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Normalization in Chechnya Must Bring Accountability, Urges Amnesty International

LONDON - Normalization in Chechnya is not possible
without full accountability for the grievous human rights violations that
have taken place in the country ravaged by two wars in the last 15 years,
Amnesty International said today in response to the Russian authorities’
declaration of ending its “counterterrorism operation” there.

“The true benchmark of a return to normality
is to give people what they have been wanting for over a decade--they want
the truth, and they want justice. They want to know the fate and whereabouts
of relatives and friends who are among the disappeared, and they want those
responsible brought to account” said Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s
secretary general.

“Only thorough and independent investigations
into past and continuing human rights violations can bring normalization
and security in Chechnya. Such investigations will be a deterrent to future

"Opening the region to independent observers
and journalists would be a signal that the authorities there are ready
for transparency, but a change of status is absolutely meaningless without
the political will to change reality,” added Khan

Over the years Amnesty International has
consistently investigated cases of human rights abuses, including war crimes,
committed by both the Russian federal forces, forces under the present
government of President Ramzan Kadyrov and Chechen armed groups. They include
indiscriminate killings, excessive use of force, deaths in custody, torture
and ill-treatment in custody, alleged unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions,
secret detention, abductions, enforced disappearances, threats to human
rights activists, the targeting of relatives of suspected fighters and
the forced evictions of internally displaced people.

The human rights organization has repeatedly
called for impartial investigations and for those found responsible to
be brought to justice. The investigations carried out so far by the authorities
are ineffective and have led to entrenched impunity in regards to abuses
committed by law enforcement agencies.

As far as is known to Amnesty International,
only one person has been convicted in relation to a case of enforced disappearance
and the fate of his victim remains unknown. Investigations into crimes
committed by armed fighters have been marred by allegations of torture
and ill-treatment of suspects and a blatant absence of respect for international
standards of fair trial.

Not being able to obtain justice in the Russian
Federation, people turn to the European Court of Human Rights for redress.
Many of those submitting cases face reprisals ranging from threats and
intimidation to disappearances. To date the European Court of Human Rights
has made rulings in about 100 cases concerning human rights violations
committed in the course of the conflict in Chechnya. In most of these cases,
the Court found Russia responsible for the death, torture or enforced disappearances
of people in Chechnya or for the failure to investigate such crimes.

“It is vital that Russia takes steps to
fully implement the rulings of the European Court, in particular in terms
of investigations of proven violations and measures to prevent violations
in the future,” Khan said.

“Without true respect for the rule of law
from all sides, and a genuine commitment to address the festering legacy
left by the blatant failure of political will at all levels to prevent
and punish a catalogue of grievous abuses there can be no stability and
security for the people in Chechnya as well as in the rest of the Russian

“Victims of human rights abuses in Chechnya
and in Russia as a whole have been waiting for years for justice and for
the authorities to reveal the truth about crimes committed during the counter-terrorist
operation. Now is the time to restore their rights.”

Chechnya declared independence from Russia
in 1991; there followed two major armed conflicts, the first, from 1994-1996,
which ended in de facto independence for Chechnya, and a second, which
began in 1999 and ended with the installation of a pro-Moscow government
in the region in 2003.

During the second armed conflict, between
3,000 and 5,000 people were subjected to enforced disappearance and many
more were killed during indiscriminate bombings, large-scale raids on settlements
or died after being taken hostage or as a result of explosions. No full
investigation, on either the national or international level into these
crimes has ever taken place.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.


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