Russia

Experts from Council of Europe inspect human rights situation in Chechnya prior to referendum

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Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus - On February 25, experts from the Council of Europe met with representatives of the human rights center Memorial in Grozny. The meeting was part of the monitoring that the Council is carrying out prior to the Chechen constitutional referendum scheduled for March 23.

Eliza Musayeva, director of the human rights center's regional office, said the experts were interested in Memorial´s stand on the draft constitution and referendum, as well as any human rights changes in Chechnya following the December explosion in the building of the Moscow-backed Chechen government in Grozny.

The Memorial staff told the experts that, given the current situation and existing conditions in Chechnya, any referendum would be premature. "The situation in Chechnya has become more tense and reports about human rights violations have increased," stated human rights activist Nataliya Yestemirova.

Doku Itslayev, director of the Urus-Martanovsky section of the Memorial, confirmed this. According to him, in January there were eight people reported missing in his region.

In Eliza Musayeva´s opinion, the referendum deprives Chechens of support from the international community. "Up until now we've been able to appeal to the Council of Europe and Parliamentary Assembly, and if this will be taken away from us after the referendum takes place, it might be considered as some sort of legal maneuver." And Musayeva added, "The referendum does not solve the issue of Maskhadov; conflicting sides will continue their actions and people will die just as before."

After the meeting, expert consultants Eva Konecna and Marina Trevisan said that in connection with the monitoring the Council of Europe would have to decide whether to send its observers to the referendum.

(O/E,T)

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