punished the deceased for failing to buy cigarettes for him due to money shortage. According to Mr. Stafeyev, beating aimed at forcing the soldiers to sign contracts to be transferred to Chechnya killed another conscript soldier. Mr. Stafeyev was also severely beaten into signing the contract. He was designated to the border troops on the border with Chechnya with orders to shoot without warning at everyone who attempted to cross the border at night. Mr. Stafeyev later managed to escape from his unit.
* Fourteen Soldiers File Complaint: In a recent case from the North Ossetia region in southern Russia, fourteen soldiers left their unit in May 2003 to report alleged beatings by two sergeants. Thirteen of the fourteen soldiers had bruises, according to a spokesman for the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office in Moscow. The Prosecutor's Office has promised to investigate the allegations, and stressed that the soldiers would not be charged with desertion as they returned to their unit within 24 hours. However, it could be feared that the prosecutor will request the unit commander to investigate the allegations, as has hitherto been the practise. It could also be feared that the fourteen soldiers risk reprisals, as they continue to serve in the same unit as the sergeants.
* Murat Mestoyev: In a military unit at Vyborg close to the Finish boarder, Murat Mestoyev has alleged that he and other conscription soldiers from Ingushetia have been systematically beaten by other soldiers. Although Mr. Mestoyev was informed in March 2001 that his wife was pregnant, while his mother had already suffered two heart attacks, he was refused temporary leave. On March 31, Mr. Mestoyev disappeared and has not been seen since. By contrast, the unit commander claimed he deserted the unit voluntarily, and criminal proceedings were therefore brought against him.
Junior soldiers inherit the unwashed clothes from newly discharged soldiers. They have no time to wash their clothes or the required facilities to do so. Many sleep in their uniform or even bullet-proof vests. As with the washing of clothes, the soldiers are often too occupied to shower, and soap is usually not available. As a result, lice as well as bed bugs are very common in the barracks. The soldiers receive an inferior diet, which does not provide them with the fats, proteins and vitamins they require. The diet consists mainly of cabbage and porridge, which are often rotten. There is not much variety from the two main ingredients, and often soldiers starve from the absence of food. Unsanitary conditions together with an unstable and unnutritious diet have resulted in widespread illness among soldiers. Soldiers suffer from a variety of diseases such as stomach ulcers, skin diseases, dizziness, fainting, dysentery, and malfunctioning organs.
According to the Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg, both officers and even military medical staff refuse medical treatment to about 50 per cent of the conscription soldiers, who request it. Between 2001 and 2002, 2500 cases of refused medical assistance were never investigated. The organisation has also alleged that beating, whipping and other ill-treatment have occurred at military hospitals with the presence of medical staff or their knowledge of it.
Below are three examples of refusal of medical treatment:
* Sergey Beloussov: According to a witness statement by Sergey Beloussov's mother in 2002, Mr. Beloussov was conscripted despite suffering from scoliosis, and did not undergo radiography at his medical examination. Mr. Beloussov was forced to undertake duty in the military base canteen despite a temperature of 39.4 degrees Celsius. Sergeant Lauchkin declined Mr. Beloussov's request for medical assistance. Sergeant Bondarenko told Mr. Beloussov's mother that he would issue Mr. Beloussov with a temporary leave, if his family were willing to pay 100 roubles per day. During his temporary leave, an independent doctor examined Mr. Beloussov, and diagnosed that he suffered from pneumonia in his right lung as well as suffering from tuberculosis, sinusitis, and varicella. Sergeant Bondarenko demanded 2,500 roubles from Mr. Beloussov's mother in return for sending Mr. Beloussov to a military hospital on his return to the unit. However, Mr. Beloussov was not sent to the hospital, and a lieutenant in the unit threatened to send soldiers who requested hospitalisation to the severe Pechenga garrison.
