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RED CROSS: CRIMINAL CASE NO. 96620018

From files of Prosecutor's Office of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

From a decision to open the criminal case

On December 17, 1996, Prosecutor S.S.Idagov of Shali, following the discovery of dead bodies of International Committee of the Red Cross personnel, established that:

At about 5.00 on the morning of December 17, 1996 an armed group of about eight men, in battle fatigues and carrying automatic rifles, broke into the hostel of Red Cross personnel in the building of the former boarding school in the village of Novye Atagi, Shali district, and murdered the following staff: Fernanda Calado, head nurse from Spain, Johan Joost Elkerbout, a construction technician from the Netherlands, Ingehjorg Foss from Norway, Nancy Malloy, a nurse from Canada, Gunnhild Myklebust, a nurse from Norway, and Sheryl Thayer, a nurse from New Zealand. They wounded Christophe Hensch, a senior representative in Novye Atagi from Switzerland.

From the testimony of Ibragim Magomadov, a technician in the hospital.

"At about 4 o'clock in the morning I was in the maintenance room next to the administrative office and heard sounds of something like a scuffle, of blunt strikes. As I looked out of the window I saw fighting men. I opened the door and was hit in the left shoulder with a rifle butt. I was brought back into the room, receiving another blow at the shoulder.

"The attackers (further indelible) ... that we worked for Russians, those geeks, and they had earlier warned us not to work for them, to tell others to stop working in this outfit. Then I heard a rifle shot and Tamerlan, a hospital guard, was pushed into our room. I do not know his full name. Then they brought in an old woman, who lives in the hospital compound as a refugee.

"Then they broke down the office door and I heard a dull shot from an automatic rifle with a silencer. All talking was done in pure Chechen. Then they left, all wearing ski masks, with one warning to shoot us all. The old woman responded by saying why they needed that and closed the door. After jumping over the fence they disappeared. I did not hear any engine noise."

From the testimony given by Nazhmudin Takhigov, head of administration of Novye Atagi. 

"After the seizure of Grozny, some time in the middle of August, Khattab, a widely known field commander, arrived in the village and demanded that the crosses be removed and, if his order was not carried out, he threatened to destroy the entire hospital. Three days later he came with the same demands, but this time he made workers on hire paint over the crosses on the fence and remove the flag from the water tower.

"On November 23 or 24, unidentified men arrived in a white Niva car without state number plates, some time in the morning, before dawn. They took from the hospital head of administration 300-400 US dollars and three million in Russian roubles. They also took radio equipment and portable radios.

"On the second day, they showed papers of a special squad and took with them an interpreter from Starye Atagi. They returned him in a day's time. After he came back the interpreter and his parents said it was their business and asked us not to interfere.

"Following that the commandant's office and the village administration asked the hospital mission to increase security and allow hospital guards to carry arms. Their request was turned down, the motivation being that international law and the Red Cross do not allow that. They even told us that if they were attacked, we should not meddle." 

From the testimony given by Said Saidov, a Red Cross technician. 

Question: Did the criminals speak between themselves?

Answer: They said it was better to kill us all. They said they had warned us not to work for infidels.  

From the testimony given by security guard Tamerlan Usmanov. 

"I heard a rustling noise, released safety on my automatic rifle, reloaded it and directed the rifle at a moving person. I thought the man approaching me was our electrician and made the mistake of allowing him to approach. I did not see any weapons about him, but he appeared to have a pistol and I thought he wanted to scare me so that I should drop my rifle. The person coming on me kept warning me to drop the gun and I, to avoid firing by chance, lowered the barrel.

"He walked up to me, hit me on the head and connected with my left temple. As I was falling, I chanced to fire a shot. At that moment five more men came running, with one pressing a pistol barrel against my back and asking why I had made the shot, but the one that hit me pulled his arm away and said the shot had been made by him. Then they lifted me and took to the engineering personnel booth." 

From the testimony given by Taina Saidullayeva, an interpreter.  

"Before Khattab, Shirvani Basayev had met and talked with the hospital head physician and administrator. I was present at this meeting as an interpreter. Basayev, as a representative of authorities, suggested that the hospital should hire people recommended by them. Two foreign doctors were kidnapped for a few hours. This became known to all in the hospital. Our hospital administration explained they had been taken away on the same motives that were mentioned by Basayev. That is, they were demanding that only people recommended by them should be employed. I know from hearsay that some of the patients expressed dissatisfaction with Red Cross physicians, saying they were not treating, but harming them.

