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Russia: UN Rights Chief Urges Probe Of Abuses In Chechnya

Geneva, 13 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, says Russia needs to increase its efforts to investigate human rights abuses in the separatist republic of Chechnya. Robinson said in a report released overnight that Russia has taken some constructive measures in Chechnya, but that none meet the standards of an independent investigation.

Robinson said "the situation regarding the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Chechen people remains a serious concern." She added that reports continue to come in of kidnapping by rebels, as well as of human rights abuses by Russian government forces.

Russian troops re-entered Chechnya in 1999, blaming separatist rebels for a series of explosions in Russian cities that killed nearly 300 people, as well as for attacks in the neighboring Russian Republic of Daghestan.

Meanwhile, in the Chechen capital of Grozny, about 300 people protested outside the headquarters of the pro-Moscow Chechen government today against the killing of several people during a recent security sweep.

The protesters displayed the burned remains of at least four people allegedly killed by Russian troops last week during a security sweep in Stariye Atagi, about 20 kilometers south of the Chechen capital. They say a total of seven people were killed.

The prime minister of the pro-Moscow administration, Stanislav Ilyasov, said the government will launch an investigation.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) firmly denied any Russian military role in civilian deaths in Stariye Atagi. FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said they were "fighters" who had taken refuge in the village and were eliminated by Russian special units.