Wednesday, July 20, 2016

North Caucasus-Style Disappearances Spreading Across Russia, Investigator Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, July 20 – The phenomenon of “disappearnces” when individuals simply “disappear” from their daily existence as the result of the actions of the government or of those allied with it, long a characteristic of life in the North Caucasus and of Latin American dictatorships, is now spreading throughout the Russian Federation.

            That is the disturbing conclusion of “Kommersant” journalist Grigory Tumanov who was asked by the editors of the Snob portal to investigate this phenomenon in the North Caucasus and its spread from that troubled region into central Russia and beyond and has today published his findings (

                According to the Russian interior ministry, approximately 120,000 Russians disappear each year, including 4500 Muscovites. Most do so on their own and eventually reappear.  But many of these are involuntary “disappearances” of the kind made infamous by the dictatorship in Argentina and by thuggish regimes in the North Caucasus.

            In the latter region, such cases have become a commonplace, Rustam Matsyev, a lawyer who tracks down such people for the Legal Initiative Organization. He told Tumanov that this phenomenon is now so common in the North Caucasus that many residents of that restive region see it as the new normal.

            What is especially disturbing, however, is that the use of “disappearances” by the authorities is spreading to other parts of Russia where the police decide they have to make someone they cannot easily charge or convict simply go away by “disappearing” him either into special prisons or even cemeteries.

            According to Matsyev, the practice has spread because police from various parts of Russia who have been sent for service in the North Caucasus come to view this technique as a quick fix and then apply it when they return home even if there is no official demand from above for it there.

            It is difficult if not impossible to say just how many cases of this there are, Tumanov continues, not only because the police are not interested in releasing details but also because the media quickly lose interest in cases when journalists assume that an individual may eventually turn up given that there is no evidence to the contrary.

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