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Corruption Watch: November 8, 2002

8 November 2002, Volume 2, Number 39
The aftermath of the events in Moscow's Dubrovka Theater are slowly pointing to the unnecessary use of excess force which resulted in the loss of lives, primarily of hostages, who died as a result of the opiate gas used by the Russian special forces after storming the building.

Commenting on the operation, Moscow military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer wrote in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" on 1 November: "The fact that the hostage takers, even as they died, seem not to have killed their prisoners, has not been the subject of discussion in Russia at all. In any other country, at least some people would have raised the fact that the Chechens killed no one and everybody was killed by the state. Not here."

In the same issue of the daily, analyst Vladimir Socor writes: "The three or four dozen terrorists who took over the Moscow theater made their way from Chechnya to the heart of the Russian capital through troop cordons and police checkpoints. They reached the scene of action wearing uniforms, in vehicles loaded with arms and explosives. Russia's top authorities don't seem to have any explanation for this remarkable infiltration."

Socor also points out that this is not the first incident of its kind where Russian security police were prone to use overkill. They did so in the hostage-taking incident in 1995 in the southern Russian city of Budennovsk. Security forces shelled and stormed a hospital that had been taken over by Shamil Basaev's Chechen gunmen. More than 100 hospital patients were killed in that attack.

The Russian press reported that the gunmen had placed mines in the theater and that some of the women fighters had explosives taped to their bodies. The Chechens reportedly threatened to blow up the building if the police stormed the building. Yet, despite the gas attack, most experts agree that the Chechens had plenty of time to detonate the mines but choose not to do so.

Krzysztof Jedrzejczak, also known as Jedrzej, a suspected hit man who has been involved in the case of the so-called Osmiornica (Octopus gang) from Lodz, Poland, was arrested in Budapest on 21 October, TV Polonia reported. He had been on the Polish police's most-wanted list and is to be extradited back to Poland in a month. He is alleged to be a member of the Lodz mafia. In May 2002, Jedrzejczak escaped from a court in Lodz during a break in a court hearing. The prosecutor accused him, among other things, of ordering the killing of one of the mafia bosses and of the kidnapping of a businessman. A private detective, Krzysztof Rutkowski, played a key role in the arrest. Earlier in 2002, Rutkowski was severely criticized for arresting a Polish suspect in the Czech republic without informing Czech authorities.

"Rzeczpospolita" on 22 October published a lengthy report charging the Military Information Services (WSI) with profiting from illegal arms sales conducted by the companies Steo and PHU Cenrex in 1992-96 with the participation and collaboration of WSI officers. According to the daily, weapons from Polish Army arsenals were allegedly sold -- through a middleman, suspected international terrorist Monzer al-Kassar -- to Croatia and Somalia (which were under UN embargo) and to the Russian mafia. The District Court in Gdansk on 22 October resumed the trial of a dozen defendants in a case involving illegal arms trading by Steo and PHU Cenrex before immediately postponing it due to the report in "Rzeczpospolita." Meanwhile, Defense Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak told PAP that some information in the daily's report came from WSI classified files. Mleczak added that the ministry is considering suing "Rzeczpospolita" for disclosing state secrets. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Russian police say that they have detained two more men in connection with an explosion that killed 43 people during a military parade in southern Russia in May, the AP reported on 4 November.

Abdul Musaev, the spokesman for the regional Interior Ministry in the Russian republic of Daghestan, said that authorities detained the two on 3 November.

Police have thus far picked up at least 12 people they suspect of direct involvement in the bombing. In addition, they have detained six Russian soldiers and senior officers on suspicion of stealing the mine that was used in the bombing.

Police blame the attack on a Chechen rebel commander, Rappani Khalilov. It was carried out on the holiday marking the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

UN officials have detailed another series of illegal arms shipments from Eastern Europe to an African nation at war, this time tracing the source to Yugoslavia.

The findings of the UN experts, made public at the end of October, say that a double document trail was used by arms dealers to deliver more than 200 tons of Yugoslav army materiel to the Liberian government from June through August.

Liberia is under UN Security Council sanctions for contributing to unrest in West Africa.

