For IDPs from Chechnya the Republic of Ingushetia in 1999 literally became an island of salvation, the only place where their safety was ensured. One can state with regret that today the situation is different.
After tent camps were shut down in 2002–2004, compact accommodation points (CAPs) were set up on the territory of the RI with the help of international organizations, including some new centers, where IDPs were invited to move. These small settlements, totaling 67 and having a total capacity of slightly more than 12,000, are housed in unsuitable buildings: garages, shops of shut-down factories, on the premises of former cattle farms, etc.
In the end of 2005, according to the IR FMSD, there were 21,989 Chechen IDPs residing in the RI, of them 13,133 persons were in private accommodation and 8,856 people lived in 72 rented rooms. The actual number of IDPs in the Republic is higher, since in every compact accommodation point there are many IDPs who have been removed from the lists of FMSD. According to unofficial figures, currently Ingushetia is home to approximately 38,000 migrants from Chechnya.
Situation in CAPs
Substandard living conditions, lack of money and lack of adequate social support are constituent elements of the lives of IDPs. Getting registered with the Interior Ministry offices remains a separate acute problem. Recently there have been less denials of residence registration; however, the procedure itself has become more costly. In the town of Karabulak, temporary registration for one person costs 250 rubles (7.5 euros). This includes costs of photographs and forms and a state duty. Travel fares from distantly located CAPs (compact accommodation points) to the place of registration are to be added to this sum. If, for example, there are six adult children in the family, the registration will cost 1,500 rubles (approximately 45 euros) – an enormous sum of money for IDPs. Given that the registration has to be extended every six months, one can understand how serious this problem is.
For IDPs remaining in the ruined camp of Iman (the village of Aki-Yurt, the Malgobek District), the issue of getting a temporary registration is particularly pressing. This CAP is located far from the district capital, transport service between the village and Malgobek is irregular and a one-way ticket costs 17 rubles (0.5 euros). To get registered one needs to travel there several times. People are not able to pay even the travel expenses, let alone all the rest of the expenses that accompany the registration process. Meanwhile, passport checks are conducted at Iman, too, and everyone who does not have a registration are regularly taken to a local police station.
Electricity arrears accumulated by Ingushetia are a serious problem. The unpaid electricity bills of CAPs for Chechen IDPs amount to 38.6 million rubles and electricity arrears of camps for IDPs from North Ossetia stand at 8 million rubles. This money should come from the federal budget, however, this does not happen and Ingushetia finds itself to be a permanent debtor to RAO Unified Energy System of Russia, Russian energy monopoly. The problem of energy supply interruptions has been faced by residents of both Iman CAP (the village of Aki-Yurt) and Tanzila CAP, which provides shelter to those who have deregistered themselves with MA and are on the lists of those who have returned to Chechnya.
Living conditions and the condition of houses in some CAPs often do not stand up to any criticism. For instance, in Kristall CAP in the city of Nazran, a complex of houses on the left side of the settlement stands right above a ravine. Loose soils cannot stand the load and are crumbling. In some homes the back walls have already collapsed. The dwellers have patched the holes with cardboards; in some homes they have carpeted them. Still, this does not keep out moisture and insects.
However, the main danger is that the soils continue crumbling and this presents a real danger of houses falling down into the ravine, which might cause serious injuries and even loss of life.
To make things even worse, a hurricane wind that ripped through the republic on the night of March 8 – March 9, 2006, tore off the slates from the roofs of many houses in Kristall CAP. Refugees tried to fix it using their own resources, but in some places the damaged slates need to be replaced and they do not have funds to do it. International humanitarian organizations, to which the CAP residents turned for help, are considering provision of construction materials, however, no concrete dates have been given yet. The homes are standing with their roofs broken.