"From nurses' conversations I learned they were drug addicts, who often demanded narcotic-containing drugs. But hospital doctors were very attentive to all patients."  

From the testimony given by Malika Takhtarova, a nurse. 

Question: Were there any quarrels between foreigners and Chechen medical personnel or other hospital staff?

Answer: Never. Everyone liked them.  

From the testimony given by Tamara Muzayeva, a hospital attendant 

"I repeat that Khattab did not say he would destroy the hospital, he said he would not allow people to work in it." 

From the interrogation of Makki Isakova, a nurse. 

"As for the attack of November 24, 1996 I know only that they took some things away. Who they were I do not know. I heard them say they would return and kill everybody."

From the interrogation of Vesid Shainov, a member of the administration of Novye Atagi village.  

"Hospital work caused friction in the village and discontent, mainly due to the fact that many wanted to work there. But jobs in the hospital were few. It seemed to us the hospital was of little use for the village. Our letter was prompted by a desire to call attention to that fact. The letter contained no threats. We mentioned an 'unforeseeable turn of events' and an 'international scandal' without any ulterior motives."

TO MUFTI OF CHECHEN REPUBLIC OF ICHKERIA

A.KADYROV 

In the small hours of December 17, 1996, in the village of Novye Atagi, Shali district, a group of more than ten masked and arms-carrying criminals broke into the building housing an International Red Cross hospital and killed five women sleeping in their rooms - medical nurses from Spain, Norway, Canada and New Zealand.

They also killed a Netherlands citizen who happened to be there and wounded a Red Cross official, a citizen of Switzerland.

These people had treated and tended our wounded and sick co-citizens. Medical assistance was rendered by the Red Cross hospital on a free of charge basis. The brutal killing of innocent foreign nationals evoked deep indignation in our society.

The Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria together with other law enforcement bodies of the republic set up an investigating team to solve this heinous crime and appropriate efforts are now being taken.

At the same time, it would be appropriate if Moslem leaders of the republic should condemn in mass media the killers, their sponsors and inspirers. It would be good if at the same time men of good will should be called upon to give law enforcement bodies all necessary and possible help in solving the crime and exposing the criminals.

We also consider it necessary that the Mufti's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria should announce a bounty of 100,000 dollars for information about the people who have committed this murder, and guarantees of secrecy for people offering the information through a vow on the holy Koran.

 Prosecutor-General of the

Chechen Republic of Ichkeria K.S.Serbiyev  

To Candidate for President of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

M.Udugov 

According to information available to the Prosecutor's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, you said in a television appearance that law enforcement bodies of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria have identified and detained the persons who had about them the firearms identical to the ones which killed Red Cross personnel on December 12, 1996.

In view of the fact that the investigating department of the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, has in the works a criminal case opened following the murder of Red Cross personnel and it is necessary to check this statement, we ask you to tell us the grounds it is based on and the source of information.

If you have information about this murder of interest for the investigation, please give it to us to be recorded according to formal procedure.

Deputy Prosecutor-General of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

M.Magomadov

 To Prime Minister of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

K. Maskhadov

BACKGROUND to

Criminal Case No. 96620018

Opened following the murder of six foreign Red Cross staff in village of Novye Atagi, Shali district 

At five in the morning on December 17, 1996 an unidentified armed group consisting of 10-15 men made an attack on the hostel of International Red Cross personnel in the compound of that organisation's hospital, situated in the village of Novye Atagi, Shali district, Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

Having removed and locked up unarmed guards and other staff of the hospital, the masked criminals, in battle fatigues and civilian clothes, broke into the rooms where Red Cross personnel were sleeping and fired at short range on seven people, six of whom were fatally wounded and died on the spot.

Following this fact, on December 17, 1996 the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria opened a criminal case. An investigation team was formed, consisting of investigators and field operatives of the prosecutor's office, the Interior Ministry, the National Security Forces, and the special squad of the chief staff of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria's armed forces.

The team is led by an experienced investigating officer from the prosecutor's office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

Several leads have been suggested, the main of which are:

1. The crime has been committed by religious fanatics (on religious grounds).

2. The crime has been committed by the armed opposition.

3. The crime has been committed by groups of people wanting to foil or delay the election of a president and a parliament of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

4. The crime is connected with Red Cross economic and fiscal activity.

The investigation has established the types of vehicles used by the criminals and their distinctive markings. A search for them is under way. All the required tests on physical evidence (weapons, traces of blood, etc.) have been planned.