* Dmitri Molchanov: Despite a record of catching bronchitis about eight times annually, Dmitri Molchanov was conscripted to the Railway Forces on December 22, 1999. At his unit, the sergeants regularly beat him for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, his health continued to deteriorate, but the sergeants refused to send him to a sanatorium. Instead, they forced Mr. Molchanov to undertake duty with a high temperature. He later spent a month in military hospital, where doctors recommended that he should be discharged from military service and spend another fifteen days in observation. However, Mr. Molchanov was immediately put on duty in the unit. In addition, Sergeant Unadzhyev knocked Mr. Molchanov's head against a concrete floor until he became unconscious, and then poured ice water over Mr. Molchanov. The company commander refused to investigate the incident or provide Mr. Molchanov with any medical assistance. Independent doctors later examined Mr. Molchanov, which led to his discharge in the summer of 2000. 62
* Eduard Konnov: Soon after his arrival at Blyukhera near St. Petersburg on November 28, 2000, Eduard Konnov began suffering from headaches. When he went to the sanitary centre at his unit, he was hit on the head and refused treatment. Mr. Konnov began bed-wetting for which he was punished by beating by Lance-Corporal Zhuzyenko. In addition, the mattress was taken away, leaving Mr. Konnov to sleep on his bed-frame's metal springs. On April 8, 2001, he fell into a coma, but only after spending a week unconscious was he taken to a military hospital. His parents were not informed about his coma until nine days after he became unconscious. On April 19, 2001, Mr. Konnov regained his consciousness, and was examined by independent doctors.
International law applies to civilians and military servicemen alike. The Russian Armed Forces predominately consist of conscription soldiers. The Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member, declared in article 1 of resolution 1166 (1998) that conscription soldiers are "citizens in uniform," and should enjoy the same rights as other citizens. It is therefore of utmost importance that the military service conditions comply with international human rights law. These service conditions are compared with international law below:
* Torture, Extra Judicial Execution, and Ill-treatment: By paragraph 39 of its 1995 comments, the Committee urged "that the stringent measures be adopted to ensure an immediate end to mistreatment and abuse of army recruits by their officers and fellow soldiers." Furthermore, article 7 of the Covenant prohibits any kind of torture and other ill-treatment. Yet, widespread human rights violations occur frequently within the Russian Armed Forces. As outlined in the above, such violations include extortion, torture including rape, extra judicial executions, and disappearances. In addition, a large number of the violations seem to be encouraged by military officers with a possible aim to systematically facilitate national and racial hatred by non-Caucasians towards Caucasians. This is especially worrying due to the armed conflict in Chechnya, located in Caucasus. Article 20.2 prohibits "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred," whereas article 20.1 prohibits any propaganda for war.
* Forced Labour and Slavery: Article 8 of the Covenant, prohibits any kind of slavery or forced labour, with the exception of national service in military service or national emergencies. As conscription soldiers are already fulfilling their national service by performing military service, and as the forced labour and slavery solely benefits third persons' private interests, none of the tasks outlined in the above can be justified as in accordance with the Covenant. In article 5.ii of resolution 1166 (1998), the Council of Europe invited its State Parties "... to guarantee that conscripts are not deployed for tasks not compatible with the fact that they have been drafted for national defence service, and are therefore not deployed for forced or compulsory labour in contravention of Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights."
* Refusal of Medical Treatment: The rights to life and health are enshrined in both the Covenant and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, military officers continue to refuse medical treatment to soldiers including those who are suffering from diseases or injuries due to inferior living conditions or torture by fellow soldiers.
* Absence of Investigation: The Military Procurator's Office continues to transfer soldiers back to units in which they have alleged human rights violations. In addition, it is common practise for the military procurator to delegate the responsibility for investigating to commanders within the unit. Not only has this practise prevented impartial investigations, but it has also left soldiers vulnerable to reprisals. It should be stressed that a number of military officers either engage in such violations or encourage them. In article 25 of its 1995 comments, the Committee expressed its concern that military tribunals might lead to injustice.
