This is Anna Politkovskaya’s final unfinished article for her newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. It was written shortly before she was murdered last Saturday. After two wars of independence, Russian-backed forces are torturing a whole generation of young Chechens, she writes, to try to restore order in the troubled north Caucasus region
13 October 2006
Dozens of files cross my desk every day. They are copies of criminal cases against people jailed for “terrorism” or refer to people who are still being investigated. Why have I put the word “terrorism” in quotation marks here?
Because the overwhelming majority of these people have been “fitted up” as terrorists by the authorities. In 2006 the practice of “fitting up” people as terrorists has supplanted any genuine anti-terrorist struggle. And it has allowed people who are revenge-minded to have their revenge – on so-called potential terrorists.
Prosecutors and judges are not acting on behalf of the law and they are not interested in punishing the guilty. Instead, they work to political order to make the Kremlin’s nice anti-terrorist score sheet look good and cases are cooked up like blinys.
This official conveyor belt that turns out “heartfelt confessions” is great at providing the right statistics about the “battle against terrorism” in the north Caucasus (where Chechnya is).
This is what a group of mothers of convicted young Chechens wrote to me: “In essence, these correctional facilities (where terrorist suspects are held) have been turned into concentration camps for Chechen convicts. They are subjected to discrimination on an ethnic basis. The majority, or almost all of them, have been convicted on trumped-up evidence.
“Held in harsh conditions, and humiliated as human beings, they develop a hatred towards everything. An entire army (of ex-convicts) will return to us with their lives in ruins and their understanding of the world around them in ruins too…”
In all honesty, I am afraid of this hatred. I am afraid because, sooner or later, it will burst into the open. And for the young men who hate the world so much, everyone will seem like an outsider.
The practice of “fitting up” terrorists raises questions about two different ideological approaches. Are we using the law to fight lawlessness? Or are we trying to match “their” lawlessness with our own?
Recently, at Russia’s request, Ukraine handed over a certain Beslan Gadaev to Moscow. He is a Chechen and was arrested at the start of August in Crimea during a document check.
He was living there as a forced resettler. Here are some excerpts from the letter he sent me on 29 August: “After being extradited from Ukraine to Grozny (the Chechen capital) I was taken to a police station and asked whether I had killed members of Anzor Salikhov’s family as well as family members of Anzor’s friend. I swore I had killed nobody and not spilt any blood, neither Russian nor Chechen. The policemen said with certainty: “No you are a killer.” I again denied it.
“They began to beat me. At first, they punched me twice in the area of my right eye. While I was coming to, they tied me up and handcuffed me to a metal bar lodged behind my knees so I couldn’t move my hands, though I was in handcuffs anyway. Then they took me, or rather they took the metal bar jammed behind my legs, and suspended me between two stools at a height of about one metre. As soon as they had me suspended, they attached wires to my little fingers. They began to administer electric shocks while they beat me with rubber truncheons wherever they could.
“I don’t remember how long it lasted but I started to lose consciousness due to the pain. Seeing this, they asked me whether I was ready to talk. I replied that I would talk but I didn’t know what about. I spoke to spare myself from torture, even for a little while. They took me down, removed the metal bar, and flung me to the floor. They said ‘talk’.
“I said I had nothing to say. They responded by hitting me with the metal bar in the area of my right eye where they had already struck me. Then they hung me up again, the same as before, and repeated the same process. I don’t remember how long this lasted … they repeatedly poured water on me.
“Around lunchtime, a policeman in civilian clothing came up to me and told me some journalists had come to see me and that I had to confess to three murders and a robbery.
“He said that if I didn’t agree they would repeat everything (the torture) and would break me by sexually assaulting me in some way. I agreed to comply and gave an interview to the journalists and they (the police) forced me to testify that the injuries I had received from them had been sustained in the course of an escape attempt…”
Zaur Zakriev, a lawyer defending Beslan Gadaev, informed Memorial (a human rights organisation) that his client had suffered physical and psychological violence on the premises of the Grozny police force.
In the medical ward of prison number one in Grozny where Gadaev is laid up, charged with “banditry”, a document details his many wounds. His lawyer, Zakriev, has forwarded these complaints to the prosecutor of the Chechen Republic.
The text breaks off here with the article unfinished. Politkovskaya’s newspaper, ‘Novaya Gazeta’, has promised to investigate the issues raised in the piece