Itar-Tass reported on February 21 that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour’s meetings that day in Grozny with Chechen President Alu Alkhanov and Acting Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov focused on kidnapping. In addition, the Prava cheloveka v Rossii (“Human Rights in Russia”) website, hro.org, on February 22 quoted Arbour as telling Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov: “I am not inclined to underestimate the complexities that the law enforcement organs of the Chechen Republic confront. According to our information, received from human rights organizations, very many disappearances of people are taking place that do not find appropriate explanations, and one would want to hear what measures are being taken to expose those crimes.” According to hro.org, Arbour also said “there are serious grounds to believe that the testimony of people under investigation is obtained with the use of force,” adding: “We also receive information about illegal pressure on inhabitants who file complaints about the security forces. We are also concerned by the population’s lack of trust in the law enforcement system.” According to Interfax, Arbour told Kuznetsov that in order to preclude the use of physical pressure during interrogations, testimony given by detainees should be thrown out if the interrogation was not videotaped. She also said that those involved in acts of torture should be punished.
Interfax reported that during her meetings with Chechen officials, Arbour also “spoke in favor of attracting independent agencies to investigate facts of human rights violations, adding that she has a lot of experience as a prosecutor at trials in the former Yugoslavia.” According to Itar-Tass, Alu Alkhanov said during his talks with Arbour that “regretfully, there are still cases of kidnapping, but there are much fewer of them in comparison with 2000.” A total of 2,780 people have been kidnapped since 2000, Alkhanov said.
On February 21, Arbour also visited a tent camp in neighboring Ingushetia that is home to people displaced from Chechnya. The BBC, citing RIA Novosti, reported that she voiced concern about the “squalid conditions” in which they live. “When I met these people today, I was stunned by their misery,” RIA Novosti quoted Arbour as saying after visiting the camp. “Despite obvious efforts by the republic and international organizations, these people live in exceptional poverty and have been living like that for a long time.” The Caucasus Times reported on February 21 that Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov said during his meeting with Arbour that the authorities of Ingushetia are ready to cooperate with humanitarian and human rights organizations to resolve issues connected with observance of human rights. According to the website, Ingushetia is presently home to about 50,000 refugees from Chechnya and about 10,000 refugees who left North Ossetia’s Prigorodny district during the Ossetian-Ingush conflict in 1992.