Chechnya - Torture victim "disappeared" after speaking publicly about his illegal detention


(Moscow, August 6, 2008) - A man who made public his secret detention and
torture by Chechen security agents was abducted and "disappeared" in
Chechnya on August 3, 2008, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights
Watch called on the Chechen authorities to immediately launch a thorough
investigation to find the man, 42-year-old Mokhmadsalakh Masaev, and ensure
that he is protected from torture and ill-treatment.

According to Masaev's relatives and the Russian NGO Memorial Human Rights
Center, he was abducted by unknown individuals in camouflaged uniforms in
the center of Grozny on August 3 at about 4 p.m. The kidnappers forced
Masaev into their vehicles and drove off. The incident was witnessed by
passers-by and street vendors. Masaev's family has no information as to his
fate or whereabouts. A local police station refused to register a report on
the abduction filed by Masaev's brother Oleg. Moreover, Oleg Masaev's
conversation with the policemen led him to the conclusion that
Mokhmadsalakh had been abducted by Chechen law-enforcement agencies acting
on informal instructions of the republic's leadership.

"We are deeply alarmed about Masaev's abduction and fear his life is in
danger," said Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's
Russia office. "Masaev is one of the few people who dared to speak publicly
about how he was tortured in illegal detention by Chechen officials, and we
are afraid he's paying a very high price for his courage."

Earlier this year, Masaev told Human Rights Watch that in September 2006 he
was abducted from a mosque in Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest city, and
held in an illegal detention facility until January 21, 2008. He reported
being beaten on several occasions, accused of being a Wahhabi and a
collaborator with insurgents, held in inhumane conditions, and subjected to
death threats. Two of his acquaintances were abducted and held with him but
freed earlier through the intervention of their well-connected relatives.
Masaev said that no charges were filed against him and that in the end he
was released by his captors.

Following Masaev's persistent demands that the authorities investigate his
incarceration and ill-treatment, in early 2008 the prosecutor's office
launched a criminal investigation into the kidnapping of Masaev and his two
friends (the investigation is now ongoing). On July 10, one of Russia's key
independent print media outlets, Novaya Gazeta, published an interview with
Masaev, in which Masaev stated that he "had been held hostage for four
months by Ramzan Kadyrov" in a secret detention facility located in
Kadyrov's native village, Tsenteroi.

"Given that Masaev's accusation was directed at Chechnya's leadership,
there are grounds to believe that his subsequent 'disappearance' is in
punishment for his persistence in seeking justice," said Lokshina.

Masaev's lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, told Human Rights Watch that the
August 3 abduction is "an attempt to thwart this unprecedented criminal
case about a secret prison run by the leadership of Chechnya." He said he
feared that they are trying to make Masaev retract his testimony.

Vyacheslav Izmailov, the Novaya Gazeta correspondent who interviewed Masaev
in July, told Human Rights Watch: "From the very day Mokhmadsalakh came to
our office, I was afraid this would happen. I warned him that he could face
grave consequences for being so outspoken and suggested not to run the
interview under his real name. He was adamant, however. He wanted his story
and his identity known to the world. He hoped that it would save other
people in Chechnya from being held and tortured in illegal prisons. He was
ready to pay with his very life for telling the truth. Now he's abducted
because the perpetrators want to silence him."

Human Rights Watch has contacted the Chechen and Russian authorities about
Masaev's disappearance and expects them to take prompt and effective steps
to protect Masaev and hold accountable the perpetrators in the crime.

"If President Dimitry Medvedev is truly committed to entrenching the rule
of law across Russia, he needs to foster an environment in which victims of
human rights abuses can speak up without fear, including in Chechnya," said

For more of Human Rights Watch's work on Chechnya, please visit:

For further information, contact Tanya Lokshina (English, Russian), Moscow,
tel: +7 917 624 1906; Rachel Denber (English, Russian), Berlin, mobile: +1
917 916 1266; Jane Buchanan (English, Russian), new York, tel: +1 212 377
9431; or Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Ave., 34th Floor, New York, NY 10018
3299, U.S.A., tel: +1 212 290 4700, fax: +1 212 736 1300, e-mail:, Internet:


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Marga Lacabe published on 6 de Agosto 2008 10:42 PM.

Arg - Fuertes condenas para los represores de la Causa RI9 was the previous entry in this blog.


Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.