On the eve of the visit to Chechnya of the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, Amnesty International expressed serious concern about continuing human rights abuses in the republic and the failure to bring to justice those responsible. The organization urged the Russian authorities to implement the Commissioner's recommendations.
"The human rights situation in Chechnya remains deplorable," Amnesty International said.
"Federal forces commit grave human rights violations against the civilian population and are only rarely held to account."
During raids by Russian troops on villages, hundreds of Chechen civilians have 'disappeared' and many have later been found in mass graves. While such operations now seem to be targeting individuals rather than whole villages, the violations continue. Chechen fighters also commit serious human rights abuses, especially against members of the pro-Moscow administration.
Two measures by the authorities, Decree no. 46 of the Prosecutor General and Order no. 80 of the Commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, were introduced in 2001 and 2002 to provide greater transparency and protection for civilians during raids. However, they are routinely ignored and Chechen civilians appear to be as unprotected as ever.
In his recommendation of May 2002, the Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern that neither of these regulations had 'been adequately complied with' and recommended that the authorities take all necessary steps to ensure that they were 'effectively applied and that any breaches thereof be severely sanctioned'. Amnesty International urged the Russian authorities to ensure the implementation of this recommendation.
Mr Gil-Robles also expressed concern that civilians who are detained by Russian forces are deprived of their constitutional rights. They are held at military bases to which civilian prosecutors have no access, but military prosecutors have no jurisdiction in such cases.
"This legal limbo further endangers the lives of Chechen detainees," Amnesty International stated.
The Commissioner recommended that the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation ensure that civilians enjoy the constitutional rights guaranteed in the event of their arrest and detention by soldiers. Amnesty International finds it extremely regrettable that this recommendation has also been ignored by the authorities.
Welcoming the Commissioner's visit to Chechnya, Amnesty International urged the Russian authorities to grant access to other international observers, including the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Extrajudicial Executions and Violence against Women and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Internally Displaced Persons, to visit the republic. It also calls upon the Russian government to publish all reports prepared by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture following its visits to the Russian Federation, including Chechnya. Russia remains the only member of the Council of Europe not to have done so.
Visit the Amnesty International Russia Campaign websites: www.amnesty.org/russia
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org