The Worst of the Worst 2009 - Chechnya [Russia]

Country Scores

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free
Population: 1,200,000
Capital: Harare

2008 Key Developments: Although Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov tightened his grip on power in 2008, he was unable to completely crush rebel groups, who continued to use violence indiscriminately against state and civilian targets. In September, an unidentified assassin killed one of Kadyrov's rivals in Moscow. In October, noncompetitive Chechen parliamentary elections replaced a bicameral pro-Kadyrov legislature with a unicameral one. Murders and disappearances continued unabated in neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia, while Russia's August invasion of Georgia and subsequent recognition of independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia further undermined stability in the Caucasus region.

Political Rights: The resumption of war in 1999 led to the total evisceration of Chechens' political rights. Effectively serving at the pleasure of the Russian president, the Chechen president is appointed for a five-year term, and there are no term limits. Elections for the unicameral parliament were held in October 2008. Much like the old body, it was filled with members loyal to Chechen president Kadyrov, who took office in early 2007. The so-called Kadyrovtsy, members of Kadyrov's security service, have reportedly been involved in abductions, disappearances, extortion, trading in contraband, and the maintenance of unsanctioned prisons and torture chambers. This group represents the chief political power in the republic and has been able to bring most of the territory under its control. Corruption is rampant in Chechnya.

Civil Liberties: Information in the republic is tightly managed. Kadyrov's financial resources allow him to control all local broadcast and most print media. The Russian military imposes severe restrictions on journalists' access to the widening Caucasus conflict area, issuing accreditation primarily to those of proven loyalty to the Russian government. Few foreign reporters are allowed into Chechnya, and when they are granted entry, they must be accompanied at all times by military officials. Most Chechens practice Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. Kadyrov openly advocates giving the faith a central role in Chechen public life. Most international nongovernmental organizations working in Chechnya have moved their headquarters outside of the republic because of security concerns. In addition to pressure from the Chechen government, the groups face increasing demands from the Russian government, which introduced extensive reporting requirements in 2006. Freedom of assembly is not respected, and labor union activity is almost nonexistent due to economic devastation and widespread unemployment. The rule of law is extremely weak. Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and other serious crimes are rarely investigated and even more rarely prosecuted. The European Court of Human Rights has provided Chechens with an alternative source of justice. The court has repeatedly ruled against Russia's conduct of the war in Chechnya, finding that it indiscriminately killed civilians. With Kadyrov's emphasis on traditional Chechen Islam, women face increased discrimination in this male-dominated culture.

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