European Court convicts Russian forces of torture in Chechnya

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that two brothers in C hechnya were tortured by Russian military authorities. The Washington Post reports the court also found that authorities in the conflict-ravaged southern republic failed to investigate the brothers' allegations of abuse. The decision is believed to be the first issued by the court covering allegations of torture in Chechnya. The court is based in Strasbourg, France.

"The applicants were indisputably kept in a permanent state of physical pain and anxiety owing to their uncertainty about their fate and to the level of violence to which they were subjected throughout the period of their detention," according to a panel of seven judges, who reached a unanimous decision.

"The Court considers that such treatment was intentionally inflicted on the applicants by agents of the State acting in the course of their duties," the judgment stated, "with the aim of extracting from them a confession or information about the offences of which they were suspected."

The two men were released in 2000, six months after they were initially arrested. The Moscow Times reports that the brothers, Adam and Arbi Chitayev, said they were "beaten with water bottles and rubber truncheons, nearly strangled and attacked by dogs" during their time in prison. They believe they were only saved because of an article by Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who was shot dead in October, and help from Memorial, a human rights group. The case against them was dropped on their release.

Radio Free Europe reports that the court also awarded the brothers each 35,000 euros ($45,280) in compensation.

The court's decision follows a series of other judgments against Russia "concerning disappearances and the indiscriminate use of force by the Russian military and its proxies in the southern republic." Jurist reports that the EHRC previously held Russia responsible for the disappearance and deaths of three people in Chechnya.

Reuters reported a week ago that Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the court of making "political" rulings. The Russian parliament is currently blocking a reform of the court which would allow it to consider more cases. One reason for Russia'a action may be that Russia is the biggest source of applications to the court, "which rights activists say is testament to its lack of respect for human rights and also to the lack of independence and corruption of its own judicial system."

Russia opposition members accuse the Kremlin of giving a direct order to its supporters in the Russian parliament [Duma] not to pass the reform legislation, even though Putin has signed the new protocol about the changes in the court. The Kremlin denies the charge.

The International Herald Tribune reported Thursday that a Russian prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into allegations that a man released from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, continued to be abused by local law enforcement officials after he returned to his home in the North Caucasus.

Kudayev was one of seven men from Russia and other former Soviet republics detained by US forces in Afghanistan on suspicion of fighting for the Taliban regime. They were released from Guantanamo in 2004, and some were briefly jailed upon returning to Russia before investigators said they found no evidence of Taliban involvement.

Other former Guantanamo prisoners have faced harassment or abuse by Russian law enforcement agencies, which critics say are persecuting innocent Muslims in a counterproductive effort to check Islamic extremism.

Although other allegations of abuse have been made in the Caucus region, this is the first time authorities have decided to investigate.

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