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    Russian Human Rights violations in Chechnya serious -

    Russian Human Rights violations in Chechnya serious

    Russia is carrying out "serious human rights violations" in Chechnya, and the routine use of torture by police to extract confessions from detainees and "degrading" prison conditions are also causing concern, Amnesty International said in a report published on last month.

    Presenting the report in Moscow, an Amnesty official complained that representations to the Russian authorities by human rights defenders had been ignored.

    Security forces in the breakaway southern republic committed "serious human rights violations and breached international humanitarian law with almost total impunity," Amnesty said in its annual report.

    Violations reported in the conflict zone included extra judicial executions, "disappearances," torture and rape, the London-based rights group said, noting that the notorious military sweeps, or "zachistki," continued to be accompanied by serious rights violations, looting and extortion.

    The situation in Chechnya was characterized by the absence of the rule of law, with few of the thousands of crimes against civilians committed by Russian federal forces ever investigated and even fewer taken to court, it said.

    Last September, Amnesty noted, a Russian official reported that 44 members of the Russian forces had been convicted for crimes against civilians for murder, rape and causing physical harm and death through carelessness.

    At the same time, Chechen fighters intensified their activities in the latter part of the year, and the attitude of the federal forces towards the local population hardened still further.

    In particular, last October's hostage seizure in a Moscow theatre was followed by an increase in the number of detentions, while raids by security forces in Djokhar were carried out with great brutality, Amnesty said.

    In the wake of the hostage taking, law enforcement agencies cracked down on Chechen civilians throughout Russia, it said.

    Discrimination on grounds of race was widespread in Russia, with continuing racist attacks by "non-state actors," it noted. Many such attacks were not reported to police because the victims feared further abuse, Amnesty said.

    Russian authorities did little in response to racist statements by public figures in Russia's regions, it stressed.

    Asylum-seekers and refugees suffered the additional difficulty that their documentation was frequently not recognized by police.

    In general "police reportedly tortured and ill-treated detainees in custody in order to extract confessions, virtually as a matter of routine," with members of ethnic minorities and the poor most at risk.

    However Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's representative for Europe, said that complaints by Amnesty and other non-government organizations about specific cases had drawn no response from Russian officials. "In Russia, we have seen security speak louder than human rights," Duckworth told a press conference.

    She cited in particular an open letter addressed to President Vladimir Putin concerning "hundreds of thousands" of residents of former Soviet republics who have been denied their right to Russian citizenship "for reasons of discrimination."

    Moreover the situation in Chechnya will not improve "until the Russian government takes steps to end impunity," she said.

    Council of Caucasus Journalists.Translated from Russian by Kavkaz-Center

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