Groups urge Medvedev: bring rule of law to Chechnya

MOSCOW Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:56pm EDT

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gestures during his meeting with Minister for Education and Science Andrei Fursenko, in the residence at Gorki outside Moscow April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Vladimir Rodionov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gestures during his meeting with Minister for Education and Science Andrei Fursenko, in the residence at Gorki outside Moscow April 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Vladimir Rodionov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian human rights activists appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday to intervene to stop extrajudicial kidnappings and enforce the rule of law in the country's predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya.

A decade after federal forces drove separatists out of power in Chechnya, rights workers said the region's Kremlin-backed leadership has amassed huge powers and local prosecutors had no power to curb or probe cases of torture and kidnappings.

A letter prepared by five rights groups asked Medvedev to keep what they called a promise to investigate "egregious human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings by members of the law enforcement and security agencies."

"As the highest-ranking official in the Russian Federation you should take exhaustive measures to uphold the law on the Russian Federation's territory," said the letter signed by veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva and others.

Medvedev met rights workers eleven months ago to discuss the situation in the mountainous region of Chechnya, the site of two separatist wars since the fall of the Soviet Union.

They said he promised to investigate rights violations they had raised but nothing had yet been accomplished.

Chechnya is ruled by separatist turned Kremlin loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused by rights groups of using his local militia to execute personal decrees and spread fear.

Kadyrov has repeatedly denied the allegations as attempts to blacken his name. A Kadyrov spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Igor Kalyapin, chairman of the Committee Against Torture, said that regional prosecutors had admitted they were unable to take "concrete steps" to stop violations or probe extrajudicial kidnappings, used as a way of cracking down on suspected militants.

"We can expect nothing from law enforcement agencies if the prosecutor gives this kind of evaluation of the investigative committee... I don't see any way out of this situation through legal instruments," he said.

Analysts say Moscow turns a blind eye to alleged rights abuses by forces loyal to Kadyrov provided he keeps the uneasy peace in Chechnya as an Islamist insurgency spreads to other North Caucasus provinces such as Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Rebels want to carve out an Islamic state from Russia's Caucasus region, which Imperial-era Moscow conquered after decades of bloody wars in the 19th century.

Insurgents claimed responsibility for a bombing at Moscow's busiest airport, Domodedovo, in January that killed 37 people.

Analysts and rights activists say that a potent mix of religion, corruption and strong-arm tactics by law enforcement agencies strengthens the Islamist separatist movements.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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