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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 17:20 GMT
Russia 'committed Chechnya abuse'
Steven Eke
BBC Russia analyst

Civilian in front of her bomb-shattered house in Grozny
Both sides in the Chechen war have been extremely cruel to civilians
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia committed serious abuses, including torture and extra-judicial killing, in Chechnya.

The ruling came after the Strasbourg-based court heard claims brought by six Chechens.

The judges, who included one Russian, were unanimous in a ruling that is likely to anger the Kremlin.

Russia accuses the West of hypocrisy and double standards in its criticism of Russia's conduct in Chechnya.

It is the first time an international court has found Moscow guilty of serious violations in Chechnya.

The judges said Moscow had breached an article of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing the right to life.

The Chechen plaintiffs had also been denied their right to a full hearing in domestic courts, the judges said.

In one case, they ruled, Russia had breached a clause on the protection of property.

And in two others, the court found that Russia had violated the ban on torture and inhumane or degrading treatment.

The court ordered the Russian government to pay about 136,000 euros ($180,000; 94,000) in compensation to the six plaintiffs.

But the Kremlin is now likely to use its right of appeal, to have the case referred to the court's grand chamber within the next three months.

Good news for rights defenders

Some 120 cases brought by Chechens alleging Russia had violated their rights are pending before the court.

And Thursday's ruling will hearten the Russian and international human rights groups that have worked to publicise what they say are ongoing Russian abuses in Chechnya.

Moscow is under pressure from the international community to negotiate with Chechen rebels, and to account for alleged human rights violations.

But there is little appetite in Moscow to listen to foreign criticism of its hard-line policies.

Indeed, following the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandals involving American and British troops, Moscow has simply brushed foreign criticism aside, saying it results from ignorance and anti-Russian prejudice.

Russia started its war against separatists in the breakaway republic in 1994.

It pulled out the troops following a truce in 1996, but renewed the war in 1999 after incursions by Chechen guerrillas in neighbouring Dagestan.

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