"The Council of Europe's top priority must be getting a sustained international monitoring presence in Ingushetia," said Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's representative in the northern Caucasus, who traveled to Strasbourg to press his case with members of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly holding their quarterly meeting this week. "Having people from the international community on the ground to bear witness to what is happening is the best means of getting some immediate relief. If the Russian Federation is serious about living up to its commitments to the Council of Europe, it must agree to such scrutiny."
In an open letter to Parliamentary Assembly members, Human Rights Watch urged the parliamentarians to throw their weight behind an international monitoring mission in Ingushetia. The rights group also pressed for:
- suspension of Russia's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly;
- the filing of a complaint against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights; and
- the initiation of an inquiry into violations of Russia's Council of Europe commitments.
Human Rights Watch monitors in Ingushetia have interviewed hundreds of civilians fleeing the fighting in neighboring Chechnya. Their findings include several incidents of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing of civilian targets by Russian forces. In Russian-controlled territory troops have also engaged in widespread looting, abuse of civilians, and, in some instances, summary executions and rape. Soldiers manning border posts have become notorious for extorting bribes from both those fleeing the conflict and those seeking to return to their homes. For their part, Chechen rebels have repeatedly beaten and threatened civilians, and endangered them by taking up military positions in heavily populated areas.
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