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Europe rights group rebukes Russia over Chechen torture cases

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Strasbourg (France) (AFP)

The Council of Europe on Monday criticised Russia for failing to halt police torture of detainees in Chechnya, after an investigation found "credible allegations" of mistreatment of people in custody.

A delegation of the council's anti-torture committee (CPT) to the Russian Caucasus republic was told of an array of ill-treatment in interviews with people accused of terrorism offences, drugs suspects and homosexuals, who face discrimination in the region.

"For the CPT, it is of grave concern that, notwithstanding the efforts it has made over the last 20 years, torture of detained persons in the Chechen Republic has remained a deep-rooted problem," said Mark Kelly, who led the group's mission in late 2017.

"This speaks not only to a dereliction of duty at the level of the republic's authorities, but also to a failure of effective oversight and control at the federal level," he said in a statement.

It was the committee's third visit in little over a decade to Chechnya, which was ravaged by two separatist wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Reports of disappearances are widespread, as well as allegations of involvement in torture and kidnapping by the security forces of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who has led the Muslim-majority region since 2007.

Interviews uncovered "a considerable number of credible allegations" of mistreatment while in custody, the committee said in its report.

Detainees spoke of abductions and beatings, threats of execution, electric shocks to the toes, ears or genitals, and asphyxiation with plastic bags or gas masks.

The committee noted that torture of detainees has also been "repeatedly highlighted" elsewhere in the Russian-controlled North Caucasus region, including the republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia.

"Effective investigation of any such allegations is a core human rights obligation for the Russian Federation or indeed any other Council of Europe member state under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)," the committee said.

"Regrettably, the CPT's ongoing dialogue with the Russian authorities on this subject has reached an impasse."

The report comes as Russia remains in a standoff with the council, which promotes democracy and the rule of law among its 47 members, which include Turkey and Ukraine.

Russia was stripped of its voting rights after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, prompting Moscow to halt its financial contribution to the Strasbourg-based council.

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