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Rights Groups Criticize Britain Over Chechnya Statement


Election posters for the November 2005 parliamentary elections (file photo) (RFE/RL) Prague, 8 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A group of Russian and Western rights organizations has written an open letter criticizing the EU's British Presidency for its optimistic assessment of the recent legislative polls in Chechnya.


In an open letter to British Foreign Minister Jack Straw dated 7 December, the groups say the assessment "calls the EU's commitment to human rights, democracy, and rule of law into question."


Britain, as EU president, welcomed the 27 November elections as "an important step towards broader representation of a range of views in Chechen society." It also said that "the further strengthening of democratic institutions, as part of an inclusive political process, is essential for the sustainable and peaceful long-term development of Chechnya as well as to peace and stability in the North Caucasus region as a whole."


The rights groups, which include the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Russia's Memorial, say what Britain calls Chechnya's political process "is a tightly controlled cosmetic measure that has resulted in the establishment of a brutal regime, responsible for systematic and grave human rights abuses." They also say that "the loyalist regime established in Chechnya [by Russia] depends on fear and violence to make up for its lack of legitimacy."


The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party has won 33 of the new Chechen parliament's 58 seats.


First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whom rights groups hold responsible for much violence in Chechnya, was elected the party's chief regional representative on 7 December.

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