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Council Of Europe Envoy To Check Conduct Of Russia's Security Forces

The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights Thomas Hammarberg

The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights Thomas Hammarberg

BRUSSELS -- The Council of Europe's top rights official will travel to Moscow and several of Russia's North Caucasus republics next week to investigate the conduct of Russia's security forces.

Thomas Hammarberg, the council's commissioner for human rights, will arrive in Russia on May 13 for an eight-day visit aimed at producing a report on the human rights situation in the country.

He's scheduled to meet nongovernmental organizations both in the capital and the regions as well as Russian Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov.

Hammarberg told RFE/RL in Brussels on May 4 that he hopes to find a different environment more respectful of human rights than on his previous trips to the region:

"I would like to see how the law enforcement personnel relate to the threat from terrorist groups," he said.

"I hope to find out that there is more discipline within the forces now so that there will be no collateral damages and that innocent people will [not] be victimized by the activities of the security forces."

Despite recent terrorist attacks such as the suicide bombing at a Moscow airport in January, Hammarberg has noticed a clear change in the Russian authorities' attitude to combating terrorism.

"There is also an awareness now that terrorism cannot only be prevented through military actions," he said.

"There is a need to [ensure] that the discontent among people is not justified. There is a need for another approach, a more social approach, to get away from injustices and [ensure] that violations being made in the past are not left unresolved."

On Russia's rights situation generally, Hammarberg said he sees a negative trend in the last couple of years with continuing human rights violations, some of them "quite serious."

Russia is one of 47 members of the Council of Europe, an organization that primarily deals with human rights and rule of law cooperation between European states.

The commissioner for human rights, which is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, has no binding political powers but enjoys a mandate to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in member states.