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UN Accuses Russia of Gross Human Rights Violations in Chechnya - 2003-11-07

The United Nations Human Rights Committee is accusing Russian police and military forces of committing gross violations of human rights, including torture and rape, in Chechnya. During its three-week session, the committee, which monitors the implementation of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also examined reports submitted by several other countries, including Sri Lanka.

In its final conclusions, the 18-member committee criticizes the Russian government for doing little to improve the situation of women who, it says, continue to suffer from persistent inequality and domestic violence.

It also raises concerns about the large number of people trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation, and about measures taken by the government to muzzle the independent press.

But the committee saves its harshest criticism for what British legal expert Nigel Rodley calls "substantial problems in Chechnya."

"Extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and a whole range of crimes involving violations of human rights that seemed to have been perpetrated with impunity," he said. "We had in the delegation the person who was identified as the president of the Republic of Chechnya, and we have to say that his explanations of the situation there did not do anything there to dispel the committee's concern."

During the examination of Russia's report, the Russian-backed president of Chechnya said the reports the U.N. committee received from human rights organizations did not fully reflect reality, because they rarely mentioned acts committed by terrorist groups.

The committee was not able to formally address the recent developments in Sri Lanka. But Mr. Rodley says the declaration of a State of Emergency in and of itself is not a violation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. What is of concern, he says, are the measures taken during this period, which might lead to violations of human rights.

"Obviously, we have been very concerned, and you can tell this from our paragraphs nine and 10, very concerned about the security forces engaging in torture and disappearances and extra-judicial executions, especially during the armed conflict, which was the occasion of the previous State of Emergency," said Nigel Rodley. "And, so, obviously, antennae have to go up, when we hear the term State of Emergency in the case of Sri Lanka."

Mr. Rodley says the committee is not aware of any measures taken by the Sri Lankan government at this stage, which would be in breech of the Covenant.

However, he says, very few police or army officers charged with torture, abductions and other crimes committed during the last State of Emergency have been found guilty and punished.