On Friday, March 30, 2018, the Russian Studies Workshop at Indiana University hosted a seminar on enforced disappearances and torture in the former Soviet Union. While the first panel focused on disappearances in Chechnya, the second panel examined the use of torture in former Soviet Republics and the international bodies that investigate claims of torture. Students, professors and other professionals attended the seminar facilitated by REEI affiliated Dr. Emma Gilligan.
Other REEI affiliated researchers, Jayne-Leigh Thomas and Mariat Imaeva, also presented during the seminar. PhD candidate Imaeva is currently writing her dissertation on enforced disappearances in Chechnya at Dublin City University. During her presentation, Imaeva noted that three to five thousand people have gone missing in Chechnya since 1999. There is a serious lack of DNA facilities in the area which could help identify uncovered persons. She indicated that the state has made identifying these persons unnecessarily difficult and during the seminar she presented a case study of the state’s actions in the town of Dolinskoye, found just outside of the Chechen capital of Grozny. After excavation in 2014 and DNA analysis in Rostov, a town about 1280 miles away, the remains of militants and civilians were reinterred in Dolinskoye on December 30, 2016 in a quick ceremony on New Year’s Eve, an important family holiday in Russia. The remains were wrapped in plastic bags and hurriedly buried, as if the authorities were trying to avoid the public eye. Imaeva specifically examined the timing of the burial, the civilian’s reactions, and the state’s responses.
Following Imaeva’s presentation, Dr. Thomas focused her part of the seminar on how bodies are uncovered and identified. She highlighted the particularities of the process and the importance of the families and communities that surround any site. As director of Indiana University Office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Dr. Thomas oversees the transfer of First Nations cultural artifacts to their original tribes and descendants. She also serves as an adjunct professor for the anthropology department, with research primarily focusing on present-day Slovenia.
Other presenters included representatives from the Human Rights Analysis Center, Oslo; Ariel Dulitzky, Clinical Professor of Law, the Director of the Human Rights Clinic and the Director of the Latin America Initiative of University of Texas; a representative from the European Court of Human Rights Department of Execution of Judgments; and Anastassiya Miller, LLM student at Notre Dame University.
Clare Angeroth Franks is a first year M.A. student with REEI