The First Chechen War lasted from 1994 to 1996. It was ended with a peace agreement with Russian troops withdrawing from Chechnya. In 1999, several Moscow apartment blocks were hit by terrorist bomb attacks. According to Russia, this coincided with violent attacks on towns in Chechnya. Russia reinstated her military presence in the republic in September 1999. Consequently, Russia views the Second Chechen War as an "anti-terrorist" operation rather than a military conflict. The State Duma had previously legitimised this claim through the 1998 "Law on the Suppression of Terrorism" and the 1996 "Law on Defence."
Russia has also used the September 11 attacks and the October 2002 hostage incident in Moscow to justify the continued Chechen conflict. Meanwhile, most governments have been less prepared to condemn the war, which has led the Commission to reject two draft resolutions critical of the Russian warfare in Chechnya.
Despite Russian claims that the war has now ended, there is still heavy fighting between the combatants. According to official estimates between 4,000 and 5,500 Russian servicemen died during the First Chechen War, but NGOs estimate that the true figure is between 8,000 and 14,000. At least half of those killed are conscription soldiers, who have been forced to serve in Chechnya. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Chechens have been killed in both wars, mostly civilians. As a result, the continued fighting has killed more civilians than soldiers.
Russian forces in Chechnya are responsible for grave human rights abuses against the civilian population including ill-treatment of displaced persons, torture, disappearances, and extra judicial executions. Recent reports have alleged that the same pattern of abuses have spread to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia where thousands of internally displaced persons from Chechnya have sought refuge. Whereas NGOs have documented tens of thousands of human rights violations in Chechnya, only 46 Russian servicemen had been convicted by January 2003. About half of them were convicted for either murder or rape. At the time, there were another 162 ongoing cases. However, official reports have indicated that about 79 per cent of all investigations are suspended without charges being brought against any alleged offenders, and that vital evidence and witness accounts are not secured. In addition, the 1998 anti-terrorism law grants immunity to military servicemen, who violate human rights during "anti-terrorist" operations, which has led to an atmosphere of impunity for Russian servicemen in Chechnya.
Russian forces use indiscriminate fuel-air explosive bombs as a part of their campaigns against the Chechen fighters. According to American defence agencies, the destruction caused by fuel-air explosives is twelve to sixteen times greater than conventional high explosives. It is almost impossible for both civilians and Chechen fighters alike to take shelter against the bombs. The bombs are even capable of killing and injuring people hiding in bunkers due to the enormous air pressure they cause followed by a vacuum. Russian forces have allegedly used fuel-air explosives against Tando village in Dagestan in August 1999 as well as in a southern mountain area in Chechnya. Russian forces using fuel-air explosives reportedly targeted a number of Chechen towns and villages in 2000. Although the bombs can be launched from the ground, one report suggests that they have also been launched from the air. If launched from air, it could be said to be in breach of the third protocol of the 1980 Geneva Convention, which prohibits the use of "air-delivered incendiary weapons" in populated areas.
As of November 2002, the Danish Refugee Council counted 106,000 registered displaced persons living in Ingushetia. It estimated that 23,000 were living in six tent camps, 27,000 in spontaneous settlements, and 56,000 in private accommodation. Many displaced persons fear for their lives in Chechnya. Therefore, they prefer to stay in the Ingush tent camps despite unstable food, gas, and electricity supplies, which have spread diseases and almost led to starvation. Russian officials have attempted to close all camps in Ingushetia since 1999 on several occasions, but they did not draw detailed plans for their closure before May 2002. However, after the Moscow hostage incident in October 2002, the authorities have intensified their pressure on displaced persons in camps. They even closed one tent camp at Aki-Yurt in early December 2002. The Ingush government has announced that they would close all camps by spring 2003, but following an international outcry, the plans seem to have been postponed. Since then, Ingush and Chechen migration authorities have denied hundreds of Chechens aid by cancelling their status as displaced persons, which has forced the majority to return to Chechnya. In some cases, people have restored their status by bribing officials.
