15 November 2021, 14:11

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 8-14, 2021

Publication of video evidence of violence and torture against natives of the Caucasus in the Saratov prison hospital; anniversary of the end of the “autumn war” in Nagorno-Karabakh and new armed incidents in the conflict zone; protests by Saakashvili’s supporters in Georgia; debate at the trial against leaders of the Ingush protest; conflict at the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia provoked by the changed channel of the Fortanga River, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of November 8-14, 2021, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Publication of video evidence of violence and torture against natives of Caucasus in Saratov prison hospital

On November 9, the human rights project “Gulagu.net” posted a video evidence of violence and torture used against natives of Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in a Saratov prison hospital. Convicts were sent to the Saratov prison hospital not because of their health problems, but as punishment for misconduct and disobedience, said Akim Mamiev, a former prisoner, a native of Dagestan. The man explained that he was punished for fighting injustice and beatings in custody. The “Caucasian Knot” received from human rights defenders a video with the evidence that Erik Arzoev*, a native of Azerbaijan, was sexually assaulted in the prison hospital in the Saratov Region. His brother said that Erik fought against torture and bullying in penal colonies and was sent to the prison hospital, although he did not have any health problems.

According to advocates, complaints about torture in the Saratov prison hospital have been received since 2012, but the investigating authorities have sent the complaints to the very institution for consideration. The video evidence of torture gives hope that the guilty persons will be punished, but the situation is similar in other penitentiary institutions in Russia, claim human rights defenders Magomed Alamov and Irina Biryukova, interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Anniversary of end of “autumn war” in Nagorno-Karabakh and new armed incidents in conflict zone

On November 8, Azerbaijan celebrated the Victory Day in honour of the anniversary of the end of the combat actions in Nagorno-Karabakh in the autumn of 2020. On the occasion of the holiday, a procession of many thousands took place in Baku. In Armenia, the opposition celebrated the anniversary of the end of the “autumn war” with protest rallies. On the evening of November 8, a rally organized by the ARF “Dashnaktsutyun” took place on Freedom Square in Yerevan, at which the party announced the formation of a nationwide resistance movement. The rally gathered the entire “Hayastan” parliamentary bloc headed by second president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan. Participants of the rally accused the current Armenian government of the defeat in the Karabakh war. On November 9, a rally-procession was organized in Yerevan by the “National Democratic Pole” movement. Its participants negatively assessed the role of Russia in the Karabakh conflict and called anti-Armenian the trilateral declaration on the cessation of the combat actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

During the past week, several serious armed incidents took place in Nagorno-Karabakh and at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On November 8, at the crossroads near Shushi (the Azerbaijani name is Shusha, – note of the “Caucasian Knot), the Azerbaijani armed forces shelled Armenian workers who were repairing the water pipe, one of them died in hospital, and three others were hospitalized. On November 9, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of a shelling attack on engineering vehicles at the border between the two countries in the Black Lake region. On the other day, the head of the Armenian village of Khachik in the Areni community reported that a tractor with a local resident had been shelled by the Azerbaijani armed forces. On November 9, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Azerbaijan claimed an attempt by Armenian militaries to cut the communication routes between the posts of the Azerbaijani army in the Black Lake region. According to the Azerbaijani military officials, the above operation involved about 60 Armenian soldiers, who were cordoned off and then released at a request of Russian peacekeepers. The Ministry of Defence of Armenia claims that, on the contrary, Armenian military units stopped a provocation, after which it was the Azerbaijani side that addressed the Russian peacekeepers with a request to resolve the situation. On the morning of November 13, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Nagorno-Karabakh announced the closure of traffic on the road from Stepanakert to Berdzor because of an incident between the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides. According to sources, a local resident threw a grenade at Azerbaijani soldiers in Shushi, and they opened fire in response. The Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan announced that three Azerbaijani militaries were wounded as a result of the incident and that the Azerbaijani considered the incident to be a terror act. Later, the Azerbaijani MoD claimed a shelling attack on the position of the Azerbaijani army in the Kelbadjar District. The Armenian Ministry of Defence reacted to the above claim with a statement that the Azerbaijani militaries opened fire first.

Protests by Saakashvili’s supporters in Georgia

Last week, in Georgia, supporters of country’s third president Mikhail Saakashvili, who started a hunger strike in a prison in Rustavi on October 1, continued protest actions. On November 8, the authorities acknowledged that the Mikhail Saakashvili’s health had deteriorated and transferred him to a Tbilisi prison hospital, despite the fact that the politician and his supporters insisted on hospitalization in a civilian clinic. Mikhail Saakashvili claimed that he was taken to the prison hospital by force and was beaten there. On November 11, the politician decided to stop his hunger strike on the condition that the process of his rehabilitation would take place in a civilian clinic. However, the authorities have not yet accepted the above condition. It should be noted that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) did not grant the claim filed by lawyers representing the Mikhail Saakashvili’s interests, who requested the Strasbourg Court to oblige the Georgian authorities to transfer the former president to a civil clinic. The Georgian opposition is holding daily protests with the demand to release the former president of the country. On November 10, at least 46 supporters of Mikhail Saakashvili were detained at protests in Tbilisi.

Debate at trial against leaders of Ingush protest

On November 8, a court started debate at the trial in a case against seven Ingush activists accused of creating an extremist community. A public prosecutor declared the proven guilt of all the defendants and requested the court to sentence Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, and Malsag Uzhakhov to nine years of imprisonment, and Ismail Nalgiev, Bagaudin Khautiev, and Barakh Chemurziev – to eight years of imprisonment. At the same time, the public prosecutor requested 7.5 years of imprisonment for Zarifa Sautieva. At a court hearing held on November 9, the defence claimed there was no factual evidence of the defendants’ guilt and requested the court to acquit them. The defendants themselves believe the terms of sentence requested by the prosecutor’s office are too harsh and undermine the trust of ordinary people in the authorities.

Conflict at border between Chechnya and Ingushetia provoked by changed channel of Fortanga River

On November 11, workers of the “Chechenavtodor” changed the channel of the Fortanga River, along which the border with Ingushetia passes. The excavation work provoked a protest from residents of Ingushetia. On November 12, they organized a gathering, but officials persuaded the people to disperse. After visiting the area of the Fortanga River, Ingush Minister of Natural Resources Magomed Evloev called the actions of the “Chechenavtodor” illegal. The government of Ingushetia notified the President of Russia and such federal agencies as the “Rosprirodnadzor” (Russian Federal Agency for Supervising the Nature) and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources. The activities of the “Chechenavtodor” on the bank of the Fortanga River could in no way affect the border line with Ingushetia, states Magomed Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament. He was supported by users of the Chechen segment of Instagram, who criticized the Ingush people for artificially escalating the conflict.

* The names of the convicts have been changed for ethical reasons.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on November 15, 2021 at 09:33 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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