Journalistic investigation into the secret murders in Chechnya
According to an investigation made by Novaya Gazeta’s journalists, dozens of people were secretly shot in Grozny on the night of 26 January without any prior incrimination. The journalists suggest the number of victims to be between 27 to 56.
Novaya Gazeta provides some details of the investigation.
An attack on a police officer in Grozny on 17 December last year resulted in a large series of arrests in Chechnya following special operations carried out in early January. The detainees, however, had neither been officially registered, nor charged with a crime, but were instead placed in the cells as well as the ancillary premises of the police departments. The detentions lasted until the end of January – in total, as per the newspaper, around two hundred people were detained.
Part of the detainees were “legalized” on 20 February, which indicates that formal arrests had taken place only six weeks after the actual detention. All of them were officially charged with illegal arms trafficking and participation in illegal armed formations.
Journalists believe that confessions were obtained as a result of the pressure of the month and a half long illegal detentions, which is often considered as evidence of guilt in Chechnya.
List «with marks»
During its investigation, Novaya Gazeta obtained a list from a Chechnyan MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) source, which specified the 67 names of the residents detained in January.
“All attempts to learn anything about the fate of these people have scared the living daylights out of our respondents,” Novaya Gazeta said. One of them, an employee of the Shali town administration, had a panic attack when asked to see the names of the Shali residents revealed by the journalists, alleging that: “…everyone detained in January in Shali is gone. Don’t try to find them.”
Currently, the authors of the investigation talk about 27 possible deaths in Chechnya. Alternatively, the number is considered standing at 56. According to Novoya Gazeta, these people were detained at different times, but were all killed on the same day – the evening of 25 January.
That night, all the detainees were held in Grozny on the territory of the deployment of a Patrol-Guard Service regiment.
According to the information obtained by Novaya Gazeta, the detainees were shot that night, and taken to various cemeteries, including Christian ones, and buried in hastily dug graves.
Careful study of the detainees’ list suggests that the decision on extrajudicial execution was spontaneously taken by the Center, which follows from the analysis of the document handed to journalists by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechnya. The document includes photographs of the detainees (showing some of them handcuffed to a radiator) with the minus sign placed opposite to some of the photos, which the journalists believe indicates termination.
Dead men tell tales
Novaya Gazeta is intent on initiating a criminal case that would make it possible to verify all the facts described by the journalists. The exhumation and postmortem forensic investigation of corpses may reveal traces of bullet wounds, which are forever present on bone remains.
It’s also easy to identify the allegedly murdered people by taking DNA samples from relatives of the victims for a comparative analysis. As with the situation with the persecution of gays – when the families of the victims (albeit under pressure) actively participated in the crackdown, the relatives of those who were detained on suspicion of extremism are supposed to contribute to the investigation.
Also, very few know the true fate of their relatives. Many still hope that the detainees will return alive. Those who had disappeared in January are still being looked for by their family members. They come to the police for information but hear the same excuses for several months suggesting that “perhaps they are already somewhere in Syria”, or that “it’s your duty to keep an eye on your relatives, what do you want from us?” At best, the seekers are told: “you will know everything in due time”.
“We publish these facts because the state law enforcement agencies have left us no choice. For two months we’ve been waiting for the cooperation to resume, as it seemed effective at the very beginning.
“It’s already clear today that the Investigative Committee of Russia has apparently given up on the matter just as it did with the case regarding Boris Nemtsov’s murder. That is the reason behind our publishing of the names of those who, according to our data, have fallen victim to the most horrible extrajudicial execution in Grozny. So now the investigation claiming the absence of living applicants will have to deal with special witnesses,” Novaya Gazeta says.
To proceed to the list made public by Novaya Gazeta, follow the link below: