MINELRES: Caucasus Reporting Service No. 393 (excerpts)

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Sat May 26 18:11:04 2007


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WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 393, May 24, 2007

CAUCASUS NEWS UPDATE MAY 24

SPECIAL REPORT: CHECHENS SUFFER TORTURE "HELL" Chechnya full of
traumatised people who've suffered torture but are reluctant to get
help. By Laura Aldamova in Grozny 

CAUCASIAN MIGRANTS' STRUGGLE IN RUSSIA Armenians and Azerbaijanis look
for ways round new curbs on migrant workers, while Georgians take most
of the heat. By Aishat Osmanova in Nalchik, Olesya Vartanian in Tbilisi
and Naira Bulghadarian in Vanadzor

GEORGIA: AIDS TABOO SLOW TO SHIFT Medical experts worry that HIV
infection is spreading to new groups in society. By Nino Janelidze in
Tbilisi

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Special Report:

CHECHENS SUFFER TORTURE "HELL"

Chechnya full of traumatised people who've suffered torture but are
reluctant to get help.

By Laura Aldamova in Grozny 

Although armed conflict has died down in Chechnya, cases of illegal
detention and abuse of human rights are still frequent. When it comes to
torture, human rights activists say they are noting an actual increase
in the number of cases they have to deal with. 

"Any kind of torture is forbidden, whether the person is guilty or
innocent, but in the Chechen Republic we are coming across cases of
inhuman treatment of detainees more and more," said Supyan Baskhanov,
head of the non-governmental organisation, the Committee against Torture
in Chechnya. 

Baskhanov said that every other person put on trial in Chechnya rejects
the confessions he or she made in detention, because they were made
under torture.

"One of the main problems directly linked to levels of torture is a
statistical demand [for the law enforcement agencies] to solve as many
crimes as possible at any price," said Baskhanov. 

Usam Baisayev of the human rights organisation Memorial echoed this.
"The situation is like the 1930s in the USSR when the number of
detentions soared," he said. "It seems the same kind of 'quota' is being
applied now." 

At the same time, Chechnya is full of traumatised people who have
suffered torture but are wary of seeking assistance.

In December 2006, a court ordered the acquittal and release from custody
of Ali Techiev, who had been accused of taking part in an armed attack
by militants on Grozny on August 21, 2004. 

The court was persuaded by evidence provided by Techiev's lawyer that
the accused had been tortured and interrogated illegally.

Techiev was snatched by masked men who turned out to be Russian federal
security forces on November 28, 2005 and held in Operational
Investigation Bureau No. 2 (known in Russian as ORB-2) where he claims
he was subjected to brutal torture. 

Techiev wrote a statement for Memorial in which he said that he had been
abused so badly that his health was broken. His sight had deteriorated,
his kidneys and liver had been damaged, two ribs were broken. He
frequently loses consciousness and experiences pain in his chest. 

"The torture is confirmed by the medical analysis carried out for the
court and the fact that he now has invalid status," said Techiev's
lawyer, Zalina Takhajieva. 

Takhajieva went on, "While Techiev was being held in pre-trial detention
he was regularly taken to interrogations in ORB-2 where he was beaten
and threatened that he or members of his family would be killed if he
did not confess to crimes he had not committed."  

"I was brought to a point of physical and moral exhaustion," wrote
Techiev. "I lost all sense of time and completely lost any sense of pain
or reality."

The issue of torture is now high on the agenda for the Council of
Europe's anti-torture agency, the European Committee for the Prevention
of Torture, CPT - even though the authorities deny it takes place at
all.

The CPT representing all 47 states in the CoE has made only five public
statements in its 18 years of existence. Three of them have been on the
situation in Chechnya.

The committee made two trips to Chechnya last year and concluded that
there had been progress in terms of detention conditions, but said it
was still "deeply concerned" by the situation in the republic. 