The residents in all the remaining five camps are constantly under pressure from various authorities: Officials from Ingush and Chechen migration services visit the camps regularly. They inform the residents about the advantages of returning to Chechnya, and promise them food rations for five months, housing in temporary accommodation centres (TACs) or twenty roubles per person a day to pay for private accommodation as well as free transport to Chechnya if they return. The officials also threaten residents with cutting gas, electricity, and food supplies if they do not return voluntary. They stress that the camps in Ingushetia are temporary and will soon be closed. Officials have also removed some residents from food ration lists to force them to return. The Ingush Minister for Emergency Situations caused a food crisis in April and May 2001, when he told humanitarian organisations that the federal government would take over food supplies. Three weeks after the organisations had handed over the task to Russia, the federal government had still not kept its promise. This led the minister to request the organisations to resume their supplies. The tactic could be feared to have been a way of misusing humanitarian organisations' efforts in order to pressure IDPs. Many of those, who have returned to Chechnya, have received little or none of the promised supplies. In some cases, families have been waiting between three and five months in Chechnya for their food rations, which never arrived. This has led some to return to Ingushetia. However, those who return are unable to regain their prior status as internally displaced persons due to a registration stop.
In October 2002, Russian troops established permanent positions close to all the major tent camps accompanied by Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs). In many cases, soldiers have joined officials on their visits inside camps, and pressured residents to sign so-called "voluntary" return forms. Once a resident has signed a return form, the resident looses his or her status as a displaced person. In many cases, the resident has no choice but to return to Chechnya. The similar pattern of pressure from both officials and soldiers in the remaining tent camp is worrying, because it resembles the developments before the forced closure of the Aki-Yurt camp.
Russian authorities dispute all accusations by claiming that the camp residents have the option to stay in Ingushetia in TACs. This is despite the fact that camp residents are not aware of the option. Yet, Human Rights Watch has described ten out of twelve TACs as "non-existent, uninhabitable, or occupied." Humanitarian organisations had planned to build housing for 3,000 displaced families, but the Ingush government ordered them to halt the construction work in February 2003. The government also threatened to demolish the so far completed housing for 180 families together with unfinished constructions for 200 families due to alleged violations of building codes.
Russian forces have recently begun to target Ingush villages and spontaneous settlements in a number of large-scale military raids also known as "sweep operations." In June 2003, forces from the pro-Moscow administration supported Russian forces, and followed at well-known pattern of abusive and indiscriminate violence against civilians. On June 3, 2003, armoured military vehicles surrounded the "OOO URS" settlement of displaced persons in Nazran. Armed and masked soldiers searched the homes and forced all men to lie on the ground. The soldiers photographed the men and continued their search for several hours. They detained four people, who were later released without any charges being brought against them or any explanation of why they were detained. The next sub-section describes the pattern of sweep operations in detail.
Below is an account of the closure of the Aki-Yurt camp:
* The Closure of the Aki-Yurt Camp: Before its forced closure, the Iman tent camp in Aki-Yurt village had 1,700 residents. In September 2002, an official informed the residents that the camp would be closed due to its alleged uninhabitable living conditions. Between September and early December, officials visited the camp on a daily basis, and told the residents about the advantages of returning to Chechnya, while threatening consequences if they did not return. Two officials from the Chechen government also visited the camp to register each resident and their home address in Chechnya. They threatened to give away residents' homes in Chechnya in case they did not return. Both Chechen and Ingush officials claimed that all aid would soon end, and limited humanitarian agencies' access to the camp. Soldiers began to join officials in the camps in October. They came by each tent twice a day, where they forced the residents to complete a return form. Soldiers and police closed the camp by forcefully dismantling the remaining tents belonging to those residents, who refused to leave. International monitors from the United Nations and other agencies were denied access to the camp on December 1 and 2, which was dismantled by December 3. The United Nations has estimated that 558 of the 1,700 residents returned to Chechnya, while the majority have stayed in Ingushetia in private accommodation or unofficial camps. Yet seventeen families continue to live in fourteen mud huts where the camp use to be. Although officials have not offered them any alternative accommodation, they threaten the families daily with arrest on false charges of possessing weapons or drugs, or threaten to bulldoze the huts.
