In November 2001, I traveled with Amnesty International researcher, Mariana Katzarova, to the Republic of Ingushetia located next to Chechnya. The purpose of the trip was to record the testimonies of Chechens who were the victims of human rights violations through kidnappings, detention, rape, torture and the disappearances of family members. During this time, Russian forces continued to conduct raids on villages throughout Chechnya, largely with impunity, ostensibly to locate suspected fighters.
While there, we met with Chechen refugees who were living in camps, in factories, even in a pig farm. When word got out that we were taking testimonies, people risked capture to cross the border from Chechnya to meet with us in an arranged “safe-house”.
In a tent in one camp, we met the Kungaeva family. Their 18-year-old daughter Kheda had been abducted from their home in March 2000 by Russian soldiers under the command of Colonel Yuri Budanov. Kheda was brutally beaten, raped and then strangled to death by the Colonel in his tent. She was buried quickly but her body was dug up and returned to her family two days later.
Colonel Yuri Budanov was the first member of the Russian forces to be prosecuted for human rights abuses since the war in Chechnya began. He was tried for murder. He claimed that he detained Kheda on suspicion of being a sniper, lost his temper, and strangled her during an interrogation. After a three-year fight for justice for the Kungaeva family, Budanov was sentenced to10 years imprisonment and stripped of his military rank.
A month after the sentencing, Rosa and Visa Kungaeva, along with their four children, settled into a new life on the western coast of Norway.