Starting from May 2006, the Danish Refugee Council cut the number of recipients of humanitarian aid in Ingushetia. The decision to this effect was taken by the United Nations World Food Program; and it has to do with the cuts in funding dedicated to these purposes. Recipients of humanitarian assistance now include large families with four and more children, families with disabled dependants or without a main breadwinner. A separate group comprises under-age children and elderly people aged over 50. Families that do not fall under any of the above categories have been deleted from the lists of humanitarian aid recipients. They account, according to the Danish Refugee Council, for approximately 9% of the total number of refugees.
On February 20, 2006, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour visited the Republic of Ingushetia. She was struck with the miserable plight of the IDPs. She offered an opinion that “despite all the efforts that have most clearly been taken by the Republic and international organizations, these people are living in extremely miserable conditions. It is also clear that they have been under these conditions for a long period of time.”
At the office of Memorial Human Rights Center in Nazran, Louise Arbour had a meeting with representatives of Chechen and Ingush human rights organizations. Also present at the meeting were direct victims of human rights abuses and their relatives. Among the main issues raised at the meeting, were the problems of extrajudicial killings and abductions of people and incidents of illegal detentions of citizens on the territories of Chechnya and Ingushetia.
On April 10, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Ingushetia. He paid a visit to the Berd-Yurt settlement, the Sunzha District, where more than 100 families of refugees from Chechnya have remained for permanent residence in Ingushetia and looked into the residence facilities and living conditions of people.
António Guterres also visited Kristall CAP and among other things he tried to learn the reasons for people’s reluctance to return home. The refugees cited the absence of housing and safety guarantees back home among the main reasons for their forced stay in Ingushetia.
The Threat of Closures of CAPs
Despite the promises the RI and the federal authorities have given to the IDPs who stayed in the RI and favored safety over more acceptable living conditions not to force them to return to Chechnya, in reality the situation is different.
Since autumn 2005, vigorous efforts have been taken to close CAPs pursuant to Resolution No.8 by the Chief Sanitary Officer of the RI “On Shutting down the Operations of Compact Accommodation Points for Internally Displaced Persons from the Chechen Republic on the Territory of the Republic of Ingushetia” of November 11, 2005, because of their failure to meet sanitary standards. The CR Mission in the RI has turned to the President and the Chief Sanitary Officer asking them to refrain from such actions and not deprive more than 10,000 citizens of shelter. A similar request has been forwarded to FMS of Russia by non-governmental organizations, with a reminder that when camp settlements were dismantled IDPs were offered to move to CAPs as an alternative to returning to the Chechen Republic – and the unsuitability of that housing for living and its substandard sanitary conditions were known in advance.
It must be said that on January 12, 2006, during a meeting with the President of the Republic of Ingushetia Murat Zyazikov representatives of Memorial HRC and Civic Assistance Committee received assurances that lease agreements for CAPs would be extended to cover the first half of 2006, which was in fact subsequently done. Nevertheless, it is clear that CAPs won’t exist long and no alternative to returning to the CR will be offered to IDPs.
According to a source in the RI Presidential Administration, “in the current year, conditions are planned to be created for the return of at least ten thousand IDPs from Ingushetia to the Chechen Republic, mostly those who are living in compact accommodation points” (information from the Caucasian Knot Web site). It was, apparently, with this end in view that from April 17 to April 27, officers from the RI FMSD conducted re-registration of IDPs from Chechnya, accompanied by sweeping passport checks in CAPs.
Passport Checks, Detentions and Special Operations
Sudden passport checks keep the inhabitants of CAPs stressed out. Quite often detentions have been carried out with violations of the law and criminal cases being opened without any grounds.
On April 25, 2006, passport checks were conducted in two CAPs in the stanitsa of Ordzhonikidzevskya. About 30 men and teenagers were detained because of the absence of temporary residence registration. They all were taken to the Sunzha District ROVD. According to a report by a correspondent of the Caucasian Knot Web site, two of them, Aslambek Akhmedov and Beslan Maayev, were put in custody on suspicion of being members of an IAG, the rest of the people were released.