"Resort to torture and other forms of ill-treatment by members of law
enforcement agencies and security forces continues, as does the related
practice of unlawful detentions," said the CPT's report. "Further, from
the information gathered, it is clear that investigations into cases
involving allegations of ill-treatment or unlawful detention are still
rarely carried out in an effective manner; this can only contribute to a
climate of impunity."  

Chechnya's human rights ombudsman also receives regular complaints from
torture victims or their relatives. In 2006, and the first five months
of this year he received 72 complaints, of which 20 have come this year,
according to the ombudsman's assistant, Sultan Bulayev.

This is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg. Shamil Tangiev, head of
Memorial in Chechnya, said that much of the torture is kept secret and
those who have endured it do not talk about it afterwards. Different
security groups who want to extract information detain or kidnap
someone, bring him to a cellar or office and subject him to beatings and
torture. These men are then either freed after a ransom is paid or else
their dead bodies are discovered dumped in a deserted spot. 

"These people who have passed through an entire hell of torture do not
appeal to any government or human rights organisations," said Tangiev.
"They understand that the people who have used these methods have been
given boundless power and they fear for their own lives and for their
loved ones. They are afraid of attracting more violence and they don't
seek to get justice.

"Very often plastic bottles filled with water or electric shocks are
used as a method of torture, so no physical trace of harm is left
behind. Generally people break when they are threatened with sexual
violence, which is worse than death for a Vainakh [Chechen or Ingush]
man."

Despite the extreme trauma they have been through, the torture victims
very rarely seek professional help. 

"These people develop a complex, they think that no one can help them,
no one can understand their problems, so they retreat deep inside
themselves and shut down contacts with the outside world," said Kyuri
Idrisov, a doctor and psychiatrist. 

Idrisov is one of the few people in Chechnya who works on rehabilitating
victims of torture. He does this on an individual basis. There is no
specialised centre for torture victims - this would constitute an
admission by the authorities that torture takes place. 

"The victims have very intense ideas about revenge," said Idrisov. "They
are capable of taking any actions to carry through their plans.
According to Chechen culture, a man ought to revenge himself on someone
who has hurt him and he considers himself humiliated if he cannot
respond to force with force or resist if he has been humiliated."

One of Idrisov's patients is Karim who was tortured in the notorious
detention centre at Chernokozovo. After he came out, he was so afraid he
would be picked up again that he did not go outside for a long time and
stopped talking to his friends. 

"He said that he had lost belief in himself and his own capabilities,"
said Idrisov. "He was left with a huge feeling of guilt because he could
not stand up to the people who had tormented him." 

The psychiatrist said that his patient had such a thirst for revenge
that he wanted to avenge himself on anyone dressed in uniform. But after
going through a course of treatment, Karim was persuaded that he should
pursue his feelings through a legal route. He complained to human rights
groups and is now trying to have his torturers prosecuted. 

"It's only because Karim asked for medical help in good time that I was
able to help him," said Idrisov. "There are other people who suppress
all their problems inside themselves for years and think that no one can
solve their problems."

Idrisov said that many people turn to alcohol or drugs to dull their
memories of what they went through. 

Zaur, who used to work as a journalist but is now unemployed, said that
he tried to raise the issue of torture but failed to attract widespread
interest. He warned that many suicide bombers were the victims of
torture. 

"Those who experienced the full horror of being tortured either close
themselves up or turn away from people, or else they blow themselves
up," said Zaur. "Having passed through this hell they don't want to live
any more and they want to get revenge somehow. I don't offer any excuses
for them, suicide is forbidden by Islam, but what can they do after
suffering all these torments?"

Techiev is now going through a medical treatment process but his lawyer
says it will be a long time before he is cured. 

"Like everyone who has gone through torture, Ali experiences fear that
he will be snatched again," said Takhajieva. "This fear will stop him
from living a normal life in future. He needs full psychological
rehabilitation."

Laura Aldamova is a correspondent with Chechenskoe Obshchestvo newspaper
in Chechnya.  

