Perhaps the lucky citizens of South Ossetia, newly hacked out of Georgia to be welcomed (back) into the glorious embrace of Mother Russia, should cast an eye on recent events in Ingushetia, where the violence is spreading from neighbouring Chechnya. On the other side of Ingushetia from Chechnya, in that linkage of small Caucasian republics to the north of Georgia, is North Ossetia.
Human Rights Watch issued a report a couple of months back:
The 120-page report, “‘As If They Fell From the Sky!’ Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia,” documents human rights abuses committed by law enforcement and security forces involved in counterinsurgency, including dozens of summary and arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions. The report covers action taken during 2007 and early 2008, and describes the legal and political contexts in which they have occurred.
“The crimes in Ingushetia, although on a far smaller scale, evoke the thousands of enforced disappearances, killings, and torture cases that plagued Chechnya for more than a decade,” said Tanya Lokshina, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Russia’s brutal counterinsurgency policies are antagonizing local residents. Far from ending the insurgency, ‘dirty war’ tactics are likely to further destabilize the situation in Ingushetia and beyond in the North Caucasus.”
Tanya Lokshina describes here how the current violence started back in June 2004 with a raid by Chechyan militants who attacked the Ingushetian town of Nazran and killed dozens of policemen:
The next day the funerals of the murdered policemen began and Ingushetia was almost literally flooded with hatred. The population was prepared to approve any action by the authorities - as long as nothing like this ever happened again! They really did support the first special operations, believing them to be necessary But these operations were conducted "Chechen style"...
Law-enforcement officers broke into houses and seized young men. Many were taken to neighbouring North Ossetia. Some were put in pre-trial detention centres and tortured there. Others were even held in pits. They were forced to confess to taking part in the "attack on Nazran" and having connections with the militants. They were forced to name accomplices. If a young man said he didn't know any militants, he was tortured until he started naming neighbours and classmates....
Villages were also "cleansed"....
So the cycle of violence escalated, with Russian repression causing more people to join armed rebel groups, causing more repression...
The editors of the opposition site Ingushetia.ru posted an explanation to the city and the world. "After the most recent... punitive operation at a village, the number of militants only increases... If you talk to these guys in the right way, and say to them, ‘look at how the federal troops treat you, take up arms and defend your honour', they just disappear into the forest". The main objective of the political opposition in Ingushetia is to replace the president of the republic, Murat Zyazikov. One of their main arguments is that Zyazikov does nothing to prevent the outrages perpetrated by the law-enforcers or the kidnappings, and is thus indirectly involved in the growth of the armed underground movement.
It is difficult to say how many young men really go into the mountains, but the violence and humiliation inflicted by the law-enforcement officers, combined with the ineffective reaction of the authorities to the mood of the young people, naturally have an effect. Support for the militants is constantly increasing. And so is hatred of the special services.
The owner of an independent Web site critical of authorities was shot and killed Sunday by police in a volatile province in southern Russia, his colleague said.
Police arrested Ingushetiya.ru owner Magomed Yevloyev on Sunday, taking him off a plane that had just landed in Ingushetia province near Chechnya, said the site’s deputy editor, Ruslan Khautiyev.
Police whisked Yevloyev away in a car and later dumped him on the road with a gunshot wound in the head, Khautiyev said. He said Yevloyev died in a hospital shortly afterward.
In Moscow, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement that Yevloyev was detained by police and died in an “incident” while being taken to police headquarters for an interrogation....
Yevloyev has angered regional authorities with bold criticism of police treatment of civilians in the region. A court in June ordered him to shut his site on charges of spreading “extremist” statements, but it reappeared under a different name.
That's right. An independent journalist, a blogger in effect, reporting critically on the situation in his home republic, was taken out and shot by the Russian police.
So, if you're a loyal Putin supporter in South Ossetia or Abkhazia, you'll probably be OK. If you're not, or if you're deemed to be ethnically Georgian - well, you know what to expect.
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