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British Lawmaker Praises Human Rights Groups In Chechnya


A portrait of murdered human rights activist Natalia Estemirova in Grozny

A portrait of murdered human rights activist Natalia Estemirova in Grozny

GROZNY -- A British member of Parliament on a fact-finding trip to Chechnya has praised the work of Russian human rights groups and Chechen NGOs investigating disappearances and abductions, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reports.

Lord Frank Judd told RFE/RL the purpose of his visit is to evaluate the situation in Chechnya in terms of freedom, human rights, and "accountable democracy." He declined to comment on the political situation in the republic but did say that people who are "disillusioned, oppressed, and disgruntled" because of the way they are treated by their government are potential recruits for the Islamic insurgency.

Judd described the reconstruction of Grozny's infrastructure as "very impressive," but added that thousands of Chechens remain homeless.

Judd served for years as the rapporteur for Chechnya for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). He resigned that position in March 2003 to protest the referendum on a new Chechen Constitution, which he argued was premature.

Russian NGOs that monitored the vote estimated turnout at around 10 percent.

The Russian authorities claimed that 85 percent of voters took part.

Judd's British delegation is scheduled to meet today and February 18 with Chechen government officials, possibly also with Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov.
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