Chechen leader admits Russian abuses

The pro-Moscow president of Chechnya has admitted that Russian forces are to blame for a number of civilian disappearances in the war-torn republic.

    Alu Alkhanov is considered to be close to Moscow

    "Law and order officials, having arrested a suspect, do not

    always inform the local authorities and the families of the

    detained, which is a breach of the law," President Alu Alkhanov was

    quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency on Tuesday

    .

    Between 3000 and 4000 civilians have disappeared in Chechnya

    since hostilities resumed in 1999 between Russian federal forces and

    separatists, according to estimates by non-governmental

    organisations.

    Rights groups say Russian troops and Chechnya's pro-Moscow

    authorities are responsible for the vast majority of the

    disappearances.

    Some victims have been released, others have

    been found dead and yet others remain missing.

    However, Alkhanov, whose predecessor Akhmad Kadyrov was killed

    in an attack in May, insisted that the situation in Chechnya was

    "improving".

    Chechen war 

    He quoted official figures saying that 175 people had been

    reported missing since the start of 2004, half the figure for 2003.

     

    Russian troops are accused of
    numerous human rights abuses

    However, the figures compiled by non-governmental organisations

    in Chechnya are much higher, with nearly 300 civilians reported

    kidnapped this year, according to the respected Russian human rights

    group Memorial.

    Alkhanov also said a number of people reported missing

    were in reality separatist fighters whose families sought to disown

    them.

    "It happens that a person takes to the forest [to join the

    separatist ranks] and that his relatives, to hide the fact

    that one of their own is part of an armed group, tell the police

    that he has 'disappeared'," he said.

    The president also charged that a number of "criminals" were "transformed" into

    missing persons in the process.

    International bodies have often criticised Russia for human rights abuses during the second Chechen war

    , which started in October 1999 when

    Moscow poured troops into the rebellious republic.

    SOURCE: AFP


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