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Friday, June 09, 2006

Secret Prison in Chechya Discovered: Torture, Murder

The New York Times reports:

MOSCOW, June 8 — A Russian human rights organization said Thursday that it had found evidence of an illegal detention center inside a former police garrison in Chechnya, and claimed that unlawfully seized men had been tortured there and in some cases had vanished.

The claim by the organization, Memorial, reopened the long-running discussion about the conduct of Russian soldiers in the fighting and counterterrorist operations in Chechnya, and about the fate of Chechens who have disappeared in recent years.

Memorial said its investigation, conducted last week at the abandoned garrison, in Grozny, the Chechen capital, just before it was demolished, had found documents, an inmate logbook and photographs to support its claims. It also said it had found former prisoners and taken their statements to bolster its case. "This center should not under the law have existed," said Oleg Orlov, a member of Memorial's board, who examined the site.

He said the group had found police graffiti that read, "We will help you die," and what seemed to be bloodstains on walls. The documents and pictures were turned over to prosecutors, Mr. Orlov said, after Memorial made copies for its own records.

Russia acknowledged the existence of the detention center but said its existence had been well known and legal. A senior prosecutor in Chechnya, Valery Kuznetsov, added that what was apparently a logbook of the inmates would help establish whether inmates had disappeared.

The detention center was run by Russian police officers from the Interior Ministry.

Memorial also collected statements from former inmates describing torture by the police. Such allegations have long been associated with the two wars in Chechnya since 1994.

Mr. Kuznetsov, who has been leading investigations this year into abductions, confirmed a claim by Memorial that it had discovered a former inmate who had an ear cut off during interrogation, but he said that Memorial's finding was not new. Russia had investigated the incident at least two years ago, he said, and a warrant had been issued for the arrests of two police officers. It was not immediately clear why they had not been taken into custody.

Meanwhile, CNN reports more proof that Russia is light years from control of Chechnya, as more bloody violence breaks out:

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) -- Gunmen shot and killed a police commander, his three young children, driver and bodyguard in the troubled southern Russian province of Ingushetia on Friday, the region's deputy prosecutor said. Musa Nalgiyev, chief of riot police in Ingushetia, was attacked on his way to work around 9 a.m, deputy prosecutor Dmitry Gurulyov said. Two or three assailants fired on Nalgiyev's car, then managed to escape, Gurulyov said. Also Friday, the deputy administrator in a village near the border with war-torn Chechnya, was killed in a drive-by shooting, the regional branch of Russia's Interior Ministry said. Chechnya has been torn by separatist conflict for most of the past 12 years and violence has also spread to other parts of Russia's restive North Caucasus, a mainly Muslim region where tension fueled by poverty, corruption and Islamic radicalism has increased in recent years

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