Non-traditional methods of investigation are also used:

- a reward announced through mass media,

- an appeal by the Mufti and other religious influences through media,

- if the investigation requires, suspects may be summoned before a Shariah court (to give an oath on the Koran).

Efforts are continuing to find the arms used by the criminals (rifles).

At the present time other purposeful efforts are being taken to crack this crime.

Jointly with officials of the investigating committee of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation and the expert and criminologist centre of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, it was decided to coordinate efforts in investigating this criminal case.

In particular, the Interior Ministry investigators and 10 field operatives.

Deputy Prosecutor-General of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria M.Magomadov  

To Head of the National Security Service of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

A.Mogsayev 

For a long time investigators from the serious crimes squad of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria's prosecutor's office have been unable to question an armed 15-member group consisting of residents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, which was detained and kept by the National Security Service since December 1996.

Various pretexts are used to keep investigating officers from seeing them. At the same time, they must be interrogated under two criminal cases being investigated by the Prosecutor-General's Office: the criminal case concerned with the murder of International Committee of the Red Cross staff and the criminal cases concerned with an abduction of a North Ossetian delegation led by S.Dzoblayev.

Please give instructions for immediate access to the detained by investigators of the prosecutor's office to take investigative action in pursuit of the criminal cases mentioned.

Deputy Prosecutor-General of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria M.Magomadov 

To Commander of Armed Forces of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

Brigadier General M.Khanbiyev 

The Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is investigating criminal case No. 96620018 following the premeditated murder of International Red Cross staff at Novye Atagi on December 17, 1996.

As a result of this crime, six citizens of five states who came to help the population of our republic have been murdered.

Shortly before the crime the widely known field commander Khattab visited the International Red Cross hospital at Novye Atagi and demanded that the Red Cross symbol - red crosses - be removed, which was done by the hospital administration.

In view of the above the investigation needs to examine Khattab as a witness and to check up on a number of questions.

Since Khattab is currently a serviceman, the head of the Training Centre of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, please send him to the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria to give testimony as a witness by 10.00 on June 22, 1998.  

Prosecutor-General of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

K.Serbiyev 

To Chief of Staff of Armed Forces of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria 

As reported by M.Uspanov, head of the first department of the National Security Service of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, field commander Khattab, known from his military operations, is at present a serviceman, the head of the Training Centre of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

Please oblige the above-mentioned Khattab to appear in the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria by 10.00 on June 22, 1998 to give evidence as a witness. If he is not a serviceman, please inform the department of the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria of that.  

Investigator of Very Serious Cases Prosecutor-General's Office

of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria K.Iraskhanov 

To Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation

State Councillor of Justice

Y.Skuratov  

February 3, 1998 

The prosecutor's office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is investigating a criminal case opened following the premeditated murder of foreign personnel of the International Red Cross Committee, which took place at Novye Atagi, Shali district, Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, on December 17, 1996.

Materials of the criminal case indicate that the organiser of this very grave crime was citizen Shamalu (Adam) Khozhayevich Deniyev, born in 1961, a native of Avtury, Shali district, Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

According to the available information, S.K.Deniyev resides in Moscow, Russian Federation.

In view of the above, to establish criminal proceedings, I request the immediate extradition of Shamalu (Adam) Khozhayevich Deniyev, b. 1961, a native of Avtury, Shali district, Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, a Chechen, married, with no previous convictions by law enforcement bodies of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.  

Prosecutor-General of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

State Councillor of Justice K.Serbiyev

Prosecutor-General's Office of

Chechen Republic

25.05.98 

Hereby is returned, without execution, the request concerning S.K.Deniyev.

In accordance with the requirements of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, detention and arrest of a citizen can be effected only given evidence of his guilt in the crime concerned. No such evidence was furnished.

Please send to the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Russian Federation materials of the criminal case following the murder of International Committee of the Red Cross personnel on December 17, 1996 at Novye Atagi of the Chechen Republic to study them and check out information concerning involvement of S.K.Deniyev in the crime concerned.

Following that, consideration will be given to choosing a measure of restraint with respect to him.

