The second armed conflict in the Chechen Republic since the break-up of the Soviet Union has continued for nearly five years. In spite of repeated claims from Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen officials that the situation is 'normalizing', there seems to be no end in sight either to the conflict itself or to the accompanying human rights abuses. Although the regular aerial and artillery attacks which took place in earlier phases of the conflict are now intermittent, and raids on villages which where large in scale in previous years are now targeted and take place at night, Russian and Chechen security forces continue to carry out human rights violations with impunity. These include extrajudicial killings, "disappearances" and torture, including rape, and ill-treatment; such violations are in breach of the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights and humanitarian law to protect the right to life, dignity and security of the person and not to be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment. In addition, Chechen armed opposition groups target civilian members of the Chechen administration and are suspected of being responsible for a number of bombings, which have caused indiscriminate harm to civilians. Such violations and abuses, many of which constitute war crimes, are overwhelmingly committed with impunity, as very few perpetrators are ever identified and brought to justice. The “normalization” is characterized by the lack of respect for the rule of law and security of the individual.
Human rights abuses which previously occurred almost exclusively in Chechnya are increasingly spreading across the border to neighbouring Ingushetia. While Ingushetia enjoyed the reputation as a safe haven for displaced Chechens during the first years of the war, this is no longer the case. During the first few months of 2004, there appeared to be an increase in the number of "disappearances" and killings in Ingushetia, and affecting Chechen as well as Ingush people.
At the time of writing the last remaining tent camp in Ingushetia for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Chechen Republic, Satsita, was about to be closed down in early June. Four others were shut down in the previous six months. IDPs from these camps have been subjected to unacceptable levels of pressure from federal as well as local authorities to return to the Chechen Republic. Many have refused to go back, citing the security situation as their main concern. Others have felt that there was no alternative and have returned to an uncertain future. Now, after the closure of the tent camps, the question is whether the authorities will apply more pressure on the tens of thousands of Chechens who remain in spontaneous settlements or private accommodation in Ingushetia, to go back to Chechnya.
This report is based on the findings of an Amnesty International delegation which travelled to Ingushetia in March/April 2004 as well as ongoing research conducted from Amnesty International's International Secretariat in London. During the field research, Amnesty International delegates interviewed a substantial number of victims of human rights abuses as well as their relatives and also met with lawyers and representatives of local and international organizations working in the region, including the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the Society of Russian-Chechen Friendship, the Danish Refugee Council, the Chechnya Justice Initiative and Niizo. The aim was to gather information about the human rights situation inside the Chechen Republic as well as in Ingushetia. The delegates visited Ingushetia at a time when the situation in the republic is becoming increasingly tense. While the security situation in the Chechen Republic remains more precarious than in Ingushetia, the rising number of human rights abuses in a republic which, until two years ago, was considered relatively stable, warrants an inclusion of Ingushetia in this report. It is not only a place where Chechen IDPs have sought refuge, it is a republic where the cycle of violence and abuse which exists in Chechnya is now being repeated. Amnesty International also continuous to be greatly concerned about the ongoing cycle of human rights abuses – committed with impunity – in the Chechen Republic, as well as the lack of investigations into past violations.