06 June 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 30 to June 5

Visit of members of the Council under the President of Russia for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights to the North-Caucasian Federal District; heavy rainfalls with hail in South of Russia; adoption by German Bundestag of resolution on Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 30-June 5, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

HRC members collect information on human rights violations in Northern Caucasus

The visit of members of the Council under President of Russia for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (known as the HRC) to the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) began on May 30. Dagestan was the first visited Republic. No serious violations were revealed at the SIZOs (pre-trial prisons), the republic uses the practice of putting people on the so-called "prophylactic register" for their religious views, said the members of the HRC's delegation. They also expressed concern about the absence of correctional schools.

The next region, the rights defenders had planned to visit was Chechnya; however, on June 1 it became known that Ramzan Kadyrov had refused to meet the HRC delegation, because its member was Igor Kalyapin, the head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

On June 2 and 3, the delegation was in Ingushetia, where the HRC members found serious problems with the custody conditions at local jails. Besides, local residents complained about low salaries and violations at the implementation of housing programmes. On June 3, HRC members met the head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Evkurov. He asked not to use Ingushetia as a base for human rights work in Chechnya, and stated rights defenders' attempts to quarrel him with Kadyrov.

On June 3 and 4, the HRC delegation visited North Ossetia; they fixed no violations at SIZOs, including SIZO-6 in Vladikavkaz, where suspects from the whole territory of Northern Caucasus are kept. On June 4, rights defenders visited Kabardino-Balkaria. Here, former policemen from the Terek District, who had worked near the CTO (counterterrorist operation) zone during the Chechen Wars, complained about non-payment of due compensations.

The rights defenders are also planning to visit Karachay-Cherkessia and Stavropol Territory.

Bad weather causes flooding of dwelling settlements in Southern Russia

This week, Southern Russia was hit by torrential rains, sometimes with hail, which caused accidents in utility and housing systems, and flooded a number of dwelling settlements.

The Stavropol Territory had a heavy rain on May 29; there were power supply outages in 15 settlements. The accompanying hail damaged 1828 hectares of crops and roofs of houses.

On June 1 and 2, after heavy rains, several villages were flooded in the Krasnodar Territory; a 17-year-old boy perished; the territory was put under the state of emergency.

Bad weather caused damage to other regions of Southern Russia. On June 2, in the Buynaksk District of Dagestan, a landslide damaged bridges, a gas pipeline and buildings; on June 4, a rock-fall went down on the road in the Charodin District of the republic; the road was blocked. In Kabardino-Balkaria, the Baksan District was hit by heavy showers. Heavy rains with hail were also registered in Karachay-Cherkessia, where the damage to farmland was estimated at 140 million roubles. On June 5, in North Ossetia, as a result of heavy rain, five people received traumas.

Bundestag adopts resolution condemning Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Empire

On June 2, the German Parliament (Bundestag) approved a resolution "101 Years of Memory of Genocide of Armenians and other Christian Minorities". The document states the recognition of the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, as well as the recognition by the German government of its part of responsibility for those events. On the same day, several dozens of people gathered in front of the German Embassy in Yerevan to express gratitude for the resolution. Armenian experts have treated the recognition of Armenian Genocide by the official Berlin as a political step that would promote this process in other countries.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated the biased character of the resolution and accused the German MPs of "double standards" at the background of "German indifference to Armenia's ethnic cleansings" in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani experts have treated the recognition of Armenian Genocide as the method to exert pressure on Turkey.

ECtHR condemns Azerbaijan for torturing Arif and Leyla Yunus

On June 2, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced its decision on the complaint of Leyla Yunus, Director of the Azerbaijani Institute of Peace and Democracy (IPD), and her husband Arif Yunus about their torture during the detention. The ECtHR decided to oblige the Azeri authorities to pay to the spouses, who had been convicted on charges of economic crimes and treason, 13 million euros as compensation for their moral harm. The ECtHR's decision was made against the background of Baku's preparation to host a stage of "Formula-1" motor race, and is a timely reminder of violations by the authorities of Azerbaijan of citizens' rights, said the European Human Rights and Advocacy Centre (EHRAC).

Abkhazia announces date of referendum on presidential election

On June 1, Raul Khajimba, President of Abkhazia, announced that on July 10 the republic will hold a referendum on early elections of its president. The referendum was initiated in March by the opposition, dissatisfied with the fact that Mr Khajimba had failed to fulfil his promises made before the early presidential election on August 24, 2014, which followed the resignation, by the offer of the parliament, of the then President Alexander Ankvab. Earlier, the authorities opposed the referendum, claiming that it was contrary to the Constitution.

MMA fighter Shakhbulat Shamkhalaev wounded in shooting at Makhachkala restaurant

On June 1, Shakhbulat Shamkhalaev, a famous Russian MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter, was wounded in Makhachkala. The incident occurred in the "Port-Petrovsk" Restaurant; and a record from a surveillance camera got into the Internet. It shows that an armed man entered the restaurant; and then shooting began. According to the athlete's brother, 13 bullets hit Shakhbulatov; two of them were fires from combat firearm; the rest – from a traumatic one. No official versions of the incident have been announced so far, but a source close to investigators said that a blood feud and a conflict over the murder in 2013 of the director of the "Gorets" (Highlander) Sports Club are considered. Yet another version suggests that the attackers were militants, who had intended to kill an employee of the prosecutor's office, but made a mistake and opened fire at Shamkhalaev.

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