Kidnapping rampant in Chechnya

More than 300 people have been kidnapped in Chechnya this year, a pro-Russian official has admitted.

    Civilians have been the main casualty of Russia's brutal war

    Movsur Khamidov, Chechnya's deputy prosecutor general, said on Monday the victims were

     mainly civilians, but some were law 

    enforcement officials.

    He added the figure was relatively low compared to the period between 2000 and 2002, when kidnappings were rampant. 

    However, human rights groups have said the figures are an under-estimate and kidnappings are on the rise.

    Vanishing without trace


    Anna Neistat, Moscow office chief of Human Rights Watch, said: "

    The real figure is 400 disappearances from January to July this year - which is an average of 60 people vanishing without trace each month."

    Neistat said the evidence clearly showed Russian soldiers were committing most of these crimes.

    "Most of the disappearances are down to the Russians' idea of swift justice. They are

    summary executions, abductions after cases of mistaken identity, and people who have been tortured beyond recognition and who are then killed."

    She added: "We know that Ahkmad Kadyrov (Chechnya's Russian-

    appointed president) is linked to these disappearances. His men have their own motivations but much of it is to do with crimnal gang activity."

    Most of the disappearances ... are

    summary executions, abductions after cases of mistaken identity, and people who have been tortured beyond recognition and who are then killed"

    Anna Neistat,
    Human Rights Watch

    Total impunity

    And Neistat said there was absolute impunity for the perpertrators of these crimes.

    "The Russians do open investigations

     but close them after two months for lack of evidence. I think the Russian authorities simply do not want to upset the military, and there is no prressure on them to change their ways."

    According to Human Rights Watch, 1132 civilians were killed in Chechnya in 2001, or between 10 and 15 times the murder rate for Moscow.

    Another report, providing crime statistics for the first months of 2003, said in January and February there were 70 murders, 126 abductions, and 25 cases in which human corpses were found.

    Chechen independence

    Russian troops poured into Chechnya in October 1999, in an "anti-terror" campaign launched by then prime minister Vladimir Putin.

    The republic had won de facto independence from Russia after a 1994-96 war, but it was overwhelmed by violence and kidnappings during the interim period.

    The official Russian military toll from the second war is estimated at up to 5000 soldiers, although rights groups believe the figure may be closer to 12,000.

    Russia says that up to 15,000 Chechen rebels have been killed, although the official civilian death toll has never been published.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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