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Committee for Prevention of Torture Rebukes Russia on Chechnya

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Old 11th July 2001, 11:21
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Committee for Prevention of Torture Rebukes Russia on Chechnya

Reuters - In a rare rebuke, an official European watchdog on torture publicly denounced Russia on Tuesday for failing to cooperate with its efforts to shed light on the ill-treatment of detainees in rebel Chechnya.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), a body of the 43-nation Council of Europe of which Russia is a member, said CPT experts who visited the region in March found "a palpable climate of fear" and heard consistent allegations of severe ill-treatment by Russian security forces.

In a public statement, it said Russia had breached its treaty obligations to advise the CPT what it was doing to uncover and prosecute those responsible for such abuses.

Russia had also made clear that it intended to ignore a CPT recommendation for an independent inquiry into ill-treatment at a detention centre in the village of Chernokozovo, in northwest Chechnya, between December 1999 and early February 2000.

"To date, an inquiry of the kind requested by the CPT has not been carried out and the Russian authorities have now made it clear that they have no intention of organising such an inquiry," the statement said. Russia now contended that no such detention facility existed at the time, which was "clearly untenable", the CPT said.

It was only the third time in 11 years that the CPT had issued a public statement denouncing a Council of Europe member state for failure to cooperate with its work.

The committee issued public statements denouncing Turkey for the conditions in its prisons in 1992 and 1996.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Chechnya in October 1999, when he was prime minister, to crush separatists. Russia has established shaky control over the North Caucasus region, but troops have failed to stamp out insurgency. Last week, the New York-based international group Human Rights Watch said Russian troops had rounded up hundreds of men during a security sweep through villages in western Chechnya and tortured and beaten many of them.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied their forces are involved in torture and said any cases of suspected abuse are investigated and prosecuted.

The CPT said committee experts had made three visits to Chechnya since the start of the conflict, but Russian authorities had authorised it only to publish preliminary observations after the first visit in February/March 2000.

Experts who visited the region in March this year heard "numerous credible and consistent allegations...of severe ill-treatment by federal forces," the statement said.

"The CPT's delegation found a palpable climate of fear. Many people who had been ill-treated and others who knew about such offences were reluctant to file complaints to the authorities. "There was the fear of reprisals at local level and a general sentiment that, in any event, justice would not be done," the statement added.
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