CHECHNYA: BLAIR MUST CHALLENGE PUTIN ON TORTURE

Torture of detained Chechens is regular and systematic. Techniques range from savage beatings with hammers to repeated near-suffocation and the rape of both men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

Although the Chernokozovo detention camp is supposed to have been opened for inspection, detainees have reported being held in a hidden basement beneath the camp. They report being brutally tortured and held for days in a bare cell flooded with ankle-deep water to prevent prisoners from sleeping. Many other prisoners are believed to have been tortured in smaller, unofficial, secret detention centres.

President Putin has spectacularly failed to abide by Russia's commitment to end torture under the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) – which allows no concessions in times of conflict – and has failed to give his own Special Representative on Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic the necessary freedom to fulfil his role effectively.

At present access by international human rights monitors to the Chechen camps is still restricted and the Special Representative himself has said that although he has received no complaints of ill-treatment in the camps this may be because prisoners are too afraid to speak with him.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The horrific torture suffered by many Chechens can only be ended if other world leaders are prepared to challenge the Russian President directly on his failure to hold those responsible to account.

'In earlier meetings with Mr Putin in March and April this year Mr Blair is said to have raised human rights concerns, but Mr Blair's quiet diplomacy has not prevented the likelihood that when he meets Mr Putin today somewhere in Chechnya someone will be suffering torture.'

Notes to editors: · Russia has gone further than the UK in having not only ratified CAT but also made an Article 22 Declaration under Convention to allow the UN to investigate individual complaints of torture in Russia. However, Russia's latest report to the committee that enforces the Convention – due on 25 June 1996 - has still yet to be delivered. · Copies of the latest Amnesty International report on the situation in Chechnya 'Russian Federation: What future for Chechens – citizens or a subjugated people' is available in the library of the website www.amnesty.org.uk or as a text-only email from bpaddy@amnesty.org.uk.

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