A leading human rights group says the widespread disappearance of civilians in Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya has now reached the level of a crime against humanity.
A report released Monday by Human Rights Watch says that as many as 5,000 people have gone missing since the beginning of the conflict in 1999 between Russian forces and separatists. The New York-based group says Russian authorities had full knowledge of the abductions. The authorities deny all responsibility.
The report was released amid an informal roundtable discussion beginning today in Strasbourg, France, on the conflict in Chechnya.
The discussions, organized by the Council of Europe, will include at least 40 Russian and Chechen political representatives, including pro-Moscow Chechen President Alu Alkhanov and Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP, Reuters.