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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 20:00 GMT
'Climate of fear' in Chechnya
Louise Arbour meeting President Vladimir Putin
Louise Arbour discussed human rights issues with President Putin
A climate of fear exists in Chechnya caused in large part by "very serious shortcomings" in law enforcement, the UN Human Rights Commissioner has found.

Louise Arbour said she was particularly concerned by the use of torture to extract confessions, and intimidation of those who complained about abuses.

She was speaking after a week-long trip to Russia and the Northern Caucasus.

The region has been plagued by fighting between Russian troops and Chechen separatists for more than a decade.

Ms Arbour said she was pleased to see the attempts at physical reconstruction under way in Chechnya, as well as moves to establish a stable political system.

But Chechnya "has still not been able to move away from a society ruled by force to one governed by the rule of law", she said.

'Exceptional poverty'

There was much evidence that "highlight the very serious shortcomings of the law enforcement system... shortcomings that have led to a climate of fear," she went on.

Ms Arbour also expressed serious concern about the level of abductions of civilians, which many rights groups blame on a security force headed by Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.

Earlier in the week, Ms Arbour visited a Chechen refugee camp in neighbouring Ingushetia, where tens of thousands fled to escape the conflict.

She said she was "stunned" at the squalid conditions of the camp, and described the refugees as living in "exceptional poverty" for a long time, RIA Novosti reported.

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