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Chechen Justice

There’s quite a depressing but important piece published today by Varvara Pakhomenko and Alexander Mnatsakanian on OpenDemocracy on the rampant arrests, jailings, show trials, interrogation by torture, and disappearances that have become common for citizens of Chechnya.

Once upon a time, someone fought for an illegal armed organization. Or sympathised with one. Or perhaps he wasn’t involved at all. He was ‘unmasked’ as a rebel, and tortured. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad, perhaps he was not actually tortured, just not fed and beaten regularly. Perhaps he confessed to everything, or didn’t confess, not even understanding what he was being charged with, before being brought to court and sentenced. Three elements run through all of these stories: the unmasking, the trial and the guilty sentence. It’s a sort of conveyer belt…

When you see how many such cases there are, you begin to think that there can be no innocent people left in Chechnya. Almost anyone can be arrested, taken away for interrogation, then imprisoned. A person’s safety depends only on who he knows in this or that government organisation. Whether he has relatives there or influential friends, relatives of friends or friends of relatives. It’s just a matter of luck.

The story of Lechi Dzhanaraliev is certainly another devastating example of the urgency of the human rights situation in Russia, but we would add that this same “conveyor belt” process reaches all the way to Moscow as well.