Documents on human rights abuses in Chechnya seized
By Yevgenia Borisova
Russian federal security service (FSB) officers have confiscated documents from human rights activists who were taking them to Stockholm for submission to an international tribunal on war crimes in Chechnya.
Among the documents confiscated by officers of the FSB (formerly the KGB) at Moscow's international airport were documents provided by the St Petersburg Soldiers Mothers' Organization. Also seized was a report prepared by the Moscow-based Memorial organization on the Russian army's massacre at the Chechen village of Samashki last March, and a letter written to tribunal members by Yelena Bonner, the widow of internationally acclaimed Soviet-era human rights activist Andrei Sakharov.
One member of the departing party of activists, Libkhan Bazayeva, the head of the Chechen Republic Women's Union (CRWU), had all her documents confiscated after custom officers found an empty cartridge case in her luggage, according to Zainab Gashayeva of the CRWU. Members of the departing delegation claim that the cartridge case was planted there. Ms Bazayeva was eventually let out of Russia, but was a day late for the opening of the Stockholm session.
The seizures took place last month. But by mid-December other copies of most of the seized materials had been assembled in Stockholm, together with 3,000 pieces of written, video and photographic evidence accumulated by the Moscow-based Glasnost and Glasnost Protection foundations, headed by Sergei Grigoryants and Alexei Simonov respectively. Delegation members had fresh copies of the confiscated documents E-mailed to them in Stockholm, Mr Simonov said last week at the press-club of St Petersburg's Nevskoye Vremya newspaper. But copies of Ms Bazayeva's documents could not be sent because the originals were in Grozny.
Mr Simonov said the international tribunal was being convened to publicly name guilty parties in war crimes committed in Chechnya. He said the idea of organizing the international tribunal occurred to members of his Glasnost Protection Foundation when they began accumulating damning material after launching a special commission to investigate war crimes in Chechnya. "Up until now, never in our country has anyone been named guilty for the state's actions," Mr Simonov said, referring to what his group considers the state's war crimes in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Speaking of the confiscated documents, he said, "Over the past five years we had forgotten how the security services smelled. "We simply did not think about it. But it appears it's high time to start thinking again about it."
The Stockholm tribunal is expected to be registered as an international public organization by next week. It will consist of 12 members from different countries, including top state figures, politicians and legal advisors. The December meeting of the tribunal was sponsored by the Swedish Olaf Palme foundation. But Mr Simonov said there is no decision yet on whether the tribunal will be based there permanently.