Head of Department for Supervision of Crime Investigation by

Bodies of Prosecutor's Office S.A.Aristov

To Prosecutor-General of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

K.Serbiyev

town of Dzhokhar 

In reference to your No. 18-13-98/1996 of March 26, 1998 

I wish to inform you that the National Security Service of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria has no materials on the involvement of Shamalu Khozhayevich Deniyev (Adam Deniyev) in the murder of International Committee of the Red Cross doctors, which took place on 17.10.96 in the village of Novye Atagi.  

Chairman of the National Security Service of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

Brigadier General L.Khultygov

 

FROM DOCUMENTS OF INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS 

Murder of Six ICRC Personnel at Novye Atagi in Chechnya: Details

We give below the details of the terrible ten minutes that began at 3.30 local time on December 17, 1996. They were documented by the survivors.

A group of five to six men, wearing ski masks and military outfits, armed with pistols provided with silencers, entered the compound of the hospital, negotiating more than a two-metre high wall. Inside is located the hospital building with an operating room and wards for patients, premises for personnel, an administrative block and all kinds of outhouses.

The unknowns knocked the door out to the administrative block and damaged seriously a computer by shooting at it, but took nothing. They beat up a Chechen ICRC staff member who was in the office and opened fire at the door of the room containing a safe, but were unable to bring it down.

Then these persons made their way into premises for personnel, a two-storey building with two entrances. At that time it contained 18 foreign and two local staff. Another two foreign personnel were sleeping in the outhouse.

On their way in the bandits tried opening every door. They killed those five delegates in the rooms whose doors were not locked, shooting them at close range, with pistols pressed practically against the body.

The unknowns tried in vain to broke up the closed doors and then came across a medical nurse who came into the corridor (she was preparing to go on duty at the hospital), and shot her dead. The seventh casualty, Christopher Hensch, a Swiss, head of the ICRC office, was wounded in the shoulder, but escaped with his life, because the bandits decided he was killed.

The group of attackers encountered two local staff members, who ran out into the corridor, but left them alone after checking their identities.

Then came a burst of automatic fire, possibly it was triggered by one of the guards who was at his post nearby. The attackers left the hospital compound. It was 3.40 in the morning.

One of the guards told of the incident to the village military commandant who arrived on the scene accompanied by armed guards at about 4.00 in the morning.

Surviving ICRC staff, discovering the bodies of their six colleagues, gathered in the outhouse to await dawn. Soon they were evacuated together with the dead bodies. Hundreds of village residents assembled outside the hospital gate to sympathise and to show how shocked they were.

Proceeding from the way the developments took place, one can draw several preliminary conclusions:

1. The murder was done in cold blood and methodically, performed by professional killers, who in all probability were well acquainted with the location of the rooms.

2. The attack was directed at foreign ICRC personnel proper.

3. If the guard had not fired, it is quite obvious that the number of the killed would have been greater.

4. Robbery was not the aim of the attack.

The hospital at Novye Atagi, which was handed over to the ICRC by the Norwegian government and the Norwegian Red Cross, opened on September 2, 1996. It was deployed in accordance with the agreement between the ICRC and all parties to the conflict to render assistance above all to the wounded in fighting (civilian and other persons), regardless of the side on which they were. Over the three and a half months since the opening the hospital had treated about 2000 cases. By the moment of the attack the hospital had 3 patients. Although initially it was decided to evacuate them to Grozny, they remained at Novye Atagi and are now under the care of a local doctor.  

Geneva, December 20 1996 

CHRONOLOGY OF INCIDENTS AT NOVYE ATAGI 

1. September 17, 1996

At 17.00, commander Khattab, accompanied by a group of his militants, enters the compound of the ICRC hospital and, using threats, demands that ICRC symbols be removed from the ICRC hospital within two days.

2. September 18, 1996

At 14.00, Khattab accompanied by 15 armed men, enters the compound and takes a compromise decision to reduce the number of ICRC red crosses in the hospital compound.

3. September 18, 1996

At about 20.00, a shot is fired from the road in the direction of the residence of foreign staff in front of the premises of Finnish nurse Asko Kuly.

4. September 19, 1996

At about 20.20, there is another shot fired in the direction of Asko Kuly's premises. As reported by the village commandant, both shots appear to have been made from identical arms and one place.