On April 27, 2006, a similar check was conducted in four CAPs of the city of Nazran. In Kristall CAP virtually all males were detained – over 40 people. After the checks all detainees were released (Appendix 4).
On September 20, 2005, at Agrosnab CAP, officers from law-enforcement agencies apprehended Magomed Eberbekov (born 1981). A search of the trailer, in which he lived together with his family, was conducted without attesting witnesses and the dwellers were forced out into the street. A grenade was allegedly discovered in the search. A criminal case was opened against M. Eberbekov on these grounds; subsequently he was released on his own recognizance. His neighbors and relatives believe that Magomed attracted attention of the police because of his appearance: he has a beard and his hair is longer than usual.
In addition to passport checks, special operations are conducted in CAPs and other settlements, involving large numbers of troops and hardware. Such operations are the harshest of all; they are carried out with a complete disregard for the law: armed men wearing masks do not introduce themselves to anybody; they arrive by vehicles with no license plates and do not explain where they take away the people they detain. It is known that the detainees are subjected to severe torture to force them make required confessions.
On October 21, 2005, in the Gamurziyevsky Micro-District of the city of Nazran, officers from an unknown security agency conducted a special operation, during which the house of Timur Khalukhoyev was blown up and a refugee from North Ossetia Akramat Gambotov (born 1980), was detained, who was temporarily residing in the village of Pliyevo.
Around 100 masked officers were involved in the operation, who arrived by vehicles with no license plates. Forty to fifty military burst into the house No.4 on Stepnaya Street; they were looking for a tall stout man, who they said had just run into the house. In the home owned by Timur Khalukhoyev, at the time there were his wife with daughter and a guest, Akramat Gambotov, who was waiting for the host. The troops searched the entire house and three or four neighboring houses, but did not find the man they were looking for. After the search Timur Khalukhoyev’s wife with her baby daughter were driven out from their home into the street and the house itself was blown up. Akramat Gambotov was detained and driven away, despite the fact that he in no way looked like the wanted man – he was short and frail.
On November 30, 2005, in the city of Nazran, a “special operation” was conducted in the building housing a kadiyat, “a spiritual center for settlement of civil disputes.” The operation was carried out by armed members of security agencies wearing masks, who drove up in several cars with tinted windows and no license plates. Without any explanations, they detained four males. The men were forced into a car and taken to the Vladikavkaz RUBOP. The young men were brutally beaten and tortured for several hours. Three of them were released on that same day late at night. Under torture, Ruslan Tsechoyev, one of the detainees, signed a confession that he had carried a pistol and a grenade. He was charged under Article 209 (banditism) (Appendix 5).
A similar special operation was conducted on January 19, 2006, in Nazran and in Tsentr-Kamaz CAP. All males were taken out into the street, lined up against the wall with their hands above their heads and searched. Four men were detained. Three of them were in the CAP visiting their friends; they were released later in the day after a check. The fourth man, Timur Pareulidze (born 1978), a refugee from Chechnya, was residing in the CAP. He was left in custody at the Vladikavkaz SIZO.
It should be noted that already on the following day, January 20, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that three militants had been apprehended on the outskirts of Nazran, including the leader of an armed gang under the command of Shamil Basayev and Doku Umarov. The security agency officers made haste to feed to the media this report before even conducting any investigative actions, although later on the same day they had to release those three completely innocent men. Thus, already on the night of January 19, Interfax agency’s report of January 20 was in conflict with the reality (Appendix 6).
On January 27, 2006, in the town of Karabulak, officers from federal security agencies with special brutality conducted a special operation in a CAP located on the premises of Yug-Agrosnab enterprise. A resident of Chechnya Aslambek Akhoyevich Khatuyev was killed during the operation.
Around 80 officers were engaged in the operation, who arrived by two armored personnel carriers (APCs) and several cars with concealed number plates. Part of the troops were wearing white camouflage, their faces covered with masks.
