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Chechnya: Monitors Say Disappearances Continue

Moscow, 15 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S.-based rights monitoring group says it is continuing to document cases of unexplained disappearances in Russia's separatist republic of Chechnya. Human Rights Watch said in a statement today it documented 87 such cases between September 2000 and January 2002, although it said it believes the actual number is probably far higher.

Human Rights Watch says Russian forces are continuing to round up and detain people without charges, and are increasingly targeting private homes in their security sweeps.

The group says Russia has introduced some "cosmetic changes" to its military procedures in Chechnya. Search-and-seizure operations are now required to include the presence of civilian personnel, and investigations have been opened into some disappearances.

But overall, the group said, little has changed. Families of the disappeared are usually met with official stonewalling or denials that the relative was ever in custody.