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22 Apr, 2008 18:01

Thousands still missing in Chechnya

The judicial system in Chechnya is functioning properly, according to the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg. But missing people and the identification of bodies are still the two biggest human rights problems.

Since the first military campaign in 1994, the whereabouts of almost 5,000 people are still unknown. In the last five years only 400 have been found.

“There is a need to create a database that would unite the information from families and with the results of the exhumation, as well as genetic dates about the relatives of those missing,” Thomas Hammarberg says.

The Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov says a lot still has to be done but the republic needs the Russian president’s assistance.

“The President needs to assist in the creation of a commission on identifying bodies and help us in the search for those still missing. We've done all we can here in Chechnya, now is the time for the federal authorities to act,” said Kadyrov.

A visit to one of Grozny's pre-trial prisons reveals another issue in Chechnya. People serving their sentences there say they were beaten up and tortured to confess to several crimes – a point Mr Hammarberg wants to be clarified.

The PACE delegation also met the Chechen Prosecutor and Supreme Judge, and visited the centre for social assistance to children and mothers and Chechnya's main mosque. Thomas Hammarberg says Chechnya is not perfect, but “progress is obvious”.