RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP SAYS CHECHENS INTIMIDATED IN RUN-UP TO REFERENDUM...
The head of the Memorial human rights group, Oleg Orlov, told journalists in Moscow on 27 February that "death squads" have intensified their activities in Chechnya, creating "an atmosphere of fear and terror" in the run-up to the 23 March referendum on a new draft constitution and election laws, Reuters and chechenpress.com reported. Orlov said that while the number of "sweeps" in Chechnya has fallen in recent months, there has been an increase in the number of Chechens snatched from their homes at night. Many of the victims are subsequently found dead, bearing clear signs of torture, Orlov said. He added that only a few such cases are officially documented and even fewer investigated. Orlov said that while most such abductions are carried out by Russian military personnel, some could be the work of Chechen fighters. LF
...AS CHECHNYA'S DUMA DEPUTY SAYS ALL CHECHENS SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE
Retired police General Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who is Chechnya's deputy to the Russian State Duma, told a roundtable on Chechnya in Rostov-na-Donu on 27 February that all Chechens currently not resident in Chechnya should have the opportunity to vote in the 23 March referendum, Interfax reported. Aslakhanov argued that the constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees every citizen the right to participate in referendums. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said in Grozny on 26 February that no provisions will be made to enable displaced Chechens to vote in camps in Ingushetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2003). Aslakhanov also announced on 27 February that he plans to convene a congress of people of Chechnya in Moscow on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Two earlier attempts by Aslakhanov to convene such a gathering, in 2001 and late 2002, were thwarted by the Kadyrov administration (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 9 April 2001 and 12 December 2002). Following the second failure, Aslakhanov had tentatively scheduled the congress for late this month. LF
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