"Even today I think, maybe today, tomorrow, they will return my son to me … Every night he appears in my sleep and during the day I cry all the time ... That is not a life any more. For me everything came to a halt. I don't live; I just walk over the earth." - Bilat Akhmatkhanova, Artur Akhmatkhanov's mother
In April 2003 22-year-old Artur Akhmatkhanov was grabbed by masked soldiers and bundled into an armoured personnel carrier. He has not been seen since.
According to eyewitnesses, it was members of the Russian federal forces (FSB) who detained the Grozny student and human rights volunteer.
Amnesty International has been told that the following day, police and FSB officers collected empty cartridges and a blood-smeared cloth from the scene for analysis, but Artur Akhmatkhanov's family has not been told what happened to him or why.
A year after Artur’s enforced disappearance, the military prosecutor denied that the Russian military were involved, saying: "[N]o special operations for detaining citizens on the territory of the Chechen Republic were conducted, no citizens were detained and no one was handed over to the law enforcement agencies."
Artur Akhmatkhanov’s enforced disappearance is part of a deeply worrying pattern of ongoing human rights abuses in Chechnya and neighbouring republics in the North Caucasus. The Ombudsman in the Chechen Republic reported in 2005 that more than 2,000 people had "disappeared" at the hands of unidentified security forces in Chechnya. The Russian NGO Memorial estimates that up to 5,000 men, women and children have gone missing there since 1999. Amnesty International knows of only one conviction related to an enforced disappearance.
In June 2007, Amnesty International delivered 4,630 signed postcards for Artur Akhmatkhanov to the Russian Embassy in London with a copy of the report "Russian Federation: What Justice for Chechnya’s Disappeared?" An embassy official said he welcomed dialogue with Amnesty International and acknowledged that some enforced disappearances and abductions were the responsibility of the state. He said the concerns raised would be transmitted to Moscow.
Despite this the investigation into Artur’s disappearance has been suspended. Artur’s mother, Bilat Akhmatkhanova, has never stopped searching for her son.