UK/Russia: Putin visit - Seize the opportunity for an honest discussion
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said:
'A public statement on human rights in Chechnya and Russia was conspicuous by its absence, amid all the talk of special relationships, Iraq and trade.
'If the mark of true friendship is honesty, then Tony Blair must ensure that President Putin not only listens to but hears the truth about the human rights responsibilities of international leaders over the next few months.
'Russia and the UK share a history, but for relations to continue with integrity, the link should be based on a shared respect for human rights, in addition to trade and diplomacy.'
The Russian security forces continue to torture, execute and 'disappear' people in Chechnya, seemingly with impunity. Meanwhile President Putin appears not to listen either to the Chechens nor to the independent media within Russia, having closed down the last independent TV station earlier this week. Last week the Russian Embassy's email account promptly closed when Amnesty International supporters sent messages for the President's visit. 'The UK must seize the opportunity to use its growing influence to press for a dialogue regarding Chechnya, and to urge the President to address fundamental problems such as ill-treatment in detention, domestic violence and racial intolerance within Russia,' concluded Kate Allen.
Prior to President Putin's arrival, Amnesty International called 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
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.'
The Russia Federation: Denial of Justice - report, 29 October 2002: http://www.amnesty.org/russia/pdfs/russia_report.pdf
More information about our campaign for justice for all in Russia: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=22