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21 Apr, 2008 01:37

Is it safe in Chechnya?

A European human rights body has described the situation in Russia's Chechen republic as critical.

A report by the Council of Europe Commission for Human Rights (PACE) highlights ongoing human rights violations by security forces, including disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions. However, people living in Chechnya paint a different picture, saying their lives continue to improve.

Rayana met her future husband, Aslan, outside Chechnya.

“My family left the Republic during the first Chechen war, in 1995. I was 16 and I remember how difficult a decision it was. Chechnya is our motherland. But my parents understood that it was dangerous for us to stay here. We returned as soon as the war was over. But then the second war started. In 1999 we fled again to save our lives,” Rayana said.

They both missed the country they were forced to leave, so decided to come back in 2002. And have no regrets.

“I am happy that my son was born here in his parents' native land and that he'll see another republic. The worst is over. Life is getting better here. It's no longer dangerous,” Rayana said.
If Dick Marty from PACE's Human Rights Commission were able to hear Rayana's words he'd probably be surprised. In a recent memorandum he called the situation in Chechnya “critical”. He accuses the republic's intelligence services of violating human rights.

Ombudsman on Human Rights from Grozny, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, dismisses the accusations.

"These guys are always looking for something bad in Russia. And they always appear with their reports when the country sees economic growth or a strengthening of its democratic profile. And they always find it in Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

“There's nothing unique in this year's report. Being a man who hasn't left the Republic since its first war and a man who has been kidnapped three times, and survived torture – I can say that modern Chechnya is one of the most stable regions of Russia,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, is expected to visit the Chechen republic on Monday. Visits to Ingushetia and Dagestan are also planned.

Mr Hammarberg will visit various institutions, including prisons, hospitals, family welfare centres and an orphanage.

Musa Sadaev from the Anti-Corruption Committee in the North Caucasus says human rights organisations should work more closely with the government.

“President Ramzan Kadyrov offered support to human rights centres in the region, but unfortunately, the situation is that these independent organisations avoid working with the administration, because they don't want others to think they've sold out”.

Sadaev thinks if they were not afraid, their cooperation could be very productive.