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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Horrors Are Horrors, Even Without Pictures




When disturbing footage of Chechen bodies being bundled into mass graves was broadcast on Feb. 25, it briefly awakened the consciences of world leaders. Now that German journalist Frank Hoefling has admitted to lying about how he got the footage, those consciences have slipped back into hibernation. But why? There have clearly been atrocities in this war, even if they haven't come with pictures for prime-time viewing:


-Grozny's main outdoor market was ripped to sheds last October by a series of explosions that killed 140 people and wounded 260, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Eyewitnesses said the market had been hit by rockets; Russia immediately denied involvement.


-That same month some 50 people were killed by an air attack on a refugee convoy near the village of Samashki, according to journalists and refugees who witnessed the attack.


-In December, federal forces looted and murdered their way through Alkhan-Yurt, executing 41 villagers, as documented by Human Rights Watch, The Moscow Times and others.


-In Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district, Russian troops killed at least 22 civilians in December and January, according to survivors.


-In early February, federal forces rampaged through the district of Adli and killed at least 25 civilians, according to survivors.


-Finally, there have been regular reports, including Andrei Babitsky's, of beatings, torture and rapes at war-zone detention centers.


The government has put on a public show of reluctance about investigating abuses, and it has yet to grant observers - the Red Cross, or UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson - access to Grozny, where thousands of stunned people are still trapped and at risk.


Enter Hoefling's footage. He first said it was his, then admitted he bought it from an Izvestia reporter and knew little about it. He has lost his job, which seems fair - his dishonesty has served up just that much more confusion, making it just that much easier for the government to pose as an unfairly accused victim.


And nevertheless, how were the men in the Hoefling/Izvestia footage killed? Why were their hands tied behind their backs, with wire? The government says corpses are more easily transported this way. (Presumably the corpse shown being dragged behind a truck is an exception.)


But either this is another brusquely flippant assumption; or the government has some information about this mass grave footage, in which case it ought to share it with the public.


- Garfield Reynolds