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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
"I am particularly concerned about reports from Chernokozovo"
 real 28k

Orla Guerin reports from Nazran
"The list of allegations about Chernokozovo is growing"
 real 28k

Monday, 21 February, 2000, 08:41 GMT
Russian torture probe 'not enough'

Refugees say they have been abused by Russian troops


United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has called for an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya.

Battle for the Caucasus
Speaking to the BBC, she said an internal Russian inquiry would not be enough.

She said her "major concern" was the lack of access to Chechnya for foreign organisations.

Russia has not allowed independent observer missions to visit Chechnya.

It has dismissed earlier comments by Mrs Robinson on alleged rights abuses in Chechnya as anti-Russian and one-sided.

Torture

Russia has denied claims of beatings and torture at the Chernokozovo prison camp in northern Chechnya but new testimony has come from several former prisoners interviewed by the BBC.

They say that prisoners in Chernokozovo were routinely tortured - some even with gas.

Our correspondent on the Chechen border, Orla Guerin, says the allegations are growing as more former prisoners from Chernokozovo arrive.

A number have now crossed the border into Ingushetia where they have gone into hiding.

Mrs Robinson said that she was particularly concerned about the "very serious allegations of torture and ill treatment" at Chernokozovo.


Life in the refugee camps is hard
Several have told the BBC that they were warned to keep quiet about the regime in the camp or they would be tracked down and punished.

One man now being treated in hospital said he had been beaten repeatedly on the kidneys, liver and head.

Another who seemed hardly able to move, said that he had spent 10 days in hell in Chernokozovo. He also said he had been beaten around the liver and kidneys and on the soles of his feet. He too has undergone medical treatment since his release.

The man, a 35-year-old from near Grozny, said that he and a group of 30 others had been tortured with gas.

He said the prison guards had asked them if they wanted to smoke. Then they released the gas into their cell through the hole in the door.

The Russians evacuate another casualty
"We couldn't breathe and there was foam coming from everyone's nose and mouth," he said.

A woman who spent 10 days in the camp said she heard terrible cries at night. "I don't know what the guards were doing" she said "but the screams were unbearable".

Our correspondent says none of the claims can be independently verified and in spite of growing international concern about human rights abuses, Chernokozovo remains closed to the outside world.

Mission 'near completion'

Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev says the armed forces are getting ready to complete their role in Chechnya and hand over control of the operation to Interior Ministry troops.

Mr Sergeyev said preparations were being made "for completion of the military phase of the third stage of the counter-terrorist operation, including a change in leadership".

Russian troops are still meeting fierce resistance in the region of the Argun gorge which controls access to Chechen bases in the southern mountains.

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See also:
19 Feb 00 |  Europe
Row over Chechnya 'atrocities'
20 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russia sees end to Chechen war
19 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechens down Russian helicopter
11 Feb 00 |  Europe
Call for Grozny 'executions' probe

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