RUSSIA: No forcible return of displaced Chechens until security guaranteed

The human rights organisation voiced its concern following recent reports that the Russian authorities are planning to close - by the end of January 2003 - camps in Ingushetia for civilians who fled fighting in Chechnya. This is set to start with Aki Yurt camp on 1 December.

Amnesty International Europe Program Director Nicola Duckworth warned:

“If sent back, most of these people will not only find their homes looted or destroyed, without conditions for even basic subsistence, but will be put at risk of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, 'disappearance' and extrajudicial execution.

'Internally displaced people have the right to be protected against forcible return or resettlement in any place where their life, safety, liberty and/or health would be at risk. Present-day Chechnya is certainly such a place.

Amnesty International opposes the return of internally displaced persons under duress to unsafe environments. We warn that the closure of Aki Yurt camp in Ingushetia should not become a precedent for further such closures.'

The human rights organisation also believes that financial compensation, promised by the Moscow-backed Chechen authorities to returning refugees, cannot replace the obligations of the Russian government under international humanitarian law and human rights law

The organisation appeals to the international community to ensure that people who have fled the conflict are not returned to Chechnya or other parts of the Russia unless and until their safe and durable return with dignity is assured.

The renewal of hostilities in Chechnya in 1999 resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. At least 110,000 Chechens remain in Ingushetia. Many of them list security concerns as the main barrier to return.

Moscow’s recent hostage crisis has further worsened the plight of Chechens in Russia. In the Chechen republic itself, the Russian security forces continue to commit serious human rights violations against the civilian population in a climate of impunity. In other parts of Russia, Chechens have been subjected to harassment and arbitrary detention by law enforcement agencies.

Related material:

The Russia Federation: Denial of Justice report (29 October 2002)

Russia campaign site

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