Politkovskaya: "We'll Call You A Terrorist"
October 13, 2006 - 1:27pm ET
Anna Politkovskaya was murdered on Saturday, October 7. She was a fearless journalist in a country where a free press is fast disappearing. She was a fierce critic of Russia's actions in Chechnya, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has justified as a front of George Bush's "war on terror." Twelve journalists have been slain in "contract-style" killings since Putin came to power, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. This is the last article she was working on, which ran today in her newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.
We'll Call You A Terrorist: The counter-terrorist politics of torture in the Northern Caucuses.
Every day I see dozens of folders. These are copies of the criminals files of those whom we have imprisoned or are still investigating for "terrorism."
Why "terrorism" in quotes? Because the vast majority of these people are "government-manufactured terrorists." And this practice of "manufacturing terrorists" has not only replaced, by 2006, any sort of actual fight against terrorism, but is now beginning to provoke those who would avenge its abuses—potential terrorists. When prosecutors and courts work not in the interest of the law or of punishing the guilty but for political hire, structuring counter-terrorist accountability so as to best please the Kremlin, criminal procedures are manufactured on an assembly line. And this conveyor of "genuine admissions of guilt" perfectly fulfills the need for good indicators in the "war on terrorism" in the Northern Caucuses.
The mothers of a group of convicted young Chechens wrote to me:
"...In truth, these correctional facilities have turned into concentration camps for convicted Chechens. They are subject to discrimination based on their national identity. They are never released from solitary confinement. The majority, almost all of them, are convicted based on fabricated cases without proof. In these cruel circumstances, subjected to assaults on human dignity, they develop a hatred for everything. This is a whole army that will return to us with wrecked fates, with ruined perspectives..."
Frankly: I fear their hatred. I fear it because, sooner or later, it will overflow its banks. And everyone will fall victim to this, not just those investigators who tortured them. These "manufactured terrorist" cases are where the two ideological positions on what is happening in the field of counter-terrorism in the Northern Caucases collide head-on: Are we lawfully fighting the unlawful? Or are we pounding their unlawfulness with our own? In colliding, they spark a conflagration in the present and the future. The result of "manufactured terrorism" is an increasing number of those who refuse to accept this.
Recently, the Ukraine turned over, at Russia's behest, a certain Beslan Gadaev, a Chechen. He was arrested at the beginning of August while having his papers checked in Crimea, where he was an unofficial refugee. Here is an excerpt from his letter, dated August 29th:
"...After I was extradited by the Ukraine to Grozny, I was led into an office and immediately asked whether I had killed people from the Salikhov family, Anzor and his friend, a Russian truck driver. I swore that I hadn't killed anyone and hadn't spilled any blood, neither Russian, nor Chechen. They said, affirmatively: 'No, you killed [them].' I began, again, to deny this. After I responded the second time, they immediately started beating me. First, they hit me two times around my right eye. While I was trying to collect myself after that, they twisted me and handcuffed me in front and stuck a rod sideways between my legs so that I couldn't move my hands, even though I was already in handcuffs. They then took me—or, more accurately, they took this rod, that I was attached to, by the ends—and hung me between two nearby cabinets that were about one meter high.
Immediately after hanging me, they started attaching wires to my pinky fingers. A few seconds later, I was electrically shocked while simultaneously being beaten all over with rubber clubs. Unable to withstand the pain, I started screaming, calling the Almighty's name, begging them to stop. In response to this, to avoid hearing and listening to my screams, they put a black bag over my head.
I don't remember exactly how long this went on but I began to pass out from the pain. Seeing that I was losing consciousness, they took the bag from my head and asked me if I was willing to talk. I answered that I was, although I didn't know what I could tell them. I said it to escape the torture, at least temporarily.
Next, they took me down, removed the rod and threw me to the floor. 'Talk,' they said. I responded that I didn't have anything to say. They reacted by hitting me with the same rod I'd been suspended from, still around my right eye. From the force of these blows, I fell on my side and, in an almost unconscious state, felt them beginning to hit me anywhere they could. ... They hung me back up and repeated the same thing they'd done before. How long this went on, I don't remember. They poured water over me again and again.
The next day, they bathed me and smeared something on my face and body. Around lunch time, I got a visit from a plain-clothes policeman, who told me that the journalists had arrived and that I'd have to admit to three murders and assault, threatening that, if I refused, they'd repeat the same torture, as well as humiliate me by subjecting me to sexual assault. I agreed. After I gave an interview to the journalists, they, once again threatening me, forced me to testify that all the beatings I had received at their hands, that they had perpetrated on me, I had received while allegedly attempting to escape..."
Beslan Gadaev's attorney, Zaur Zakriev, told Memorial, a non-profit human rights group, that physical and psychological violence were used against his client during his detention in the Grozny police station. Based on Zakriev's testimony, his client has essentially admitted an armed attack against police officers in 2004. However, the Grozny police decided to extract further testimony regarding crimes committed in the town of Old Atagi, Grozny region.
According to his attorney, Gadaev's body still has visible traces of the cruel violence done to him. In the medical ward of the Grozny jail, where Gadaev, who is being charged under chapter 209 of the Russian Federation's penal code ("repeated armed assault"), is currently located, a medical report was compiled. It bears evidence to the repeated beatings and resulting injuries in the form of barely-healed wounds, cuts, bruises, broken ribs and internal injuries.
Regarding all the gross human rights abuses, Zakriev has directed complaints to the prosecutor of the Chechen Republic. <...>
trans. by Sandi Burtseva
Here, Politkovskaya's material is cut off. It is unfinished. Details that have remained outside this text are being investigated by the editorship of Novaya Gazeta .
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