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'Permanent State of Terror' in Chechnya, charges Helsinki Federation - 2003-07-20


The International Helsinki Federation wants the United Nations to investigate human-rights violations in Chechnya, which it says has become a "lawless zone."

A five-member mission of the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) has just returned from Chechnya as part of its continuing program of monitoring human rights there.

The team says the people in Chechnya are living in what it describes as "a permanent state of terror."

The IHF team reports incidents of torture, illegal detention, persecution of human rights observers and the arbitrary shelling of populated areas. According to the International Helsinki Federation, there are a growing number of enforced disappearances targeted at women. It says it has received reports of raids on homes in isolated areas where people have been taken away in cars and never seen again. The families of those abducted say all appeals to the authorities for information or help are useless.

International Helsinki Federation Director Aaron Rhodes said the group wants an end to Russian army abuses in Chechnya, which would help isolate terrorist elements. And says he wants U.N. involvement to put an end to human rights abuses in Chechnya.

"The IHF is recommending that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disappearances be brought in, be invited to Chechnya so that some progress can be made on solving this problem," he said.

Mr. Rhodes said the Russians have to issue an invitation for this to happen, but that so far Moscow is refusing to confront the problem. The Russians insist that Chechnya is going through a phase of "normalization." During the Cold War, the International Helsinki Federation was inspired by Andrei Sakharov to support human rights in the former Soviet Union.

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