5. September 26, 1996

Magamet, commander of Novye Atagi, kidnaps from the hospital two foreign personnel, Marc Ahermann and Enzo Porcelli, whom he releases six hours later after talks with the ICRC and after the government intervenes. It seems the kidnapper was sacked from his post of village commander: but later he poses as a state security member.

6. September 25, 1996

The Novye Atagi hospital depot is broken into and a certain amount of food stocks of foreign personnel is stolen.

7. October 25, 1996

At about 5.00 a group of armed men enters the hospital premises for foreign staff. They attack two guards and one foreign staff member, with a gun pressed against his temple. They steal radio equipment and leave a note with threats, accusing the ICRC of spying.

Mr Shamolt Ibragimov and interior bodies of Shali conduct an investigation. The ICRC is informed that the attack was carried out by commander Ruslan Alikhodzheu and the radios were offered for sale at the Shali market.

8. November 25, 1996

At 8.00 a group of armed men takes away a local staff member -- ICRC interpreter Musar-el Yuskayev from the hospital. Musar returns to work the next day and says he was detained by the DGB over a criminal charge -- extortion from a resident of Starye Atagi. He says he must appear before a court in Grozny.

9. November 26, 1996

A former local ICRC staff member, a guard named Suleiman, who was hired on the recommendation of commander Yusif and then fired for attacking a woman staff member, enters the hospital compound and strikes a foreign staffer.

10. November 27, 1996

At around 24.00, there is an armed scuffle in front of the hospital between a group of unidentified armed men and supporters of the local commander. Things do not go so far as shooting and the groups go different ways.

11. December 16, 1996

The ICRC chief delegate receives a letter with threats allegedly signed by the village commander and administrator. 

TEXT AND IMPLICATIONS. TRANSLATED FROM ICHKERIAN 

Documents of the Chechen persecutor's office, and we have quoted excerpts from a large case, contain many implications. These implications are sometimes more valuable than the text itself, since they show the situation that reigned in "independent Ichkeria". Let us focus on a few details.

The most obvious lead, which naturally the prosecutor's office tried to follow, was religious fanaticism. The testimony about Khattab's visit to the hospital, when he ordered red crosses to be painted over, speaks for itself.

In the many casebooks we examined at length in Russia's Federal Security Service, one can select a separate and rather bulky pile of official correspondence between the Chechen prosecutor's office and all kinds of Ichkerian departments, where an attempt is made to solve only two elementary problems.

First, it is to find out what is Khattab, and to whom he reports and, second, to summon him for questioning. If only as a witness.

In the end, the prosecutor's office found out after a lot of trying that Khattab was subordinated to Ichkeria's military command, that is, he is not just a plain Jordanian volunteer, mercenary or independent field commander, but one of the official leaders of the regular Chechen army and, more specifically, the Head of the Training Centre of the Chechen Army, as evidenced by the Special Department of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

The conclusion is self-evident: Ichkeria's official leadership, in particular President Maskhadov, bears full responsibility for the moves of their subordinate.

So Maskhadov's attempts to dissociate himself from Khattab's actions, for example in Daghestan, are unconvincing.

Elementary logic suggests that the country's president should either have recognised Khattab as a rebel and issued the order to arrest him, or should share with him all responsibility for the crimes in Daghestan.

Maskhadov, however, just as in the case with many other field commanders who stained themselves with crimes, tries to steer a middle course. He wants to be considered a president, but does not wish to bear the responsibility which inevitably follows from that post.

Khattab, as was to be expected, never appeared before investigators, and the most plausible lead of the crime was never tried. The matter was closed.

Also curious is the emergence on the criminal scene of Shirvani Basayev, the brother of the notorious Shamil Basayev. His methods of placing his men at the hospital, using open blackmail, are impressive. As a matter of fact, he was not alone, and pressure on the ICRC hospital was exerted by other forces as well.

The Novye Atagi administration and commandant's office, for example, tried to bulldoze the hospital management by sending denunciations of foreign doctors to the republic's leadership.

The range of charges was rather wide: treatment was wrong and not for those who needed it, construction was misdirected money misspent, and so on.

Considering that the doctors volunteered to come to Chechnya, treated everyone whom they could, and spent after all their own, not Chechen, money, this denunciation could have looked curious if death had not lurked behind it, and if it had not been for a serious threat of "an unforeseen turn of events" and an "international scandal".

