Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 21

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles told reporters in Moscow after meeting with President Vladimir Putin on May 27 that he would continue to insist that disappearances in Chechnya be put to an end and those responsible for them punished, Itar-Tass reported. He also said he was “shocked” at a Rostov jury’s recent verdict acquitting Russian military intelligence Captain Eduard Ulman and three subordinates on charges of murdering six Chechen civilians in January 2002. “I hope this will be rectified by the same Russian tribunal,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

Gil-Robles, who released a report last month on human rights in Russia that expressed concern about the situation in Chechnya (see Chechnya Weekly, April 28), told Nezavisimaya gazeta prior to his meeting with the Russian president that his main emphasis would be on Chechnya. “We have already spoken a good deal about Chechnya,” the newspaper’s May 26 edition quoted Gil-Robles as saying. “I am interested above all in the authorities’ efforts to reconstruct civil society and its institutions, which are striving for peace. An end must be put to the military conflict. It is very important to understand that there will be no full peace in Chechnya until people stop disappearing there. This is a very, very serious problem. The lack of serious investigations into such facts is unacceptable. This has already given rise to a sense of impunity.”

Following their meeting, Putin said his government would “pay careful attention to the conclusions laid down” in Gil-Robles’ report on human rights in Russia and “work strenuously during the next two years not merely to react, but to change the situation in some areas,” the Associated Press reported. The Russian president, however, did not refer to Chechnya specifically.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International stated in its annual human rights report that Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen forces committed serious human rights abuses in Chechnya with “virtual impunity” last year. The London-based human rights group also said that Chechen rebel groups were responsible for abuses, including bomb attacks and the Beslan hostage seizure, in which more than 300 people were killed, Agence France-Presse reported on May 25.