Yugoslav authorities have not been accused of authorizing the transfers. But the UN panel of experts says arms dealers took advantage of Belgrade's weak oversight mechanisms to carry out their shipments.

Johan Peleman is the arms expert on the four-member panel and one of the world's top authorities on illicit weapons trading. He told RFE/RL in an interview this week that two private Yugoslav firms appear to have been involved in a scheme in which false documents were used to carry out six air shipments of Yugoslav arms from Belgrade to Monrovia.

One set of documents showed military equipment was being sold to Nigeria's Defense Ministry. Another set of documents was prepared to convince other authorities that the aircraft were shipping mining equipment to Liberia.

The Yugoslav firm Interjug AS was the freight-forwarding agent that prepared the paperwork for the flights from Yugoslavia. Peleman said Interjug refused to provide any information to the panel, and its involvement in the details of the flights placed it under suspicion.

Peleman told RFE/RL that: "To us, it seems inexplicable that Interjug could not provide us with any documentation on these flights, saying that they had given all the documentation to the pilots and the crew and had kept no copies of it, plus the fact that Interjug would not have known that the real destination for these shipments was Liberia instead of Lagos (Nigeria)."

The other Yugoslav company involved was Belgrade-based Temex, which supplied the arms.

The UN panel spoke with the director of Temex, Slobodan Tezic, who insisted his company was involved in a legal transaction between the Yugoslav supplier -- the army -- and the Nigerian Defense Ministry.

But Temex refused to provide the panel with documents showing who had paid for the weapons, which Peleman says could have proven the company's innocence.

The panel's report says Yugoslav authorities had followed the normal procedure for the export of military equipment prior to the shipments this summer. It also notes that Yugoslav officials made an effort to get extra confirmation over whether Nigeria was the end-user of the military supplies as claimed. But arms brokers were able to provide falsified end-user certificates showing Nigeria was the customer.

Peleman says countries like Yugoslavia need to exercise more vigorous oversight on arms shipments. "We think it's a little weak under internationally accepted standards to just go for a standard paper procedure -- end-user certificate -- but as such we don't see it as involvement in illicit arms trafficking as it were. We're not saying that Yugoslav authorities were aware of the diversions."

Peleman also said authorities in Belgrade need to be more aware of arms moratoriums as well as embargoes. Yugoslav officials, the panel found, did not know of the existence of the moratorium on small arms declared by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes Nigeria. (RFE/RL correspondent Robert McMahon)

A criminal gang operating in Serbia was planning to kill Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, according to a report on Serbian radio on 31 October. In the report, the leader of the criminal gang suspected of murdering General Bosko Buha in August is Zeljko Maksimovic Maka. He allegedly fled from Montenegro to Spain. Police claim that the gang was also intending to murder the prime minister.

In an interview for the radio station, Djindjic stated: "With my approval the police decided to intervene on that day, and because of this a part of the criminal network has remained undetected.

"However, I think that the consequences of a different decision would have been even worse, as far as I am concerned. Namely, if an assassination attempt on me had been successful, and they then arrested all the gang members, well, this might have been better for justice, but not better for me personally. That is why I think that this was a more realistic option."

The person arrested and charged with murdering Buha is Nikola Maljkovic. Maljkovic has been undergoing interrogations in the central prison.

According to Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic, the group aimed to create chaos in the country in an effort to create favorable conditions for criminal activities.


By Roman Kupchinsky

From 10-26 September 2000, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) went to Ukraine and conducted a series of visits at Ukrainian detention centers.

The committee's report was published on 9 October 2002 in Strasbourg with the consent of the government of Ukraine, which at that time also submitted its response to the committee's findings.

In the report, the members stated that overall cooperation with Ukrainian authorities was acceptable, but one of the main points of contention was the impression the committee had that "many detained persons whom it met in both the Militia central holding facilities and the prison establishments visited were afraid to talk to members of the delegation or be examined by its medical members, because of the repercussions that such an action might have on their subsequent treatment."

