Chechen health minister gives details of Russian torture methods

23 July 2001

The health minister in the rebel Chechen administration, Umar Khanbiyev, who was himself taken prisoner by the Russian forces in Chechnya and tortured, has drawn up a list of the most commonly-used methods of torture employed by the federal forces. He said the evidence of similar methods being employed in different camps showed this was a deliberate policy, most likely devised by the Russian special services. He spoke of Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal hatred of Chechnya and Chechens and said he had issued a secret instruction "to destroy 80 per cent of prisoners and leave the remainder disabled" so Chechens could "see what they have to fear". The methods employed involve both physical and mental torture. The following are excerpts from report by Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency web site:

To imagine the scale of Russian brutality in Chechnya, one should understand that this is not a result of the actions of some uncontrolled groups, but is a state model which is being managed, supervised and encouraged by the supreme authorities in Russia.

Concentration camps are one of the components in this punishment system. "Private" mini-concentration camps exist on the territory of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in every military unit of the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Defence Ministry. People are being tortured, sold and killed here. If relatives do not pay a ransom to liberate a hostage within 3-4 days, then the latter, who is tortured and beaten from the moment of capture, could die or completely disappear.

Numerous reports from Russian punishment structures talk about the existence of Putin's secret instruction to punishment bodies "to destroy 80 per cent of prisoners and leave the remainder disabled" so that the population can see what they have to fear.

Genocide is obvious in all its forms - ethnic, political, religious and economic forms of genocide.

Concentration camps

Official information of the government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria shows that over 40,000 (without taking into account those killed by bombs and in "clearance operations") Chechen civilians have been killed in Russian concentration camps since the beginning of this war. Over 20,000 people have completely disappeared. Nearly the same number of prisoners are being held in concentration camps, where they are subjected to torture and execution without trial.

As a former prisoner of a concentration camp, I myself underwent Russian torture. Additionally, as a doctor, I constantly come across the health problems of former victims of the Russian punishment system. I am convinced that many torture methods have been elaborated in the special laboratories of the Russian special services because these methods are so well-honed and technically perfect. Judging from the fact that a lot of torture is repeated in different concentration camps, there must be a users' guide or instructors sent from Moscow - how to correctly cripple and make prisoners suffer. As a result of my own research and analysis, I have classified as follows a list of the typical methods of torture being used in Russian concentration camps against Chechens:

The most widely-spread mental torture methods are:

1. Torture "Imaginary execution"
Almost every prisoner undergoes this ordeal. The tortured man feels himself completely unprotected and permanently scarred.

2. Torture "Noise irritants"
One could often hear the heart-rendering cries of torture victims in concentration camps, especially at night time. Prisoners imagine various scenes of terrible torture…and cannot sleep.

3. Torture undermining human dignity
The butchers' actions in all concentration camps are, without exception, aimed primarily at undermining a prisoner's human dignity. A key goal of the Russian butchers in these camps is to kill and torment the human soul, as well as to turn a man into an animal. In Chernokozovo, prisoners are forced to crawl from one corner of a corridor to another so that, in the end, a prisoner can report to a butcher at the end of the corridor that he "has crawled at your orders". Many proud Chechen young men have been killed because they refused to succumb to the butchers' mockery.

There are many testimonies about sexual violence against male prisoners. These victims very rarely survive. Victims of mockery of this type often commit suicide…. Survivors say that thoughts of revenge gave them strength, and their only purpose for the rest of their life is to get revenge against the enemy.

4. Torture "Forced attendance at tortures"
Prisoners of concentration camps are very nervous when they speak about witnessing others being tortured. … In February 2000 the Russians took us to Devkar-Evla (Tolstov-Yurt) and began to throw wounded people from buses. A majority of the latter were disabled, people injured on mines who had had arms or legs amputated. The Russian punishers beat the amputated stumps of their arms and legs using boots.

5. Verbal torture
Threats to kill, description of the details of torture, as a result of which you have to be killed, words insulting the dignity of the nation as well as of an individual and swear words - all this strongly affects the state of a prisoner's mind.

6. Mass mental torture "clearance operation"
Today the whole of Chechnya is a large concentration camp. All residents of Chechnya, from new-born babies to the elderly, are its prisoners and undergo a mass mental method of torture called "clearance operations". Dozens or even hundreds of people die on a daily basis because of mental shocks which cause heart attacks and cerebral thrombosis. The number of victims grows because of the lack of any medical service. Doctors are unable even to anaesthetize the victims of chaotic bombings and artillery strikes.

Physical tortures

I will describe only the most typical methods of torture widely used in all concentration camps.

1. Electric shock torture
The majority of concentration camp prisoners have undergone this torture. Electrodes are fastened to the most sensitive parts of the body (genitals, ears, nose, back of the head, armpits)…

2. "Swallow" torture
This is one of the most widely-spread methods of torture. Legs and arms are tied together behind a person's back. A prisoner hangs head first and this continues for hours. This causes very strong or unbearable pain in joints. Afterwards, the victim feels pain in his or her joints for a long time, as if this happened yesterday.

3. "Respirator" torture
A prisoner is seated on a chair which is nailed to the floor. Hands and arms are tied under the chair with handcuffs. A respirator is put on his head and the respiratory tube is closed. A prisoner begins to suffocate because of the lack of air. He tries to take off the handcuffs and therefore seriously injures himself. … The prisoner feels a strong pressure in his head and feels as though his eyes have popped out. Gradually, the voices of the butchers advising you "to take a deep breath", and their laughter seem to move far away from you. You fly into an abyss of darkness. Then you wake up slowly and heavily. Some incoherent sounds become words. … Gradually, you understand that you have just died, visited the other world, but then again risen from the dead.

4. "Feeding" torture
Food and water is not given to prisoners for several days. Then victims' tongues are crushed to a bloody pulp using pliers. Victims are beaten with truncheons and forced to eat hot gruel with too much salt and pepper in it. The prisoners eat this food crying because of the terrible pain in their mouths. The sadists watch and enjoy this.

5. "Wolf canines" torture
A prisoner is tied to a chair. A piece of wood in the form of a bridle bit is put into his mouth. They saw the prisoner's teeth and, mock him, saying that they are sawing "wolf canines".

6. "Round table" torture
Prisoners in handcuffs sit face-to-face at a wooden table. The prisoners' tongues are nailed to the edge of the table. All the camp team watches this "show" and calls this torture the "Chechen round table".

Additionally, prisoners in concentration camps undergo more brutal torture: the traumatic amputation of fingers and other limbs, the putting out of eyes, breaking bones and people's spine, the lancing of stomachs and pulling out of intestines, the cutting out of tongues, ears and genitals, the destruction of livers, spleens and kidneys by striking precise blows.…

The most monstrous thing for me, as a doctor, is that Russian military doctors themselves often take part in this torture. There are many testimonies as to how the doctors use various manipulations to torture, maim and kill prisoners.

The most brutal torture, during or after which prisoners are killed, the Russian invaders themselves named "killing", i.e. these methods of torture, or executions, are used against those prisoners who, in the sadists' opinion, must not live.

[Signed] Doctor Umar Khanbiyev, Health Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 27, 2001 (excerpts)
Original source: Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency web site in Russian 23 Jul 01