According to Human Rights Watch, a Chechen aidworker and her husband were brazenly abducted from the office of the Grozny-based humanitarian NGO Save the Generation today (yesterday Russian time).
Two armed men entered the office of the group, Save the Generation, at about 2 p.m., witnesses said. The men said they were members of the security services and demanded that Zarema Sadulayeva, the head of the organization, and her husband, Alik (Umar) Lechayevich Dzhabrailov, come with them. They did not say where they were taking the couple. They had not been heard from as of 9:30 p.m., and Russian authorities had not responded to inquiries about the couple’s whereabouts by the Russian human rights organization Memorial.
Clearly not afraid of being identified or pursued, the kidnappers later came back to take their victims’ things.
Shortly after Sadulayeva and Dzhabrailov were taken away, the men who had taken them returned to the organization’s office and took Dzhabrailov’s mobile phone and his car, a gray VAZ 2110, with a license plate ending in 237.
Not even a month has passed since the murder of one of Chechnya’s –and Russia’s– most prominent human rights advocates, Natalia Estemirova. But unlike Estemirova, who directly investigated crimes by state agents, Sadulayeva and her husband were involved in apolitical humanitarian work.
Save the Generation is a nongovernmental organization in Chechnya founded in 2001 that provides psychological and physical rehabilitation to disabled children, orphans, and other socially vulnerable groups. The group also works closely with UNICEF, among other groups, to provide training about landmines, and promotes protection of the rights of the disabled.
Honestly, it doesn’t get any more uncontroversial than orphans, children with disabilities, and landmine victims. However, this is Chechnya under Ramzan Kadyrov, and Kadyrov really doesn’t like it when people point out the fact that his republic has, you know, some issues.
In a recent Radio Free Europe interview, he actually made the following statement:
The only thing I can say is that we’ll fully rebuild Chechnya and solve every social problem. Chechnya will be the most successful region in Russia and the world.
Ok then! Right. Those ain’t delusions of grandeur at all.
On the subject of human rights abuses, Kadyrov wanted to make one thing crystal clear: he’s the biggest victim of all.
[...] my father was killed. I’ve lost thousands of people I know [Who actually knows, I mean personally knows, thousands of people? -Ed]. I’ve lost relatives, classmates and friends. And no one says Kadyrov has lost them, that Kadyrov has rights, too. Everyone’s silent about that.
As my stepfather says, “What’s that I hear? The sound of the world’s smallest, saddest violin playing just for you?”
When terrorists set off bombs in the center of Grozny, killing police, women, and children, human rights activists say nothing about that. Why don’t they protect my rights? Kadyrov has lost everything. But whenever something happens in Chechnya — where there are a million residents — if someone violates the law, it’s always Kadyrov who’s to blame.
All of which would seem totally unfair but for the pesky little fact that virtually everyone Kadyrov threatens meets a strange and grisly end soon thereafter. (But don’t worry, Kadyrov has a totally reasonable explanation for this. Watch the video!)
Meanwhile, back in the real world:
“Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned about the fate of Zarema Sadulayeva and Alik Dzhabrailov,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The shocking murder of Natalia Estemirova only last month has made it obvious that activists in Chechnya are being targeted for their work and are extremely vulnerable.”
“If the authorities have officially detained Sadulayeva and Dzhabrailov, they should reveal their location and the legal basis for holding them and guarantee their rights,” Cartner said. “This includes an absolute prohibition on ill-treatment, their right to inform their relatives of their whereabouts, and access to a lawyer of their choosing.”
As if screaming into the wind –which is what all appeals to the rule of law in the North Caucasus have become– HRW finishes with the following:
The detention of anyone followed by a refusal to acknowledge this detention, or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the detained person, constitutes an enforced disappearance, a crime under international law that is prohibited in all circumstances.
These stories don’t usually end happily, but I’m going to hold out hope Sadulayeva and Dzhabrailov are still alive until I read otherwise.