A shooting with submachine guns soon ensued and explosions were heard in the western part of the settlement. Fortunately, none of the residents of the CAP was injured, although ammunition fragments and bullets were piercing plywood walls of the homes.
When things calmed down, the officer who led the operation, ordered the camp’s superintendent to take people to the street leaving the doors of the houses and rooms open. Males were forced to their knees near the last barrack hut. In this position – without outer clothing, shirts unbuttoned and with their hands behind their heads – they were kept on the snow for five hours, until the special operation was over.
Officers from the Karabulak ROVD, who arrived at the scene, were not allowed onto the premises of the CAP.
Residents of the CAP were taken to identify the body that lay between the second and the third barrack. The killed person, a young man, aged around 25, was lying on his back, with a Stechkin pistol, a pistol clip and some cartridges near him. No one of the refugees had ever seen him before.
On the following day, a district police officer informed them that the killed man’s name was Aslambek Khatuyev.
Already on the day when the operation was conducted, news agencies reported, citing a spokesperson of the republican FSB, that: “Aslambek Khatuyev, killed on January 27, during a special operation in the Ingush population center of Karabulak, was an active member of illegal armed groups and the leader of a “back-up team of terrorists” who attacked Beslan on September 1, 2004” (Appendix 7).
According to the information Memorial HRC has, the killed man, Aslambek Khatuyev, was the brother of Sultan Khatuyev, who was abducted by FSB officers in 2004 in Ingushetia and later “disappeared”. On June 28, 2005, complaint by relatives of Sultan Khatuyev was forwarded to the European Court of Human Rights.
Lives of civilians are also endangered by ill-considered and irresponsible actions by the military. It should be noted that in Ingushetia this has not acquired such mass proportions as in Chechnya; during the reported period two mine incidents were registered. Both incidents happened in early spring, during the period of ramps (wild leek) gathering.
On March 6, 2006, at around noon, three local residents got blown up on a mine in the forested area near the village of Dzhugurty, the Kurchaloi District. Two of them were killed and one wounded.
On March 7, 2006, at about 10:00 a.m., five male teenagers were blown up supposedly on a trip wire mine near the village of Ali-Yurt, the Nazran District. One was killed and four were wounded.
In both incidents traces of some unknown military detachment were discovered at the scene of the explosion (Appendix 8).
On May 2-3, 2006, Russian military aircraft delivered a series of massive missile and bomb strikes on those same forested areas located to the north of the village of Ali-Yurt, near the border with North Ossetia. Explosions of heavy bombs were heard not only in the nearby settlements, but even in the city of Nazran. There have been no reports of casualties and damages.
According to a source from security agencies, the aircraft were delivering “preplanned strikes” on supposed bases of armed resistance groups.
Recently we have been most concerned with a series of attacks on Russian residents of the Republic of Ingushetia. In January-March 2006, such attacks could be called a clear tendency (Appendix 9).
These provocative actions are in conflict with the republican program for the return of the Russian-speaking citizens, which has been implemented in Ingushetia and was developed on the initiative of the RI President Murat Zyazikov.
Attacks on leaders of law-enforcement agencies and administration heads have become more frequent.
On May 17, 2006, the Republic’s Deputy Minister of the Interior Dzhabrayil Kostoyev was killed in a terror attack. Apart from Kostoyev, his body guard and his driver, as well as four civilians were killed in the blast.
On June 9, 2006, the leader of the republican OMON Mussa Nalgiyev and his family were killed in a shooting attack. His three children, his brother and his driver, who were in the car, died together with him at the scene of the incident.
On that same day, June 9, deputy head of the Sunzha District Administration Galina Gubina was killed. Unknown men shot her down with automatic weapons. The incident happened in the stanitsa of Ordzhonikidzevskya, when Gubina was leaving her home and getting into her official car.
Overall, one can state that the situation in the Republic has become more tense in the past 12 months.