  
CAUCASIAN MIGRANTS' STRUGGLE IN RUSSIA 

Armenians and Azerbaijanis look for ways round new curbs on migrant
workers, while Georgians take most of the heat.

By Aishat Osmanova in Nalchik, Olesya Vartanian in Tbilisi and Naira
Bulghadarian in Vanadzor

Hanum Musabieva, who comes from Azerbaijan, used to sell vegetables at
the Dubki market in the Russian North Caucasian city of Nalchik. She had
been doing this work for ten years, re-registering herself and her
husband every three months. 

A new law that came into force in the Russian Federation on April 1,
restricting the rights of foreigners to trade in Russian markets, put a
stop to that. 

The Musabievs decided to send their three children back to Azerbaijan
but they themselves decided to stick it out in Nalchik.

To get round the new regulations, the couple hired a Russian assistant
to sell their produce at their market and their family budget is a lot
tighter as a result. "We didn't put up the prices of our products," said
Musabieva. "Who would have carried on buying from us? Of course we are
earning less. Now we only have enough for bread."

At first glance, it is Azerbaijanis - who used to dominate Russia's
market trade - who have most to fear from Russia's new rules. But
research by IWPR suggests that Azerbaijanis and Armenians are generally
learning to live with the new state of affairs, while it is Georgians -
victims of a high-level political dispute between Tbilisi and Moscow -
who are suffering most. 

Currently, 2,500 Azerbaijanis and around 5,000 Georgians live in
Kabardino-Balkaria. There are no exact figures about Armenians but the
numbers are similar. 

Artur Bugov, head of the department of labour migration and migration
control at the Federal Migration Service in Nalchik, said the number of
Armenians coming to work in the autonomous republic in
Kabardino-Balkaria has actually increased since the law was passed. 

The new law forbids foreigners working in markets in Russia. Other
regulations have sharply increased fines for employers who hire
foreigners illegally and have put quotas on workers allowed to come from
abroad. 

Russia's Federal Migration Service has estimated that there are around
ten million people working in Russia illegally, the majority of them
from neighbouring former Soviet countries. Several million of these come
from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. 

The director of the service Konstantin Romodanovsky said the new rules
made sense for everybody. "People who come to Russia to offer their
labour and at the same time help their families back home can now have
the necessary documents processed much more simply and receive social
benefits for their work," he said. 

His deputy director, Vyacheslav Postavnin, argued that the new
regulations had not damaged the trade sector in Russia. "There are no
problems with the markets, the situation has stabilised," he said. "If
prices went up in some regions it happened as part of seasonal
fluctuations."

Postavnin said that the most law-abiding guest workers came to Russia
from Tajikistan, China, Ukraine and Turkey and that they immediately
tried to get legal status to work in the country. Three quarters of a
million foreigners had been given the right to work in Russia this year.


He said that most of the Federal Migration Service's concerns were about
Azerbaijanis. 

An opinion poll by the VTsIOM agency revealed that only a quarter of
Russians had noticed the disappearance of foreigners from markets. 

Leading diaspora figures from the South Caucasus are not convinced by
these reassurances and say the changes will cause social problems. 

Ali Dadashev, chairman of Kabardino-Balkaria's Azerbaijani Cultural
Centre, called the new law "stupid". He argued that the Russian
population was declining and that Russia positively needed new
immigrants, not to make their lives more difficult. 

"This is a blind and short-sighted policy from the Russian leadership,"
said Dadashev's Georgian counterpart, businessman and head of the
Georgian Cultural Centre Georgi Lobzhanidze, predicting a rise in
inter-ethnic tensions. "Before you adopt a law like this you should
think carefully how the people will react."

ARMENIANS ADAPTING

Lusine, aged 32, is an Armenian who lives in the North Caucasian
republic of Karachai-Cherkessia with her family. She used to run her own
bakery but the costs rose so high that she now bakes bread at home and
delivers it to shops.

Lusine, her husband and her 16-year-old daughter live in Russia without
registration papers. 