This led the committee to issue the following statement in their final report: "The CPT recommends that the Ukrainian authorities ensure that senior management and personnel refrain from issuing threats to detainees and prisoners in the days preceding a visit by a delegation of the Committee. Such action can only undermine the co-operation and trust that is gradually being established between the CPT and the Ukrainian authorities."

The conditions for prisoners in Ukraine is far from satisfactory and little is being done by the Ukrainian authorities to improve their situation. The commission wrote: "As regards co-operation in order to improve the situation in light of the CPT's recommendations, the Committee is concerned by the lack of progress in numerous areas. Many of the recommendations in this report reiterate those contained in earlier reports. This is true, for example, for the recommendations designed to prevent the ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by law enforcement agencies, and to combat overcrowding both in Militia and penitentiary establishments. As already pointed out in paragraph 11 of the report on the 1998 visit, a number of the recommendations concerned have no important financial implications and could be implemented without delay.

"The allegations (made to the commission) mainly concerned kicks, punches, and blows with a truncheon. However, a number of allegations were heard of even more severe forms of ill-treatment, such as: electric shocks; pistol-whips; burns using cigarette lighters; asphyxiation by placing a gas mask or plastic bag over a detained person's head; beating detained persons while they are handcuffed and suspended by the legs and/or arms or maintained in a hyperextended position (techniques known as "elephant", "swallow" and "parrot"); beatings on the soles of the feet. In many cases, the severity of the ill-treatment alleged was such that it could be considered as amounting to torture."

One of the concerns of the committee was the pretrial detention of persons suspected of committing crimes. In the report, the committee points out that Ukrainian authorities and lawmakers have not responded to earlier criticism: "In the report on its 1998 visit (see document CPT/Inf (2002) 19, paragraph 17) the CPT recommended that the Ukrainian authorities review law and practice in the light of Recommendation No. R (80) 11 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning custody pending trial. According to that text, no person charged with an offence shall be placed in custody pending trial unless circumstances make it strictly necessary. Custody pending trial shall therefore be regarded as an exceptional measure." This recommendation has still to be implemented. The information gathered by the delegation during the 2000 visit, including through discussions with prosecutors, shows that there continues to be a general policy of remanding criminal suspects in custody, with release pending trial being the exception. While many examples could be detailed, the following case is a striking illustration of the present situation: A 16-year-old boy, who had gone to Zhelezhodorzhniy District Police Station in Simferopol for questioning about a fight with another juvenile, was sent to Simferopol ITT. According to Militia officers in the ITT, the boy had committed a "very minor offense." However, the prosecutor had refused to release him on bail and had told him that he would have to go to the pretrial detention prison (SIZO) in Simferopol and would probably be sentenced to two years in prison.

The CPT wrote that it calls upon the Ukrainian authorities to "undertake without further delay the necessary review of the law and practice on this fundamental issue of custody pending trial."

Summarizing the question of further cooperation with Ukrainian authorities on these matters, the committee added this ominous observation in its report: "As regards co-operation in order to improve the situation in the light of the CPT's recommendations, the Committee is concerned by the lack of progress in numerous areas. Many of the recommendations in this report reiterate those contained in earlier reports. This is true, for example, for the recommendations designed to prevent the ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by law enforcement agencies, and to combat overcrowding both in Militia and penitentiary establishments. As already pointed out in paragraph 11 of the report on the 1998 visit, a number of the recommendations concerned have no important financial implications and could be implemented without delay.

"The CPT must stress that, unless genuine efforts are made as of now to improve the situation, it will be obliged to consider having recourse to Article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention."

That article reads: "If the Party fails to co-operate or refuses to improve the situation in the light of the Committee's recommendations, the Committee may decide, after the Party has had an opportunity to make known its views, by a majority of two-thirds of its members to make a public statement on the matter."

One of the major conclusions reached by the investigating team was that: "In the light of all the information at its disposal, the CPT can only reach the same conclusion as in the report on the 1998 visit, namely that persons deprived of their liberty by the Militia in Ukraine run a significant risk of being physically ill-treated at the time of their apprehension and/or while in the custody of the Militia (particularly when being interrogated), and that on occasion resort may be had to severe ill-treatment/torture."