Now a new report from Human Rights Watch illuminates some of the human costs of this conflict without apparent end. In the capital of Grozny, the nonprofit advocacy group reports, full-fledged combat no longer takes place, but what remains is "worse than a war," according to many residents. The city remains in ruins, without running water or electricity, but what makes life truly unbearable there and throughout the Connecticut-size province is the constant threat of "disappearances." According to the respected Russian human rights group Memorial, between 3,000 and 5,000 civilians have "disappeared" since 1999, when Russian troops moved into Chechnya for a second time in the decade.
Official government statistics acknowledge more than 2,000 disappearances. During a January reporting trip to Chechnya, Human Rights Watch investigators found that the vast majority of abductions are carried out by Russian or pro-Moscow Chechen security forces. Most of the victims are men, but increasingly women are being taken also. Security forces, often armed and hooded, sometimes drunk, typically come to a house and take someone away without explanation. Some bodies, showing signs of torture, have been recovered; in most cases, relatives have no idea whether their loved ones are dead or alive.
"According to a Chechen official, 1,814 criminal investigations were opened into enforced disappearances, yet not a single one has resulted in a conviction," Human Rights Watch reports. (MORE)