Chechnya president denounces torture

Pro-Kremlin official says he'll investigate federally run prison

March 17, 2007|By David Holley | David Holley,Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- Russian federal police in war-battered Chechnya regularly engage in torture of detainees, the republic's Kremlin-backed president declared yesterday, as he announced a criminal investigation into the alleged abuse.

President Ramzan Kadyrov, whose own Chechen forces have faced frequent allegations of human rights abuses, including kidnappings, torture and murder, singled out a detention facility known as ORB-2 run by the Russian Interior Ministry in the town of Urus-Martan.

"The situation at the Operative and Investigative Bureau No. 2, where detainees are systematically subjected to torture, is totally unacceptable," Kadyrov told journalists in the Chechen capital, Grozny, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

"The problem of tortures at the bureau has always been raised, everybody has complaints against the agency, and we must solve the problem, because the torture and humiliation there are a blatant violation of human rights," Kadyrov said.

"The Chechen prosecutor's office has launched a criminal case into torture at the bureau in the town of Urus-Martan."

Spokesmen for the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow and Chechnya declined to comment on Kadyrov's allegations.

Tatyana Kasatkina, executive director of Memorial, a human rights center in Moscow, said that abuses at ORB-2 are so well known that it might have become impossible for Kadyrov to ignore them.

"We know of many cases when people were subjected to horrendous torture in that place," Kasatkina said.

"Those people were beaten into giving false evidence. We have been trying for a long time to attract the attention of the world community to those facts. It is a good thing that the Chechen government began talking about that too."

Kasatkina said she believed that Kadyrov, who won the region's top post early this month, might have addressed the issue in a bid to demonstrate his concern for the safety of Chechens and to raise his prestige among ordinary citizens.

He might also be making a bid to further increase his clout by putting pressure on a powerful organization not under his control, she said.

"ORB-2 is not subordinated to him, so maybe this is a factor too," she said. "If Kadyrov wants among other things to raise his ratings by paying attention to those issues, that would be quite a good thing, actually."

Kadyrov, the son of a former president of the republic of Chechnya who was assassinated in 2004, had previously served as prime minister. He turned 30, the minimum age for the region's president, only in October.

During the first Chechnya war, from 1994 to 1996, Kadyrov and his father, Akhmad, joined separatist rebels who won de facto self-rule for the Russian republic. The two switched to the pro-Moscow side when Russian forces returned to Chechnya in 1999, launching the second Chechnya war. Since his father's death, Kadyrov has spearheaded efforts to pacify the region through a mix of repression and economic reconstruction.

Musa Muradov, a Chechnya analyst with the Kommersant daily newspaper, said that Kadyrov "is trying to kill two birds with one stone. He wants to get rid of a federal organization, which is not subordinated to him, and at the same time to accuse this organization of all the bad things which take place in Chechnya."

"The head of ORB-2, Col. Akhmed Khasambekov, is a very professional policeman who is doing his work quite professionally, and at the same time not making any bows to Kadyrov, like everybody else in Chechnya," Muradov said.

"Of course, Khasambekov's men are not angels, and suspects who get into their hands sometimes get pretty rough treatment. But it would be naive to think all the evil things in Chechnya are done only by this organization."

David Holley writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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