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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechens Recall Detention Terror

SLEPTSOVSKAYA, Ingushetia — After spending two months in a Grozny basement where he was beaten and tortured on a daily basis, Ruslan Babayev didn’t much feel like talking about his experience.

A slight man with angry eyes, Babayev, 23, turned away from cameras and said he had nothing to say to a reporter last week. But his mother, Malika Babayeva, said she wanted the world to know about her son’s ordeal, which ended Aug. 9.

"Like me, other mothers are crying for their sons. And some don’t even know where they are," Babayeva said in an interview in a railroad car where she and Ruslan live at the Severny refugee camp in Ingushetia.

Reports of torture in detention centers such as Chernokozovo received widespread attention in the winter, and human rights organizations say the situation has since improved in those camps.

But they continue to document stories like Babayev’s and say the torture has simply moved to new locations.

Pretrial detention centers at Chernokozovo, Stavropol and Pyatigorsk have been cleaned up, but prisoners are being held and tortured at temporary police stations set up in each district of Chechnya, said Diederik Lohman, director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch.

In a report on torture at the Urus-Martan police station, the human rights organization Memorial published testimony from six people who said they were tortured between March and May. Amnesty International also described torture in the Urus-Martan station in a report on atrocities committed there from May 6 to 13.

Babayeva said her son was held at the commandant’s headquarters on Minutka Square in Grozny. Other Chechens who were listening to her account said she was probably referring to the Oktyabrsky district police station.

Babayeva said Ruslan was severely beaten, including in the kidneys, and was hung by handcuffs from the ceiling for hours at a time. She said he was tormented with electric shocks to the forehead and described an unusual torture in which five or six prisoners were sandwiched between two satellite dishes and crushed as their jailers jumped up and down on top of them.

"When he first came back he had blood coming out of him instead of urine," she said.

"I went there every day and asked them to free him," Babayeva said, adding that she was not allowed to see him for the two months he was held.

Babayeva said the police demanded money for his release, but would not say whether she ultimately paid any.

Lohman of Human Rights Watch, which is to issue a report on torture in Chechnya shortly, said most people released under an amnesty for rebels that recently expired were actually bought out by relatives. Sums ranged from $80 to $5,000, he said.

"In February, when suddenly there was increased scrutiny of Chernokozovo, prices went down because the Russians needed to get rid of people," Lohman said.

Babayeva and other Chechen refugees in Ingushetia said the going rate now was $1,000.

Vladimir Kalamanov, the special presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya, acknowledged that holding cells in police stations require scrutiny. He said his office — which has been inspecting pretrial detention centers along with the International Committee of the Red Cross since March — was planning to begin regular inspections of police stations.

"By September, I hope we will have complete information with names, hours and dates [of alleged torture sessions]," Kalamanov said Wednesday.

Both Lohman and Eliza Musayeva, head of the Nazran office of Memorial, said their organizations have received numerous reports of people being held in pits near checkpoints.

Kalamanov said the pits have disappeared and that most of the complaints he received on the subject cover the period from January to March.

But one refugee at the Severny camp described a pit used to keep prisoners as late as May.

Emilia Yukayeva said her husband, Alikhan Utayev, 23, was stopped at a checkpoint near Tangi-Chu and held in a pit for three days in early May.

"They beat him till he lost consciousness. When he came home, he was spitting blood," Yukayeva said. Memorial Report on Urus-Martan police station Amnesty International Inmates at Detention Centers Tell of Abuse, The Moscow Times, February 16, 2000