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North Caucasus: persistent reports of human rights violations

Briefing notes

North Caucasus: persistent reports of human rights violations

17 February 2000

The numbers of people leaving Chechnya for Ingushetia have risen over the past few days amid persistent reports of human rights violations inside Russian-controlled Chechnya and heavy air and artillery bombardment in the rebel-controlled south. Since last Wednesday, more than 3,000 people have crossed into Ingushetia. Nearly 500 of them are believed to be newly displaced from southern Chechnya, which is now the focus of the Russian military push.

Reports of human rights violations and detention, which circulate widely among some 180,000 people displaced from Chechnya to Ingushetia, have instilled fear in the displaced population. Many of the people say they would like to go home but they are afraid to do so.

People returning to Ingushetia after brief look-and-see visits to parts of Chechnya controlled by the Russians speak of looting, burning of property, and beatings by Russian troops. Even though UNHCR has no presence in Chechnya and therefore has no first-hand information from the ground, we are alarmed by these testimonies, as well as those of abuse in alleged Russian detention camps, cited by international human rights groups. The displaced say the worst abuses usually take place in areas freshly overrun by the troops, ahead of the establishment of a functioning civilian administration.