Russia's filtration camp policy is 'to cripple Chechens for life'
Patrick Cockburn in Moscow
17 February 2000
Horrifying new evidence is emerging of systematic beatings and rape by Russian soldiers of Chechen civilians and suspected guerrillas who are being held prisoner in what Russia calls"filtration camps" in northern Chechnya.
Ruslan, a 21-year old man from Grozny, the Chechen capital, who does not want to give his family name, is one of the few prisoners to be freed. He has described how girls as young as 13 were raped by masked Russian soldiers.
Still bowed over in pain from being hit with a metal hammer on the back he says: "I thought nothing could be worse than the rubber sticks. Then I realised that the rubber sticks were nothing in comparison to the hammer." When Ruslan was first arrested he was stripped of his clothes and kept in a specially refrigerated room at the camp in Chernkozovo.
He was only released when his mother borrowed money to pay a large bribe. His experiences appear to be typical of the treatment received by those Chechens who have been arrested since a general mopping up operation started in Chechnya in mid-January. General Viktor Kazantsev, the Russian army commander in the north Caucasus, announced that all Chechen males between the ages of 10 and 60 would be considered as suspects.
Ruslan's story confirms the account given in a letter from a Russian soldier serving at Chernokozovo, published by The Independent last week, of merciless beatings and systematic rape of both men and women. Both Ruslan and the soldier say that almost none of the prisoners in the filtration camp have any connection with Chechen guerrillas. Most were arrested at the whim of Russian soldiers at checkpoints or during house-to-house searches. "They are literally being killed here, one just has to hear the cries of robust healthy guys whose bones are being broken," wrote the soldier.
There is growing evidence that the treatment inflicted on the Chechen prisoners by Russian soldiers is equal in brutality to that suffered by Bosnian Muslims in the early Nineties for which some of the perpetrators are now on trial for war crimes.
In an interview with Human Rights Watch in Nazran, the capital of Ingushetia, Ruslan described how he was arrested on 16 January at a checkpoint as he and his family were trying to leave Chechnya.
His mother and sister desperately tried to prevent him from being taken away but were told by the Russian soldiers that they would be shot unless they desisted.
Ruslan was among the first Chechens taken by van to Chernokozovo, an old Soviet prison on the Terek river in north-west Chechnya. He says: We were told by the soldiers 'don't even whisper to each other or we will shoot you'."
As the prisoners left the van they were forced to run between lines of soldiers who beat them with rubber batons. The Russian soldiers, who were always masked, worked in shifts of 12 to carry out the beatings. "I was like a ball between them", says Ruslan. The only Russian whom he saw unmasked was the official investigator. Ruslan said: "He knew I was a fighter."
When Ruslan denied that he knew any fighters he was beaten again. The beatings appear to be aimed at maiming young Chechens, breaking their ribs and fingers and bursting their eardrums. From 6pm to 11pm the prisoners were forced to stand with their arms raised. "He read out a decree that was on his desk." said Ruslan. "It said that 150,000 Chechens have to pass through the filtration camps." The official investigator added that the purpose of the camp was that those who survived would go out of it "crippled for the rest of their lives". Ruslan claims that thesoldiers who were guarding the prisoners were raping the detained women, including girls as young as 13. Confirming the account of the Russian soldier who served in Chernokozovo, Ruslan says the guards also raped the men.
Peter Bruckaert, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch, said the accounts of rape and mistreatment from the first prisoners coming out of the filtration camps are consistent with each other. He adds that there have been massive round-ups of Chechens over the last few weeks. He said Russian TV has shown pictures of young men in Grozny being tossed into the back of trucks like logs of wood.
Ruslan was only released on 5 February because a pro-Russian Chechen arranged for the release of two Russian soldiers held by the Chechen fighters and his mother borrowed money to pay a bribe.
There are signs that the Russian authorities intend to intensify the occupation of Chechnya by increasing the number of filtration camps. The Russian daily Commersant reported yesterday that a prison is to be first building rebuilt by Russia in Grozny. Most of the Chechen capital is in ruins as a result of prolonged bombardment by Russian artillery and aircraft and the prison will be given priority over providing shelter for either the Russian army or civilians.
* The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, yesterday attacked Moscow for refusing her request to visit areas affected by the Chechen conflict. "The suffering caused by indiscriminate bombing and seeming disregard for civilians must not be compounded by the denial of the basic human rights of people in Chechnya." she said.
More reports about mass atrocities and sadistic torture in the Russian concentration camp of Chernokozovo are being received. Prisoners, having miraculously escaped from the concentration camp, report things no ordinary human brain can imagine. The guards, having lost all human nature, are committing satanic ritual murders of the prisoners. Ibragim Vakhayev from Urus-Martan, an eye-witness to the bestial crimes of the Kremlin regime, reports that raping of victims tortured to death is a common and regular practice in Chernokozovo.
The rape of the corpses is practiced in full view of other prisoners. The guards wear black masks. After these acts of necrophilia the guards announce to the prisoners who the next victim is going to be.
Ibragim Vakhayev confirms that he witnessed the murder of a 10-year- old boy whose name hid doesn't know. The corpse was raped by five guards with black masks, cut to pieces afterwards and put into a plastic sack. The Prosecutor general of the ChRI has made it known that special inquiries about the mass atrocities in the concentration camp of Chernokozovo are made.
February 16th, 2000
More and more prisoners in the Russian concentration camp of Chernokozovo report satanic crimes committed by the Putinists and Kremlin mercenaries.
According to these eye-witnesses the guards of the concentration camp, while torturing the prisoners, frankly admit belonging to a satanic movement and that their task is the physical and moral destruction of Muslims. The higher-up guards, calling themselves officers, frankly admit that they were ordered by the Kremlin to physically destroy not less then 150 thousand Chechen young people and women.
Prisoners report that not less than 200 children, aged between 10 and 15, are kept in the camp and are subjected to maiming and satanic torture. The Russians have cut off the fingers, noses and ears of hundreds of prisoners. Many inmates's feet and hands are cut off - they die several days later.
According to Daud Rizvanov from Shali, a prisoner who escaped from the camp, the Russian guards, intoxicated by vodka and narcotics, even cut off pieces of the bodies of still living people, boil these pieces and eat them before the eyes of the other prisoners. They did this with the body the 17-year-old Aslan Supyanov from Maas. It is reported that the guards torture their victims to death by ramming empty sub-machine gun cartridges into their bodies. Afterwards they often rape the corpses.