Russian forces continue to conduct so-called "sweep operations" (or "zachistki" raids) in Chechnya, which affect entire communities. Abuses during sweep operations are so widespread that in March 2003 Russian president Vladimir Putin admitted that they continue to occur. By contrast, Russia did not refer to sweep operations in its periodic report. In March 2002, the commander of Russia's armed forces also admitted that abusive operations had taken place, but assured that they belonged to the past. Order 80 was proclaimed to change the operations from large to targeted operations. In some cases, there are some indications that this has resulted in more limited night operations instead of previously mainly daytime operations, but not that the operations are less abusive.
In fifteen operations known to War Resisters' International, several human rights violations occurred including arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and extra judicial executions. Four cases occurred after Order 80 came into force. These cases cover a one-year period between June 2001 and June 2002. The list is by no means exhaustively, and only includes operations where people released from detention, or their relatives, have alleged human rights violations. However, it does indicate that abusive sweep operations are widespread throughout Chechnya. From the cases, the following general pattern can be established:
Sweep operations are usually reactions to attacks by Chechen fighters on Russian forces, which have severely injured or killed Russian servicemen. The operations typically involve troops from the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior, and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Following the attacks, Russian forces encircle a town or a village in which they suspect Chechen fighters are hiding. Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and, in some cases, helicopters assist armed soldiers by transporting them into the encircled area and making sure the inhabitants stay indoors during the operation. Soldiers then search each house and detain anyone they consider suspicious. In most cases, they do not check people's identity, even when people present them with relevant documents. Soldiers therefore detain many people without identifying them first. The vast majority of the detainees are men of conscription age, while a smaller number are woman.
The sweep operations affect the entire community, and not only the persons who are detained: In some cases, soldiers engage in extortion by demanding a certain amount of money in exchange for not detaining a person from either the person himself or his relatives. There are also many examples of severe looting from civilians. Soldiers have stolen items such as motor vehicles, chickens, and other vital supplies. It could be feared that looting by soldiers is a direct result of federal and local authorities' failure to pay contract soldiers as well as failing to provide both contract and conscript soldiers with food or other supplies. In a limited number of cases, Russian forces have deliberately set houses on fire. Human rights groups have reported several incidents of rape of women and girls. Memorial estimated in April 2002 that thousands had been tortured, raped, or looted due to sweep operations in Chechnya.
The soldiers usually blindfold detainees by pulling the detainee's t-shirt or jumper over his head. They assemble the detained persons in army vehicles and take them to either a permanent or a temporary military base. At the base, officials interrogate the detainees about their alleged involvement in the attack which triggered the operation. According to most detainees, they have not had any contact with Chechen fighters or knowledge of attacks on Russian forces. The treatment of detainees at military bases is dealt with in detail in the next sub-section.
