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Ten years on – no justice for victims of Chechen killings

"Today when I walk through Grozny I do not see the rebuilt houses or shops, I still see the dead and the faces of those who killed them." Elvira Dombaeva, survivor of the Novye Aldy killings Ten years after the killing of scores of civilians in a suburb of the Chechen capital Grozny, the relatives of those murdered are still denied justice by the Russian authorities. On the morning of 5 February 2000, at least 56 men and women were killed by Russian security forces in the settlement of Novye Aldy.   In February 2000, the armed conflict in Chechnya, which had started in October 1999, had already lessened in intensity. Many residents were beginning to emerge from their cellars and return to the streets when troops entered Novye. The residents of Novye Aldy didn't bury their dead immediately, as they waited for the authorities to come and investigate the atrocity. Throughout a decade, Russia has failed to hold anyone accountable, despite evidence connecting the crime to members of OMON, the Russian special police. “When we were finally able to collect the bodies after two days, we could not close the eyes of the dead. It was winter and we had to pour warm water over their eyes to be able to close them," Elvira Dombaeva, a survivor of the killings, told Amnesty International. In the months after the killings, Chechen human rights activists and prosecutors collected reliable information identifying the troops responsible for the crime. In 2006, the Russian government confirmed that a "special operation" was conducted in the village on 5 February 2000 by a unit of OMON and that  more than 50 people had been killed in Novye Aldy on 5 February 2000. Yet according to the information available to Amnesty International, the authorities have made no serious attempt to identify or punish those who participated in the killing. Meanwhile, prosecutors who have tried to investigate the case have faced obstruction. “The case of Novye Aldy illustrates the ineffectiveness of the Russian judicial system as well as the lack of political will of the Russian authorities to conduct an investigation and to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director. In July 2007, the European Court of Human Rights found violations of the right to life and the prohibiton of torture and other ill-treatment by Russia responsible for the death of 13 residents of Novye Aldy, whose relatives had filed a complaint with the Court after failing to obtain justice in Russia. Yet still, no one has been brought to justice. Amnesty International has called on the Russian authorities to provide justice for the victims of the Novye Aldy killings. Only by identifying, arresting and prosecuting those responsible can the authorities demonstrate their respect for the right to life and respect for the law.