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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Russia accused of Chechnya abuses
Russian troops in Chechnya
Russian troops in Chechnya
A European human rights watchdog has officially condemned Russia for abusing and executing detainees in Chechnya since 1999.

The Strasbourg-based European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), a 43-member body, of which Russia is a member, issued a statement saying Russia had breached its obligation to co-operate with the committee and to uncover and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses.

"To date, an inquiry of the kind requested by the CPT has not been carried out and the Russian authorities have now made it clear that they have no intention of organising such an inquiry," the statement said.

The reprimand comes one week after a New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, reported that Russian troops had rounded up hundreds of men during a security sweep through two villages in western Chechnya and tortured and beaten many of them.

Call for investigation

On Monday, the leader of Chechnya's pro-Russian political administration called for an investigation into what crimes against civilians in the republic.

Akhmad Kadyrov made the complaint following the reported mass round-up of civilians by Russian forces in the Chechen villages.

Russia says the operations are necessary to separate civilians from Islamic rebels who have been fighting in the republic for the last two years.

Akhmad Kadyrov
Akhmad Kadyrov: "Cleansing" operations are an abuse of human rights
But CPT experts who visited the region in March this year heard "numerous credible and consistent allegations...of severe ill-treatment by federal forces," the statement said.

"The CPT's delegation found a palpable climate of fear. Many people who had been ill-treated and others who knew about such offences were reluctant to file complaints to the authorities."

Although the army is nominally in control of the republic, its troops are coming under daily attack from Chechen rebels.

Now, in an attempt to crack down on the rebels, the army appears to have carried out controversial raids on two villages, allegedly terrorising the inhabitants.

'Beaten and tortured'

Refugees from the villages of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya claim that more than 1,000 men were rounded up.

The Chechens say those detained were beaten, tortured and bitten by dogs.

After visiting one of the villages, Mr Kadyrov wants a full enquiry, arguing that the so-called zachistki or cleansing operations amount to an abuse of human rights.

Chechen, Zelimkhan Muskhanov, showing injuries
A young villager blames Russian soldiers for his injuries
The Russian troops involved are also said to have looted the villages, seizing carpets, televisions and anything else they could carry.

The Russian Government has acknowledged that the raids occurred, but it argues that tough measures are necessary to root out the rebels from the civilian population.

The operations show Russia's increasing desperation - it is continuing to lose soldiers in the skirmishing and despite the intense activity, the rebels show no sign of surrendering.

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22 Jun 01 | Europe
Five killed in Chechnya bombings
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