"At first this new law caused us problems, the police were persecuting
people but now everything seems to have calmed down and there aren't so
many cases like that," she said. 

"When the police begin to comb the markets, the Armenians hide and wait
to come out until the police have gone.

"Where we live, attitudes are kinder - except to the Georgians. We look
alike and it's hard to tell the difference between us. It's not like in
Moscow, Stavropol or Krasnodar where they stop you at every step and
harass you. We don't have that. It's calm here and there are Armenians
working in the markets."

Artur Sakunts, a human rights activist from the Armenian town of
Vanadzor, said Armenians were learning to adapt to the new rules.
"People used to give bribes to stay in the country illegally," he said.
"Now passport officials will take bribes to give out temporary
registration."

Sakunts said the reason for the new law had less to do with migration
than with high politics, "There are political motives in the new
immigration rules which Russia is using to try to put pressure on
Georgia and on all post-Soviet countries so that they don't turn towards
NATO."


GEORGIANS SQUEEZED 

The Georgians are suffering the most from Russia's new migration
policies.

Nana, a Georgian citizen, has been travelling to Russia every year for
the past 13 years to work. For the last two years, she has been working
as a waitress in a Georgian restaurant in Moscow. 

Nana asked for her real name not to be used because she is worried about
having new problems in getting the right documents to travel to Moscow.

Generally, at this time of year she is already in Moscow, but since the
flare-up in Georgian-Russian relations last year she has been unable to
get a visa to travel to Russia. 

A Georgian parliamentary commission estimates that 4,634 Georgian
citizens were deported from Russia during last autumn and winter. 

There is no sign of either side moving to end the economic standoff. 

Pro-government parliamentarian Giga Bokeria has said that neither the
government nor parliament in Georgia will take any steps to ease the
problems of Georgians wishing to work in Russia. 

According to the World Bank, remittances from Russia constitute five per
cent of Georgia's GDP. The real figures are certainly higher as much of
the money is sent in roundabout fashion.

There are an estimated one million Georgians living in Russia. In
addition, around 90,000 Georgians go to Russia each year for seasonal
work. Typically, these workers come from the provinces of Georgia, have
no higher education and are aged between 25 and 35. 

They are the ones worst affected by the transport blockade on Georgia
imposed by Russia last autumn. 

In May, Federal Migration Service deputy head Vyacheslav Postavnin,
appeared to utter a veiled threat towards Georgia, saying, "When it
comes to attracting labour migrants it is always better to give the
priority to those countries with which Russia has good relations,
including trading and economic relations, where there is a positive
attitude."

Nana is pessimistic about her prospects of getting back to work in
Russia. "No employer is going to run round and collect documents on my
behalf, I know that for sure," she said. 

Armen Khnkoyan, a 35-year-old Georgian citizen and ethnic Armenian, has
been travelling to Russia for six years for work. But last year, he and
his friend were detained in a Moscow airport and sent back to Georgia.

"No one gave us any reason," he said. "It was just that we were citizens
of Georgia. 

"They drive us out of there, they hate us. How can we work with them if
they are driving us away?" 

Yet Khnkoyan says that tens of thousands of people from Georgia will
still try to work in Russia because the rewards are so high. 

"In six months you can make four thousand [US] dollars," he said. "I
worked on a building site in Mytishchi [outside Moscow] and earned that
much. Here I could not make 1,500 dollars in an entire year. We barely
survive on that."

"Our people will keep on going to Russia to work because there is no
other way of earning money. They will go and work in remote places where
they can do deals with the local police."

Aishat Osmanova is a correspondent for Zaman newspaper in Nalchik.
Olesya Vartanian is a correspondent for Southern Gates newspaper in
Georgia. Naira Bulgadarian is a correspondent for Civic Initiative
newspaper in Vanadzor. This article was produced as part of IWPR's Cross
Caucasus Journalism Network project, chiefly funded by the European
Union. 
 
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