Local authorities wanted from ICRC staff exactly what was wanted by Shirvani Basayev - to have their relatives and friends provided with cushy jobs.

The aim is one, but methods differ. Basayev uses threats and kidnappings, while the local commandant's office uses threats and sends denunciations.

In some way the Chechen prosecutor's office may be sympathised: to work in the situation of absolute anarchy and totally criminalised society is of course extremely difficult. And the case has many telling details that show this.

The hospital management refuses to have armed guards, but the very first interrogation of a guard reveals that he was armed with an automatic rifle. Then comes the following explanation.

The first guard says that he took the gun from another guard just in case. The second says that he took the rifle from a friend, but refuses to give the name not to denounce him. However, the man, as far as he knows, either took or bought it from someone else. A tired investigator sighs and puts paid. The matter is closed. To find where a man in Chechnya gets arms is impossible.

One more lead. The investigation rather easily identifies the type of weapons, which was used. Especially since the arm is of a rare type. Instruction: start surveillance the illegal arms market in Grozny.

It may be noted that this illegal market functions openly, authorities have not closed it but are ready to ferret out, if necessary, what is traded there. Perhaps, they will be lucky. Unfortunately, they have no luck. The matter is closed.

One more lead. Witnesses testify that one of the criminals wore unusual zipped army fur boots. A request to the military department follows: who was supplied with such boots. Answer: who knows, everyone gets their supplies in their own way. The matter is closed.

The security service reports it detains a suspicious group of Ossetians and Ingushes, perhaps connected with the crime. Follows an interminable correspondence with Ichkeria's state security. An investigating officer repeatedly visits the place to question the suspects, but all sorts of excuses are resorted to keep him away. Even after a note sent by the security service chief to one of his subordinates, which is on file: "Khusein, let a prosecuting officer talk with the boys. They need to check some details". Judging from the documents, the investigator never managed to talk with the "boys". The "details" remain unknown. The matter is closed.

Movladi Ugugov, in the course of an election campaign, makes a statement that the weapons used to kill the International Committee of the Red Cross staff have been found and that he knows a lot about this case.

The prosecutor's office officially asks for information known to the Chechnya propaganda and ideology supremo. Udugov ignores all requests from the prosecutor's office. The matter is closed.

Seen against this background, an energetic letter sent by the Chechen prosecutor's office to their Moscow colleagues is indicative. We quote it in full.

In it the Chechen side categorically demands that a certain citizen should be extradited to Chechnya, because he may be involved in the murder of International Committee of the Red Cross staff.

In reply the Russian side gives a patient reminder that according to all professional rules and laws, arguments and documents on a person's involvement in a case should be first provided before demanding his extradition.

The prosecutor's office and the state security service, as follows from the next document, has no evidence whatever, but a demonstrative gesture has been made. The drum can be banged that Moscow is interfering with the investigation. Imitation of activity is obvious.

Concomitantly, as is often the case in investigations, the prosecutor's office runs into another affair -- on extortion by hospital interpreter Movsar Elzhurkayev of more than a hundred thousand dollars from one of neighbours, a resident of Novye Atagi.

This episode, though it is not directly related to the International Committee of the Red Cross case, is suggestive in its own way, since it demonstrates Ichkerian justice in its full plumage.

Act One: a criminal is figured out by state security staff; without any sanction of the prosecutor's office, he is detained and taken for a family questioning to the house of the man he blackmailed. At a grilling he breaks down and betrays his accomplice.

Act Two: the criminal is sent to the Shariah court, known for its ruthless justice, where a judge, after scratching the back of his head, says that the offender may go home and sleep well. The matter is closed again, only this time by the Shariah court.

Epilogue: the prosecutor's office chances to learn what has long been known to security forces and the Shariah court.

This is the only "success" scored by the Chechen prosecutor's office in the Red Cross case. The affair, with many casebooks, closed and re-opened, goes off like a damp squib: no murder arms found, the most likely man to put a contract out - Khattab - not questioned, and Shirvani Basayev not touched.

For all the formal profusion of references, interrogation records, tests and other papers of all degrees of importance, there is not a single lead pursued to the end. There is nothing except a demonstrative request to the Russian prosecutor's office concerning a man whom even the Chechen security service does not think to be guilty.

A criminal country and an impotent judiciary, like Maskhadov himself - such are the results of several years of Ichkeria's independence.

  



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