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Swedish Migration Board Ignores Rape Cases from Chechnya!

Submitted by on Monday, 28 May 2012.    1,667 views No Comment
Swedish Migration Board Ignores Rape Cases from Chechnya!

Johan Lagerfelt, a former Swedish legislator who heads the independent Swedish Committee for Chechnya, has sent an open letter to the daily Swedish newspaper “Nerikes Allehanda” (NA) and criticized the ignorance of the Migration Board in reference to rape cases from the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

Here is his letter:

Through the centuries, the ability of people to hurt each other has never ceased to amaze with more and more cruel methods. In war, it has rarely been sufficient for one to take the life of their opponent, but the atrocities are often extended to the entire population. And in this dismal catalog of abuse, we find that rape takes a little honor, prominence.

Both in the times of the Romans and the Greeks, watching war rape was acceptable within the war rules and the socially. However, in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church tried to grant immunity from violence to noncombatants, arguing the so-called “Pax Dei” (The Peace of God). The original document which came from the “Synod of Charroux” in 989 was limited in scope but it may be said that it is one of the first attempts to enact martial law. Even the Muslim scholars in the Middle Ages, held that the rape was forbidden and could be punished by death.

In modern times, since 1949, rape in war has been prohibited by Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But despite these and other subsequent approaches, the rape of women and even men has become the rule rather than the exception in today’s conflicts. For example, it is estimated that over 2 million German women were raped during the Red Army’s advance during World War II. Even after this, the abuse continued and rapes in the Balkans and Congo are the ones that captured most attention in recent times.

However, the big step forward came with the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Rome Statute, which was adopted in July 1998 and became a binding agreement in April 2002 when the number of signatories reached 60 in the UN. These are combinations of systematic gang rapes of women as a crime against humanity and hence there is neither a statute of limitations nor immunity from criminal prosecution even for the sitting heads of states.

A few countries have attracted attention as a result of rape of civilians. We can also note that the abuses of some countries have been almost totally ignored. Primarily, this applies to the Russian atrocities in Chechnya.

During the 1994-1996 war, a war that ended with a convincing victory for the Chechen guerrillas, rumors began to circulate about the Russian gang rapes of Chechen women. When the war ended, these rumors ceased without getting any substance or confirmation. After the next Russian invasion in 1999, it didn’t take a lot time for the rumors to circulate, but it proved impossible to get any further in the search for hard facts.

But in 2010, I managed to get a number of courageous Chechen women to come forward and share their experiences. The testimonies were also forwarded to the Swedish Migration Board (MV) while all of these were asylum seekers and I was their representative. To my great surprise, in principle, the news came by return mail that the women’s stories had been dismissed as non-credible because they weren’t told about the abuse at the same time that they applied for asylum.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of rapes, especially gang rapes, knows that such information is the absolute last thing that a woman speaks about, not the first. But the Immigration Service with his usual mixture of ignorance and indifference, this was taken as evidence that they committed the first assault. What message does the Migration Board send with this?

First, it is a message to the raped women: we do not care, we do not want to hear your stories, you will not get any help from us, just continue to remain silent, and the shame is yours! Secondly, it is a crystal clear message to the Russian military; you can continue with your assault, you can rest assured that we will not reveal you.

Sweden is one of the signatories to the Rome Statute and with this; we have taken on a special responsibility to act with a legal and moral imperative. Despite this, the Immigration Service’s ignoring of this issue simply breaks the international convention and develops a direct cooperation with the Russian war criminals.

It isn’t clear if this collaboration with criminals has been sanctioned by the government, but if so, we have a right to know about it, and if not, then it is time that the Minister for Migration in Sweden, Mr. Tobbias Billström, clearly takes position without his usual evasiveness and explains. It is time that we take these wronged women seriously!

Johan Lagerfelt
Senior Chairman, Swedish Committe for Chechnya in Örebro

*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco

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