Paul Goble reports:
Moscow’s efforts to resolve the challenges it has faced in the North Caucasus over the last 20 years by force alone, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the grand dame of Russia’s human rights community says, have demonstrated “the powerlessness of [that kind of] power” and have contributed to the spread of “civil war” across the region.
In a comment in Osobaya Bukhva, Alekseyeva argues that even a “superficial” examination of what has taken place in that region shows the non-expert that Moscow is not solving the problems it faces but making them worse.
Moscow’s policy failure in this regard “began in Chechnya, [but] now it has spread already almost in all republics,” because the central powers that be have “not changed their tactic” and have acted in ways that lead either the victims or the families of the victims to “go into the woods” to take revenge.
At present, Alekseyeva continues, “the majority of those who are in the forests” are there not at least to start to pursue an ideological agenda but rather to take revenge. But once there, they can be mobilized by others and thus become an even greater threat as the recent appearance of suicide bombers, something Russia has not faced before, shows.
Across the North Caucasus, she says, “a definite social group is subjected to terror: men from 15 to 40, that is, the group of people that the federal powers that be suppose can form terrorists and participants in uprisings.” Such people, “when they lay down to sleep, do not know whether they will wake up in their own beds. Some members of this category of people, of course, are in fact terrorists, Alekseyeva concedes. But a far larger number are not and are denounced as such by the FSB which wants to be able to claim success and which finds it “much simpler” to break into the homes of young men, seize them and “say that [they] are backers of the terrorists.”
The FSB tortures those it arrests until they “admit” ties to the terrorists. “Sometimes, [they] die during these tortures.” Sometimes their disfigured bodies are found, but sometimes they are not. But the effect is the same: their relatives feel compelled to take revenge for the victims of this campaign of torture. In this way, the Moscow human rights activist says, Moscow is producing “an explosion” across the region, “and as long as [the powers that be] do so, they will increase the number of terrorists” and lead at least some who had not been sympathetic to those fighting Moscow to change their minds and to revise their views of the Russian state.
That is because, Alekseyeva points out, “in any normal state,” those who do engage in terrorist acts are tried and sentenced to prison. “But not to torture and not to death.” Tragically, in the case of Russia today, the people of the North Caucasus can see that they do not live in a state which lives according to the law – “and that creates the basis for civil war.” Alekseyeva says that she is somewhat cheered by the appointment of Aleksandr Khloponin as head of the new North Caucasus Federal District because he showed himself while governor of Krasnoyarsk kray “a good crisis manager.” And consequently, there is hope that he can be effective in the North Caucasus.
Obviously, he will need to address the terrible problem of unemployment in the North Caucasus, especially among the young where as many as 80 percent do not have regular jobs. Alekseyeva says that she is “not saying that every unemployed person is a terrorist,” but young people without jobs are more inclined to become one than are older people. But an improved social and economic policy will be effective, she suggests, only relatively slowly over the course of several years. And it will work far better if it is accompanied with a change in the counterproductive approach of the FSB “with its extra-judicial arrests and tortures.” If those two things happen, then there could finally be reason for hope.