Below are two examples of sweep operations:
* Tsotsin-Yurt: By November 2002, the village had witnessed no less than 33 sweep operations since September 1999. In July 2002, Russian forces carried out an extremely abusive operation after Order 80 came into force: On 24 July soldiers began encircling the village in response to shooting between unknown gunmen and local police. Many people attempted to escape before the operation began including a car with several people inside it, which exploded by Russian fire. When the victims' mothers started collecting their body parts, soldiers fired at them to stop what they were doing. The soldiers took away the bodies, which were shown on television as "destroyed bandits" dressed in false combat clothes. The operation itself took place from 25 until 29 July 2002, and resulted in the detention of about 60 people. In addition, looting and rape of women and girls occurred. The detainees were reportedly tortured by beating and electrical shocks. Many families had to pay for the release of their relatives. Ten people died in detention. Families were asked to pay for their bodies with weapons. However, the bodies were later released without payment. 97
* Alhan-Kala: From August 2002 to May 2001, Russian forces have carried out three abusive operations in the town. In a sweep operation from 19 June until 25 June 2001, soldiers detained a number of people, many of whom were subsequently tortured in detention by the above methods. Although most detainees were released within days, an unknown number of them died or disappeared during detention. Among those who disappeared were the husbands of Khadisht Vitaeva and "Zina Yandieva." Mrs. Vitaeva's home was also set on fire in the operation. Soldiers exploded a grenade in Mrs. "Yandieva's" basement, and an APC vehicle destroyed her courtyard. In addition, helicopters shot died Mrs. "Yandieva's" neighbour's six cows. Several other houses were looting and burned by Russian forces.
Russian forces have detained tens of thousands of people in the past, and continue to do so according to all recent reports. People are detained in groups during sweep operations, or individually at checkpoints or operations at targeted locations such as private homes. A large number of the detainees are not held at official detention facilities at temporary holding cells (IVS). Instead, they are kept at so-called "filtration camps" in cells, handcuffed to large items, or put into deep pits. It should be noted that there are no regulations on detention conditions in Chechnya, and that the vast majority of detainees are not registered at all.
Detainees are often tortured by beating and/or given electric shocks. Torture by beating is either conducted by hand or using hard objects, while electrical shocks seem to be directed at fingers, the kidney area, and genitals. Many victims have described how officers told they were aiming at sterilising them. Electrical shocks are in some cases applied through handcuffs worn by the detainee. The aim of the torture seems to be making the detainees confess to false allegations or name Chechen fighters. Human rights groups have observed severe marks on released persons caused by both beating and electric shocks. In addition, many detainees are forced to lie on the ground, kneel, or submit to other painful positions for long periods of time, as they are threatened with beating or kicking if they do not comply. Before their release, some detainees are forced to sign a statement declaring that they have no complaints about their treatment in detention.
A large number of the detainees "disappear," while in the custody of the Russian forces. Military officials often claim they released or transferred the detainees to another unit before disappearing. However, NGOs have documented that Russian forces are responsible for disappearances and extra judicial executions in numerous cases. In March 2001, none of the 34 cases of disappearances investigated by Russian prosecutors, led to discovery of the whereabouts of the missing persons or charges against any alleged offenders.
While many families are unable to find their disappeared relatives, others have found the bodies of their relatives lying on the ground in the area around the location they were held at. In other cases, the relatives have been asked to collect the body directly from a military base or the regional commander's office. Some officials have demanded money in exchange for releasing bodies to families. As of April 2002, Memorial estimated that at least 12,000 Chechens had been extra judicially executed and about 2000 had disappeared. Recent reports from February 2003 suggest that soldiers in some cases have applied a new practise in which they explode bodies in order to destroy evidence of extra judicial execution and torture.
The bodies of people, who were detained by Russian forces, have been found at several mass graves and dumping sites throughout Chechnya. In most cases, such graves and sites are located near the site where the detainees were held. In March 2001, Human Rights Watch alone counted nine unmarked graves and eight dumping sites. Memorial has documented several similar cases of dumping grounds.
