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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 09:45 GMT
Torture 'systematic' in Chechnya
By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
BBC News, Gudermes, Russia

Chechnya map
The Council of Europe's human rights chief has accused the authorities in Chechnya of systematically using torture and forced confessions.

Speaking during a three-day visit to Chechnya on Wednesday, Thomas Hammarberg said he had found evidence of widespread human rights abuses.

Chechnya, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus, has been torn apart by war for much of the last decade.

But it appears finally to be over now and signs of rebuilding are everywhere.

A few years ago the capital, Grozny, was a bombed-out ruin. Today it is a massive construction site.

The war may have ended, but the suffering of the people of Chechnya has not.

As we drove through the mountains of southern Chechnya, Europe's human rights chief, Thomas Hammarberg, told me of the evidence he has found of massive human rights abuses in Chechnya's prisons.

Thomas Hammarberg
There is a real widespread pattern of serious ill-treatment and many cases of torture
Thomas Hammarberg

"There is a real widespread pattern of serious ill-treatment and many cases of torture against those who have been arrested. One of my recommendations of course would be that it just stop," Mr Hammarberg said.

He said every single prisoner he had spoken to during his visit had complained of abuse.

They told of beatings, the use of electric shocks and of forced confessions.

One had been forced to squat for so long that one leg had become permanently paralysed.

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