Monday, November 12, 2012

Chechnya's Mass Graves left Untouched


Second Chechen War: Source
Map of Chechnya: WHO
In 1998, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was drafted and signed signaling the establishment of the International Criminal Court.  The court was established with the goal of investigating and prosecuting crimes including war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.  Article 6 of the Rome Statute cites the “enforced disappearance of persons” as a war crime.  The definition of such “disappearance” includes, but is not limited to, the murder of persons and the burial of such persons in mass, unmarked graves. 

Archeology holds the unique ability to exhume and identify both the cause of death and the identity of bodies.  Archeological methods can therefore be used highlight the mass human rights violations that have been committed against the disappeared and their families.  In the case of the Chechen wars, archeologists have been unable to highlight violations due to Russia’s unwillingness to exhume the mass graves believed by many who have lost relatives, to be the key to learning what happened to their loved ones who disappeared during the wars.  Russia reports that 574 cases of missing persons have been resolved yet 57 known mass graves remain untouched.  The few investigations that have been carried out, have been either botched or executed in an unprofessional manner.

Numerous human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Russia’s unwillingness to work to exhume and identify the bodies in an appropriate manner.  Inappropriate practices include failure of collecting evidence from bodies (both forensic and material), failure to publicize their findings to relatives, and failure to carry out investigations into the nature of deaths (such as interviewing known witnesses).  Such botched investigations have made it difficult to determine what has happened to the bodies found.  Since 2005, the European Court of Human Rights has handed down over 170 judgments finding Russia “responsible for serious human rights abuses in Chechnya, including executions, torture, and enforced disappearances” (HRW 5).  But despite these judgments, there have been no official tribunals or legal proceedings on war crimes; Russia has done very little to help victims of the war recover and find their missing relatives, many of whom could certainty be identified by way of proper practices. 

By not exhuming these mass graves or doing so in an improper manner, Russia is further violating the rights of the Chechen war victims.  Surviving relatives are left to imagine the horrors their loved ones endured while not knowing what became of them.   Russia has clearly taken the approach of ignoring its past violations and failing to address the cloud of uncertainty that looms over many survivors whose relatives disappeared.  Russia should be well aware, however, that ignoring a problem does not make is disappear.  Russia’s handling of the mass graves brings up many questions.  How does the refusal to exhume mass graves and subsequently work to identify the bodies further violate the rights of both the deceased and their surviving relatives?  Why has the international community sat by while human rights abuses continue? 

Sources:

Kramer, Andrew. "A vexing reminder of war in Chechnya's booming capital." New York Times 29 04 2008, Web. 10 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/29/world/europe/29ihtjournal.4.12440042.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.

“Making Justice Count in Chechnya.” Human Rights Watch (2011): 1-21. Human Rights Watch. Web. 9 Nov. 2012

UN General Assembly, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (last amended 2010), 17 July 1998, ISBN No. 92-9227-227-6, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b3a84.html [accessed 9 November 2012]







7 comments:

  1. Great blog post. You raise some very interesting questions about the moral issues surrounding recognition and the necessity of recognition to fully heal from a traumatic event on a national level. How are the mass graves known to exist? Does the Russian government acknowledge the existence of the graves and simply refuse to exhume? Or do they deny the presence of the mass graves altogether? It would be very interesting to explore the difference between these two levels of infraction.

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  2. I agree with Alex's questions. It would also be interesting to explore the reasons for the refusal to exhume the graves and why they are ignoring the rights of the families to know what happened to their loved ones.

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  3. The pictures and text are equally wonderful. The only thing I'm wondering about are the details surrounding the graves. It may be the biological anthropologist in me, but I'm wondering about the contexts of these graves. Who was involved in the fighting, what type of combat or time period are we looking at? It may not be relevant to your topic, but I'm interested in what setting these graves are found in, I.e. a farm field, rural or woodland setting, etc. Even so, the questions you brought up are provoking and well thought out.

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  4. The pictures and text are equally wonderful. The only thing I'm wondering about are the details surrounding the graves. It may be the biological anthropologist in me, but I'm wondering about the contexts of these graves. Who was involved in the fighting, what type of combat or time period are we looking at? It may not be relevant to your topic, but I'm interested in what setting these graves are found in, I.e. a farm field, rural or woodland setting, etc. Even so, the questions you brought up are provoking and well thought out.

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  6. This is very interesting. If you are going to frame it around international politics, then focus on the conflict going within that framework a little more. Simply saying that their refusal to exhume is a further human rights violation is not really enough. Why is the exhumation addressing human rights (theoretically get into that a little, unpack what a human right is. Explore the legal terms you use a little more). Also, just a layman's questions, but why would Russia want to exhume if it could result in a tribunal? I mean politically, why would they do something that could result in serious political ramifications. What could be done or what are the conditions that you believe would make Russia move?

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  7. As I was suggesting in class I think one interesting angle at which to examine this issue is through the newspaper articles. You could trace the appearance and disappearance of the silenced speaking through articles. Also the political aspect could be addressed by seeing who owned the newspapers who published the articles. Also the number of times an article was viewed online and when could be analyzed.You might get some very interesting data through which to examine your topic.
    -Natasha

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