Below is one example of a mass-dumping site:
* The mass dumping site at Dachny village: Between February 24 and March 2 in 2001, 51 bodies were recovered from a mass-dumping site at Dachny village (also known as Zdorovye), not far from Khankala military base. According to one military official, all bodies were mined and the area was sealed off before the bodies taken to a ministry base in Grozny. Relatives were later allowed to collect identified bodies. Out of nineteen bodies identified by NGOs, at least sixteen were of persons known to have been taken into custody by Russian federal forces in several villages, some during sweep operations. Among the bodies were at least four women. Many bodies bore marks of severe torture such as scalped heads, knife or gunshot wounds, and flayed or broken limbs including severed fingertips. In addition, many were blindfolded with their hands and legs tied by wire or cloth. The majority were dressed in civilian clothes. Several bodies were in different stages of decay when they were found, which became crucial as they were not stored in cooling facilities. Vital evidence was lost from at least one-third of the bodies due to inadequate forensic examination or no examination at all. On March 10, Russian authorities buried the remaining 34 unidentified bodies without warning, and without securing external evidence such as clothes or bullets. According to Human Rights Watch, the official investigation was so ineffective that it did not genuinely attempt to identify the victims or their offenders. Authorities have blamed the mass grave on Chechen fighters even though the restricted area around Khankala military base has been under Russian control since 1999.
Due to the many breaches of international humanitarian law and Commission resolutions by the Russian government and its military forces in Chechnya, it has been deemed most appropriate to dedicate a separate sub-section to legal aspects concerning Chechnya:
* Internally Displaced Persons: In paragraph 46 of its 1995 comments, the Committee urged Russia to improve the living conditions for displaced persons. This was repeated by paragraph 14 of resolution 2001/24 by the Commission, which urges Russia to protect displaced persons, as well as providing them with basic supplies and housing. However, as outlined in the above, Russia clearly does not provide security or steady supplies for the internally displaced persons in either Ingushetia or Chechnya. By contrast, it has repeatedly demanded that displaced persons return to Chechnya, and refused any help to new arrivals. It has even closed one tent camp by force. Yet, the freedom of residence is enshrined by article 12.1 of the Covenant. In addition, principle 15 of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement prohibits forcible return, while principle 18 states that the authorities shall provide aid and housing.
* Ill-treatment in Detention: Article 9.1 of the Covenant states that "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention." In paragraph 29 of its 1995 comments, the Committee expressed its "deep concern" about arbitrary detention and the ill-treatment of detainees by Russian forces in Chechnya. By paragraph 3 of resolution 2001/24, the Commission also strongly condemned arbitrary detention, torture, extra judicial execution, and disappearances of detainees in Russian custody; all of which remain widespread in Chechnya. Article 6.2 of the Covenant prohibits the death penalty without fair trial, while article 7 prohibits any ill-treatment or torture. However, Russia did not refer to any of these concerns regarding Chechnya in its periodic report.
* Other Ill-treatment: The many reports of rape against especially women and girls are extremely disturbing, and may be characterised as torture. Psychical integrity is an inherent right of both the Covenant and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Russian forces also continue to loot and demolish private homes especially during sweep operations. The Committee expressed its deep concern in paragraph 29 of its 1995 comments that "a large number of civilians have been killed or displaced as a consequence of the destruction of their homes." In addition, the Commission described the problem in the preamble to resolution 2001/24 as "serious and systematic destruction of installations and infrastructure."
* Absence of Investigation: Russian prosecutors and other relevant authorities continue to suspend or delay criminal investigations of alleged war crimes and other human rights abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya. In paragraph 25 of its 1995 comments, the Committee expressed its concern that the Military Procurator's Office is responsible in relation to most cases of alleged abuses by Russian servicemen. The Committee has underlined that this might lead to miscarriages of justice, and therefore compromise the principles of the Covenant. In resolution 2001/24, the Commission repeated its demand for an independent investigating body for along with its concerns about the "slow pace of investigation," and that "very few cases have reached the judicial system." It called on Russia to "investigate and solve all cases of forced disappearances (...)" War Resisters' International is not aware that Russia has followed any of these recommendations. In addition, Russia failed to explain in detail what she meant by "reinstating" the justice system in Chechnya in paragraph 27 of its periodic report.
