PUTIN VISIT: BLAIR MUST BREAK THE SILENCE ON CHECHNYA

'With the spotlight very much on Afghanistan, we cannot not let the torture, including rape, and killing of Chechen civilians by the Russian military go unnoticed,' said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is concerned that international criticism of human rights violations in Chechnya has been recently muted in an apparent exchange for Russian approval of the campaign in Afghanistan and the wider one against 'terrorism'.

'The Prime Minister must not compromise human rights in the fight against 'terrorism' - he must break the silence on Chechnya,' added Amnesty International.

Under the pretext of identity checks, Russian forces continue to raid Chechen towns and villages, arbitrarily detaining men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights who then face torture - including rape, beatings to the genital area, filing of the detainees' teeth and electric shocks - and extrajudicial executions. Detainees are often held in pits in the ground for prolonged periods. Other detainees, including Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls, 'disappear' following these raids. The bodies of some of these persons are later found in unmarked dumping sites or mass graves bearing signs of torture or violent death.

In November 2001, Amnesty International representatives collected corroborating witness testimony regarding the rape in detention of pregnant Chechen Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights by Russian forces. Witnesses reported that on 18 October 2001 Russian forces detained a woman - eight months pregnant - from the village of Kurcheloy, who was taken to a military base and subsequently gang-raped. On 26 June 2001, three Russian soldiers reportedly came to a house in the village of Shali where they gang-raped an expectant mother.

These violations continue to be committed with impunity. Amnesty International sees tomorrow's meeting as an important opportunity for Prime Minister Tony Blair to remind President Putin of Russia's obligations to uphold international human rights standards.

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