Russian 'torture cell' found in Grozny cellar

One of Russia's leading human rights groups has produced what it says is documentary evidence of a secret torture and murder cell in Grozny, the Chechen capital.

According to Memorial, Russian police used the dungeon to torture and murder hundreds of people, whose corpses were later dumped across the small, mainly Muslim, republic.

The claims undermine Kremlin assurances that life in Chechnya is "getting back to normal" and directly implicate the authorities in the unlawful abduction and extrajudicial execution of civilians.

Memorial alleges that the torture cell, located in the basement of a former school for deaf children in Grozny's Oktyabrskaya district, was decommissioned only last month, when the federal Russian police unit occupying the building withdrew.

The windowless, airless cells of the dungeon have been photographed and filmed by Memorial and the organisation has collected first-hand testimony from people who say they survived being incarcerated there. The photographs show that the cells' walls are covered with graffiti scrawled by inmates revealing their names and sometimes when they were held there. At times the graffiti reflects the captives' desperate state of mind.

"Where am I, what's happening to me, am I alive or not?" reads one inscription from March this year.

In other cases it proclaims inmates' devotion to Allah or their attachment to Islamist fundamentalist ideas. "Suicide bombers deserve a place in paradise, non-believers the flames of hell," reads another.

Memorial says it collected the evidence just in time and that the building housing the cellar has since been demolished and the graffiti expunged from the walls in a crude attempt at a cover-up. What is clear is that the cellar was used to interrogate people suspected of collaborating with separatists resisting the republic's Moscow-backed government. Human rights activists allege that many of these so-called "terror suspects" are innocent civilians and that they are often punished because one of their relatives is a rebel.

Tatyana Kasatkina, Memorial's acting director, said the dungeon was not an isolated case and that at least two other similar facilities in Chechnya continue to "process" suspects.

She claimed that Memorial's discovery of the dungeon was "a piece of luck" but that its existence proves that the position in Chechnya is as grave as ever.

She said: "It [the dungeon] is an awful base of evidence. It is proof of what has been going on. People were tortured there, people were murdered there, and people who were sent there subsequently disappeared. For them there was no court. They try to tell us that Chechnya is a normal part of Russia, that things are peaceful here, and that reconstruction is taking place, but that's just not the way things are."

Ms Kasatkina argued that Chechnya's greatest problem was Russian impunity and that the only way to peace was through holding the people guilty of torture and murder to account.

The Moscow-backed Chechen authorities have categorically denied Memorial's allegations, though the republic's prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, is investigating. Mr Kuznetsov has already claimed that it was common knowledge that there were "temporary holding cells" beneath the building. He insists their existence was "official and not a secret object". Samples have been taken from the cells' walls for analysis and if they turn out to be human blood, Mr Kuznetsov has promised further tests. Several criminal cases involving the disappearance of people allegedly dispatched to the cells are being investigated.

Nurdi Nukhajiev, Chechnya's government-appointed representative for human rights, was sceptical about Memorial's claims.

"I am not saying that angels served there [in the cells]," he said. "I am not saying that the people [policemen] were ideal individuals. But this is 2006 and they weren't so stupid as to leave evidence of torture and murder behind."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on