Russian Federation/UK: Putin visit - Blair urged to break 'conspiracy of silence' on Chechnya

The human rights organisation is looking for a strong public comment from the PM on the need for justice in the Chechen Republic and a clear indication that the UK government is not prepared to ignore serious human rights violations being committed by any parties to the conflict in the disputed region, including those by Russian federal forces.

Amnesty International noted that the UK government's approach to the Chechen Republic appears inconsistent, with its support for a strong resolution on Chechen human rights at the recent UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva in April not matched by later public lobbying.

The organisation is concerned that the prime minister does not appear to have raised the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic with the Russian leader, despite a recent meeting at EU summit meeting in St Petersburg last month.

Amnesty International, which is co-sponsoring a set of films and debates on the Chechen Republic at the ICA in central London - past which Mr Putin's entourage is expected to pass during the state visit - believes that a 'step change' on international attitudes to Chechen human rights is long overdue.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'For too long Tony Blair and other world leaders have stayed quiet over gross human rights abuses in the Chechen Republic while reports of killings, 'disappearances' and torture by Russian forces continue apace.

'What's needed now is for Mr Blair to support a concerted commitment to hold the Russian authorities to account over Chechen human rights - the PM must play his part in making a 'step change' over international attitudes to the Chechen Republic.

'Even before 11 September there was effectively a 'conspiracy of silence' on the Chechen Republic within the international community - and since then the 'war on terrorism' has provided an alibi for human rights abusers in the republic and an excuse for silence around the world.

'When Tony Blair plays host to Vladimir Putin he should impart a few home truths: human rights abuses in the Chechen Republic cannot be passed off as necessary 'security' measures and must be treated as a serious crimes.'

In the Chechen Republic the human rights situation remains critical. Russian federal forces have recently carried out special operations and so-called 'targeted measures.' In the past these have resulted in arbitrary arrests, 'disappearances', torture and even killings of civilians. People reportedly continue to 'disappear' following detention at checkpoints and during nightly raids.

A growing concern is that human rights violations are spreading to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia and that thousands of internally displaced people in Ingushetia are simultaneously being pressured into returning to a highly insecure situation in the Chechen Republic.

Civilians also remain acutely at risk of indiscriminate attacks by Chechen fighters. The Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic has recently confirmed that gross human rights violations during Russian security force operations continue unabated.

Amnesty International, which has for several years criticised the dysfunctional state of the Chechen justice system, is now also concerned that an 'amnesty' decree adopted by the Russian legislature (the Duma) on 4 June will allow serious human rights abuses to go unpunished. The decree does not, for example, clearly exclude from the amnesty perpetrators of torture and 'disappearances.'

Amnesty International is calling on Tony Blair to urge the Russian President to:

  • guarantee protection of the human rights of the Chechen population including the internally displaced
  • bring to justice those responsible for the grave abuses committed during the conflict in the Chechen Republic and to ensure that the 'amnesty' will not allow perpetrators of torture and 'disappearances' to evade justice
  • grant access to the Chechen Republic to UN human rights rapporteurs, re-establish a monitoring presence of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to reaffirm the commitment to cooperate with Council of Europe experts

A series of films and debates on the Chechen Republic and justice is set to take place at central London's ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) on the eve and into the first day of President Putin's UK visit. The event is co-sponsored by Amnesty International UK, the Foundation for Civil Liberties, Human Rights Watch and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

Background

From the non-governmental organisation Memorial in Ingushetia Amnesty International has received reports of recent 'targeted measures' and special operations both in the Chechen and Ingushetian republics. For example:

  • on 15 June an 80-year-old religious leader Ramzan Eldarov in Argun in the Chechen Republic was murdered when a group of unidentified, armed, masked men, speaking in Russian and Chechen, broke into his house in the middle of the night and shot him.
  • on 12 June a group of masked men in camouflage uniforms arrived at the settlement of 'Tanzila' in Ingushetia at around 7pm. The men, allegedly representatives of the federal and regional security service, claimed to be looking for men involved in an earlier shooting incident in a neighbouring village. The masked men randomly rounded up people in the settlement. Nine people were arrested, among them Kharon Yasaev (born 1984) and Kiura Gaisumov (born 1956), who reportedly could not have been involved in the incident earlier in the day. The arrested men were all brought to a detention centre in Vladikavkaz, where they have since been held.

Related information

The Russia Federation: Denial of Justice - report, 29 October 2002: http://www.amnesty.org/russia/pdfs/russia_report.pdf

Find our more about our current campaign for Justice for all in Russia at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=22 /p>

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