* International Monitors: In resolution 2000/58, the Commission requested Russia to invite the special rapporteur on torture, and the special rapporteur on extra judicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. The following year, the Commission expressed in resolution 2001/24 its concern that Russia had not invited either of them. This still applies, and Russia has also postponed the visits by the special rapporteur on violence against women and the representative on internally displaced persons. In addition, Russia has refused to renew the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya's mandate; leaving the Council of Europe's three experts the only international monitors in the republic.
In addition to denying unlimited access to monitors and humanitarian agencies in Chechnya, several public authorities have harassed non-governmental human rights organisations throughout Russia. In particular, the authorities seem to attempt to hinder criticism on issues they regard as national security such as alleged human rights violations in Chechnya and at military bases. As a result, many federal government bureaus view human rights groups with suspicion. These include the Federal Security Bureau and the Ministry of Interior. Regional political leaders also tend to be intolerant towards criticism about their own leadership, especially in rural regions outside Moscow.
Both local and regional authorities have used arbitrary arrest to harass human rights workers. The human rights workers are detained on false pretexts, and held in detention for several days without court hearings on the legitimacy of the detention. Some human rights workers are later charged with libel, contempt of the court, or interfering with judicial procedures. Along with human rights workers, a number of other people, such as journalists, are also arbitrarily detained for longer periods than the forty-eight hours allowed by the Criminal Procedure Code. Pre-trial detention in Russia normally lasts from 7 to 10 months. In some cases, police have reportedly planted false evidence such as drugs as a pretext for detention in order to arrest people based on their political or religious views.
The federal government also harasses international human rights workers by denying them entry to Russia. The Federal Security Bureau reportedly blacklist anyone it views as a threat to national security, and denies a visa according to article 27 of the federal law on the Russian Federation's entry procedures. According to the head of Moscow's Human Rights institute, Valentin Gefter, denying visa to human rights activists and environmentalists have become systemic.
By detaining human rights workers under false pretexts and refusing international workers visas, Russia is effectively prohibiting organisations from documenting violations of human rights within armed forces as well as in its interactions with civil society. Yet, article 301 of the Russian criminal code on unlawful detention and article 286 on abuse of office prohibits arbitrary arrest in line with article 9.1 of the Covenant. In addition, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders establishes the basic rights for human rights organisations and their staff.
Below are two examples of harassment of human rights organisations:
* Detention and Abduction of Imran Ezhiev: Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORCD) in Sunzhen region documents alleged human rights violations by federal military forces in the Chechen conflict. On October 13, 2001, the regional department of the Ministry of Interior detained the director of the ORCD, Imran Ezhiev. The ministry held Mr. Ezhiev for a month without bringing criminal charges against him. During his detention, the ministry allegedly refused Mr. Ezhiev medical assistance. On November 13, the ministry released Mr. Ezhiyev with an official apology on behalf of Russian president Putin. On March 15, 2003, armed and masked men handcuffed and blindfolded Mr. Ezhiev before abducting him. The men interrogated Mr. Ezhiev for three days about his political work, and threatened him with torture and execution. Following a public outcry, the men released Mr. Ezhiev on March 18.
* Lawsuit Against Organisations: In February 2003, the Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg documented the alleged physical and mental abuse of Sergej Karyazin, Andrei Papulov, and Vladimir Sobolyov at Nakhimovsky Military Academy. According to the three cadets' parents', violations occurred with the knowledge of senior officers. The parents also filed the allegations with other soldiers' rights organisations, which were published in the Smena newspaper. In August 2003, the head of Nakhimovsky Military Academy, Admiral Alexander Bukin, brought a lawsuit against the organisations and individuals, who had publicly reported the alleged violations. Admiral Bukin claimed in court that the allegations against the academy had caused "anxiety in connection to the propagation of slander in my good name (...)" He demanded 500,000 roubles from the Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg's two representatives, Y. Y. Vilenskaya and E. M. Polyakova. In addition, he demanded 200,000 from the mother of Vladimir Sobolev, who had alleged abuses against her son, and 2,500,000 roubles from staff members at the Smena newspaper. The court has not yet reached its final decision.