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In the name of the Constitution
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, 15 2007
ImageRussia awaits high-profile trials on the 2005militant attacks on Nalchik
Prosecutor General of Kabardino-Balkaria, Yuri Ketov, announced yesterday that criminal cases regarding the militant attacks on Nalchik in October of 2005will be transferred to one of the national courts as early as this May. Thetrial this year will not be the only one associated with those memorable events. Aninvestigation into the circumstances of the attack that occurred two years ago will take place in the Constitutional Court of Russia, as well as at the European Court of Human Rights.
According to Ketov, to date the criminal case contains over 700volumes, to which will be added many indictments. Inthis manner the trial will last longer than a year. Thetotal number to be prosecuted is 59. These people, according to investigators, were either directly involved in the attack on Nalchik, or were accomplices of the militants mainly members of the Wahhabi Jamaat. Theattack’s leader and organizer, Anzor Astemirov, is now a fugitive. ‘Emir Sayfullah’ (as Astemirov calls himself) recently showed up, posting on the Kavkaz-Center website an article under the telling name: “Jihad against the apostates.”

There could have been more defendants: 12others, who were arrested in a case not directly linked to the preparation and conduct of the terrorist attack, were granted amnesty. Alarge number of defendants in such a large terrorist attack is truly unique, but the attack itself, an attack on law enforcement buildings in the capital of a federation subject republic, is also unique. According to official figures, during the battle on October 13th, 2005, 35law enforcement officers, 14civilians, and 92militants were killed.

wants an explanation

The trail in Nalchik practically coincides with the entry of a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights in its active phase. Itis the case of ‘Halimat Sabancheeva and others v. Russia’, which was filed in the fall 2005. Itsauthors are 50relatives of militants (or those whom the police believe to be militants). Themilitants were killed during the attack on Nalchik. Thatsame year, they had unsuccessfully sought the bodies of their relatives, which are still being held, according to some sources, in one of the morgues in Rostov-on-Don. Theauthorities refer to amendments to the laws ‘On Combating Terrorism’ and ‘On Burial and Funeral Matters’, which were adopted by the Federal Parliament in November 2002, immediately after the attack on Dubrovka. These amendments prohibit the release for burial of the bodies of dead terrorists.

Back in December, the European Court of Human Rights sent to the Russian authorities a ‘communication’ (a document drawn up by the court on the basis of a complaint), asking them to clarify whether the position of the Russian authorities corresponds with the Convention on Human Rights.

If Russia gives an affirmative response, than it must defend its position in court. Theresponse (to the so-called memorandum) by the Russian side has to be made by March 8th of this year, but Russia has requested an extension until April 11th. Itis noteworthy that news agencies reported the possible resignation of current Russian representative to the Strasbourg Court, Pavel Laptev, who, on March 7th, allegedly wrote the statement. According to a ‘Gazeta’ source in the Russian White House (ed: the large white building that once held the Russian parliament and cabinet until the 1993constitutional crisis, but now only houses Russian government offices), this shuffling of personnel may be due to the desire of the government to strengthen its position in anticipation of a legal battle in Strasbourg. “Russia all too often loses cases before the European Court, and a defeat in the trial in Nalchik could seriously affect counter-terrorist tactics in our country,” said the ‘Gazeta’ source.

A time of courts

On March 1st, in a closed plenary session of the Constitutional Court, a claim was heard on the 2002amendments to the Basic Law (ed: the Russian constitutional ‘bill of rights’). Theinitiators of the claim were the relatives of the slain militants. During the past year, the relatives had twice before unsuccessfully attempted to bring suit.

“Freedom of conscience is guaranteed by the Constitution. Itis a punishment for a practicing Muslim to not bury a dead body within a certain period of time, but the guilt of these dead was never proven in court, so how can they be punished? Inaddition, the punishment was extended to their relatives, and they were not allowed to perform necessary rituals,” said Yevgeny Ikhlov, head of the information and analytical service movement ‘For Human Rights’, who helped prepare the lawsuit. “We do not believe that the slain were terrorists,” echoed lawyer for the plaintiffs Larisa Dorogova, whose nephew Martin died during the battles on October 13th. “If they were participants in the events, however, then their actions should be categorized differently.”

Note that she and her companions in misfortune formally expressed their position on the issue on November 7th, 2005, in a letter addressed to then-Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, to the president and prosecutor general of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov and Yuri Ketov, and the head of the investigative group for the Southern Federal District, Alexander Sovrunin. Theposition of the letter was that all responsibility for the incident rests with the local Ministry of Internal Affairs. Moreprecisely, with Hakeem Shogenov, at the time Interior Minister of Kabardino-Balkaria, Anatoly Kyarov, chief of the organized crime department, and Beslan Mukozhev, head of the religious extremism department. These people, according to the letter, unleashed “massive repression of Muslims” that provoked to armed intervention “the pure souls” of young people who “many times had attempted to protect their rights legally and peacefully.”

According Dorogova, she could defend such a position at the trail of the remaining participants in the Nalchik attack. Relatives of the slain militants, however, have not been subpoenaed, thereby depriving them of being able to defend their relatives’ good names in court.

“The verdicts of the Constitutional and Nalchik courts are, in general, easy to predict, but what decision will be made in Strasbourg, this is the big question. Ifthe decision is not in Russia’s favor, we risk yet another cause for confrontation with the West. Ourgovernment will, of course, not implement the decision hardly anyone in the Kremlin wants to create a place of worship for some future Shamil Basayev,” said the deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, Alexei Makarkin.

