Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 16:46 UK

'Abuses widespread' in N Caucasus

Car destroyed in bomb attack on Ingush President Yevkurov
Unrest has spread to Chechnya's neighbours in recent years

Human rights abuses in the North Caucasus are disproving Moscow's claims the troubled region is returning to normal, Amnesty International says.

In an assessment covering four of the region's autonomous republics, Amnesty reports serious violations including unlawful killings and disappearances.

Only a few months ago Russia declared an end to its decade-long armed conflict with Chechen rebels.

The report came as militants killed a policeman in neighbouring Dagestan.

Several others were injured in an attack on a police station in the town of Derbent on the border with Azerbaijan.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow says such attacks seem to be part of a response by Islamist groups to Moscow's declaration.

'Serious violations'

Amnesty's report covers the republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria.

It warns of a real threat to law and order from armed groups in the region.

But it also implicates the official security services, detailing a range of serious human rights violations including unlawful killings, "disappearances", arbitrary detention, alleged torture, threats to and harassment of families of those affected, and forced eviction of people displaced by earlier fighting.

Russia has claimed success in bringing stability to Chechnya under its President Ramzan Kadyrov, and in April announced an end to the armed conflict which began in 1999.

But in a statement Amnesty UK's campaign director Tim Hancock denied that things were returning to normal.

"With some fanfare officials in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus have tried to claim that things are now 'normal' whereas continuing unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions and mysterious 'disappearances' lend the lie to that," he said.

Amnesty also criticised abuses in the other republics, which have been plagued by violence involving Islamist and criminal groups.

"As the recent wounding of the president of Ingushetia shows, there is a real threat to law and order from armed groups in the region," Mr Hancock said.

"But seeing human rights abuses as the way to achieve normality and stability is misguided in the extreme."

Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was injured in an apparent suicide attack in June.

Weeks earlier, Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov died after a shooting outside a wedding reception in the capital Makhachkala.

Amnesty International has been barred from visiting Chechnya for several years, and is calling on the Chechen authorities to allow it back in.

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