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UN human rights chief distressed by Chechnya’s law

UN human rights chief distressed by Chechnya’s law enforcement system

After a second visit to the Russian Federation that included time in the troubled region of Chechnya, the United Nations top human rights official said today in Moscow that she had “very serious concerns” about Chechnya’s law enforcement system.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she found two phenomena particularly disturbing: the use of torture to extract confessions and information, and the intimidation of people who make complaints against public officials.

“There can be little doubt that these phenomena are more than allegations, but have considerable basis in fact,” said Ms. Arbour at a press conference as she wrapped up a six-day trip that included visits with leaders in Ingushetia, Chechnya and North Ossetia. She also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior federal officials, including the President’s advisor on human rights, Ella Pamfilova.

Ms. Arbour said that credible information emanating from Chechnya and several judgments by the European Court of Human Rights highlight the serious shortcomings of the law enforcement system in Chechnya, where the Government is embroiled in a long-running war with separatists.

The UN’s human rights commissioner said she left the region with the impression that even with its ongoing political and physical reconstruction, Chechnya still has not shifted from a society ruled by force to one governed by the rule of law.

“I reminded my interlocutors that the ultimate measure of a state’s capacity to be governed by the rule of law is its willingness to put constraints on its use of power,” said Mr. Arbour, adding that this willingness was not apparent in Chechnya.

She said she has offered federal officials, aware of the need to help Chechnya address its serious shortcomings in this area, the support and expertise of the UN Human Rights office.

She noted that Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when he outlined his vision for the Organization’s future last year, asserted that there can be no development without security, no security without development, and neither is possible without full respect for human rights.

“I suggest to you that the situation in the Chechen Republic fully bears this out,” she added.

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