Terrorists in unmarked graves

Salman Raduyev was a well-known Chechen field commander, and the son-in-law of Jokhar Dudayev. Hewas ‘celebrated’ for many audacious terrorist attacks. OnMarch 13th, 2000, commandos from the Novogroznensky FSB captured him. TheDagestan Supreme Court sentenced him to life imprisonment, but on December 15th, 2002, he died at the ‘White Swan’ internment camp. Thecause of death was stated to be internal hemorrhage, and his body was buried in an unmarked grave in the Solikamsky cemetery.

In March 2003, the bodies of 41terrorists (22 men and 19women) were secretly buried in one of the (Moscow) metropolitan cemeteries. Theyhad been killed on October 26th, 2002, during the storming of the ‘Nord-Ost’ theatrical center, which they had seized (three days previously). Their relatives were denied their bodies.
Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev was buried in an unmarked grave after he was shot to death on February 28th, 2004, on the Russo-Georgian border. After losing almost all his henchmen in a clash with federal forces, he was traveling alone on the Avaro-Kakheti highway to Georgia when he ran into two border guards.

32militants, who were killed on September 3rd, 2004, in Beslan elementary school No. 1, (which they had seized three days previously), were buried in an unknown cemetery without notification of their relatives. Thethen deputy prosecutor general of Russia, Nikolai Shepel, announced this on February 4th, 2005. Beforehand, the bodies of the terrorists were subject to lengthy forensic investigations.

‘President of Ichkeria’ Aslan Maskhadov was gunned down March 8th, 2005, in the Chechen village of Tolstoy-Yurt. Itwas reported, “in accordance with the law on combating terrorism, as an active participant of an international terrorist network he was buried in an unmarked grave without notification of his relatives or the release of his body.”

The house in which Maskhadov was hiding was blown up, and the ruins razed by a bulldozer.

The bloodiest warlord, Shamil Basayev, was killed on the night of July 10th, 2006, in the explosion of a truck loaded with ammunition on the outskirts of the Ingush village of Ekazhevo. Fragments of Basayev’s body were found after laboratory examination at Ministry of Defense laboratory No. 124in Rostov. Itis already known that these will not be released to his relatives.

How to judge the dead?

By GENNADY SAVCHENKO, survey prepared by ALEXANDER SARGIN, March 14th, 2007

Material published in ‘Gazeta’ #46, March 15th, 2007

Julius Rybakov, human rights advocate:
If a man is killed while he has weapons in hand, and if there are witnesses to the fact that he took part in certain events, then you can determine that he was a terrorist in a court of law. Speaking strictly legally, you need to hold a hearing and get a court decision. Ido not know of any other way to determine one fact or another, including matters relating to these events. Inmy opinion, such an amendment to the law on countering terrorism was adopted immediately after the events connected with the attack on ‘Nord-Ost’. Notevery body is that of a terrorist it might be the body of an innocent civilian who was extra judicially considered to be a terrorist, or someone who was a terrorist victim. Therelatives of the dead do have a way out: they have turned to the international court.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Federal Parliamentary Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitral and Procedural Legislation:
During the adoption of this provision of the law there were some rather serious discussions. Thelaw passed, however, and in accordance with it the law enforcement agencies can specifically consider in each case whose bodies may be released, and whose may not. Evenafter the capture of the ‘Nord-Ost’ theater, bodies were not released. Now, if there had not been such a provision to the law and a body was not released, that would be another issue, but since such a federal law now exists Ido not see any great prospects in court. There is also international practice. Forexample, in Israel there is such a rule.

Malik Saidullayev, businessman:
I think that the government must always act humanely, regardless of where people were killed, whether Kabardino-Balkaria or Chechnya, and it does not matter what social caste they belonged to, or whether they were suicide bombers or somebody else. Inmy opinion, the body must be released. People are in mourning, so why it worse? Whycan a mother not be given her son’s body, or a wife not be given her husband’s body?

Sazhi Umalatova, chairman of the ‘Peace and Unity’ political party of Russia:
To this end, we have organs of inquiry and investigation. Howelse can we establish that a person was a terrorist? Ifhe held a weapon in his hands, and he was shooting left and right, then he is a real terrorist! Whoelse could he be? Ifwe have the law, then it must be followed. Icannot imagine terrorists committing a crime somewhere in the U.S. and dissenting citizens going somewhere to file a petition! Iam for the certainty of punishment, after all, the country was not created so that terrorists could stroll around and shoot right and left. (The bodies of) the innocent have to be released, but if they are guilty, then the Russian law is for one and all!

Gennady Gudkov, member of the Federal Parliamentary Committee on Security:
It is obvious that identification of bodies is carried out with the participation of several witnesses, and afterwards identity is established. Ofcourse, additional examinations can be carried out, right up to determination of their DNA, or, say, the structural features of their teeth. Afterwards authorities act in accordance with the law, under which the corpses of insurgents and terrorists killed during counter-terrorist operations are not released (to relatives), but are buried them in unmarked graves. Thisapplies to all nationalities and all faiths. Thatis, when a person joins the terrorist underground and commits a crime, he should understand that in the event of his death he will be buried in a pauper’s, unmarked grave, and especially without any kind of honors. Yes, the relatives probably have some perfectly justified emotions, but we cannot say that it this is a violation of Russian law. Suchis Russian law!

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