U.S. and EU must Blacklist Kadyrov
The annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has published. The commission demands from the U.S. authorities have to impose a ban on issuing a U.S. visa and to freeze all assets of Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the puppet regime in Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) as an entity separate and distinct from the State Department, is an independent U.S. government body that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF bases these recommendations on the standards found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents. The 2011 Annual Report represents the culmination of a year‘s work by Commissioners and staff to document abuses on the ground and make independent policy recommendations to the U.S. government, as mandated by Congress. With a reporting period of April 2010 through March 2011, this Annual Report addresses 28 countries from around the world. Russia and Chechnya are in the “Watch List Countries” of the report. In the countries, which are an the Watch List of countries, there are serious violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments.
According to the report, in recent years, Russia has steadily retreated from democratic reform, endangering post-Soviet human rights gains, including progress on freedom of religion or belief. This general retreat encompasses religious freedom and related human rights, as well as increased limitations on the media, political parties, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); concerted harassment of human rights activists and organizations; legal restrictions on freedom of assembly, and constraints on popular referenda.
Human rights groups report that in the North Caucasus, but increasingly in other areas of Russia, Muslims viewed as – overly observant have been killed, – disappeared, or arrested on vague official accusations of alleged religious extremism or for displaying sympathies to Islamist militancy. Hundreds of Russian Muslims have reportedly been imprisoned on the basis of planted evidence, including banned religious literature, drugs, or weapons. Persons suspected of involvement with Muslim extremist groups have reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in pretrial detention, prisons, and labor camps. Amnesty International has claimed that the Russian Internal Ministry‘s Center for Extremism Prevention (known as Center – E) engages in torture to extract confessions from suspects. Russian officials, especially on the local level, continue to respond inadequately to numerous violent hate crimes directed against members of various religious communities. Moreover, chauvinist groups have stepped up their campaign, including death threats, against individuals, groups, and government officials that defend the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and migrants. While Russian police have offered some assistance to these defenders, their efforts are inconsistent and often ineffective. In many cases involving Russia‘s ethnic and religious minorities, Russian authorities, particularly on the local level, have not treated hate crimes seriously. In recent years, human rights groups have expressed alarm over the high rate of hate crimes in Russia, often the result of attacks by – skinhead racist groups, particularly against people from Central Asia, who are predominantly Muslim, as well as against Russian Jews. Most expressions of xenophobia in Russia are directed at migrants from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, but some also target Russian Jews.
While the Russian government has targeted non-violent groups and individuals under the extremism law, [puppet] Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules a particularly corrupt and lawless republic, has been allowed to operate without accountability. In early 2011, President Medvedev re-appointed Kadyrov to head the [Russian occupied] Chechen republic for a further five-year term. Kadyrov condones or oversees mass violations of human rights, including religious freedom, the rights of women, as well as humanitarian law by his own militia. As of April 2011, the ECHR had ruled against Russia in 186 cases concerning Chechnya, most involving disappearances of civilians by Kadyrov’s militia. Kadyrov also stands accused of involvement in the murders of political opponents and human rights activists. Since being named by the Kremlin to head the [Russian occupied] Chechen republic in 2007, Kadyrov has exploited Islam, distorting Chechen Sufi traditions to serve his own ambitions and justify his arbitrary rule. He has declared that Chechnya would be better off if it were ruled by sharia law which contradicts secular Russian constitutional and legal precepts.
One recent case highlights the official mistreatment of religious prisoners in Chechnya. Islam Umarpashaev often discussed religion on Internet blogs and thus came to the attention of special [puppet] Chechen security police. In December 2009, he was forcibly abducted in Chechnya. For four months, [puppet] Chechen security forces held him incommunicado and reportedly tortured him in detention. According to his captors, his April 2010 release was due to his father making trouble and filing an application with the ECHR in January 2010 seeking information about the case from the Russian government. Today, Umarpashaev, his family, and various Russian human rights activists that assisted him fear reprisals from the [puppet] Chechen security police. Several official Russian human rights bodies, as well as a group of Russian NGOs, have asked that Umarpashaev’s case be transferred from the local to the federal level because impunity for such crimes in Chechnya has made an effective local investigation impossible.
In 2006 Kadyrov launched an often violent virtue campaign.He has said publicly that Chechen women must dress modestly to spare their male relatives the painful duty of killing them if they disobey. Over the past three years, nine women reportedly have been killed, most recently in January 2011, for immodest behavior and their killers are not known to have stood trial. In 2007, Kadyrov decreed that all women must wear headscarves in public buildings, and he has encouraged attacks on those refusing to wear the hijab. In 2010, there were dozens of incidents in which women were pelted with paintballs, including by police, for not wearing headscarves; one woman reportedly was blinded. Two years ago, Kadyrov reportedly issued an informal order that all [puppet] Chechen officials must marry a second wife; reportedly, many have done so, often reluctantly.
In the report, USCIRF presents its recommeditions to the U.S. government.
The U.S. government should:
- implement a U.S. visa ban and asset freeze against Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, whom the ECHR has found responsible for severe and on-going human rights abuses, and urge European partners to do the same, and consider recommending him for the Politically Exposed Persons list, which includes government officials whose bank assets should be frozen due to their corrupt practices and gross human rights violations;
- ensure that the humanitarian crisis in Chechnya and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Russian federal military and local security and police forces there, as well as in other North Caucasus republics, are issues raised in U.S.-Russian bilateral relations;
- urge the Russian government to respect all resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the North Caucasus and reinstate regular on-site visits by the Council of Europe‘s Special Rapporteur for Chechnya;
- urge the Russian government to address the issues raised by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review and relevant treaty bodies concerning Chechnya, accept visits to Chechnya by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions and Torture, and fully cooperate with those Special Rapporteurs;
- advocate , along with other OSCE States, that human rights abuses in the North Caucasus receive greater attention in OSCE deliberations and programs and also encourage the OSCE to offer humanitarian and other assistance to the civilian populations affected by the decade long conflict in Chechnya and in the North Caucasus.
The U.S. government should urge the Russian government to:
- amend the Russian extremism law to address acts that involve violence or incitement to imminent violence, and drop bans on nonviolent organizations, literature and religious communities;
- cease and prosecute all alleged acts of involuntary detention, disappearances, torture, rape, and other human rights abuses by the Russian security services in Chechnya, including by pro-Kremlin Chechen forces, and in other republics of the North Caucasus.
- condemn – publicly, promptly and specifically – acts of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance, and hate crimes, and ensure that such acts will be fully and promptly investigated and prosecuted as human rights abuses and not “hooliganism”;
- condemn publicly rhetoric that promotes xenophobia or intolerance, including religious intolerance, while vigorously promoting freedom of expression.
The entire report is available HERE.