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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Remembering Soviet Genocide as UN Condemns Russia Yet Again

A new website called Genocide Curriculum has been created as a repository for documenation about communist atrocities in the former USSR. This could not be more timely, as we enter Cold War II, remembering what the first one was like and why it was fought. The site contains, for instance, a copy of the voluminous report on famine in the Ukraine issued by the U.S. Congress via a commission was chaired by James Mace -- who ironically died unexpectedly in a Kiev hospital and was an outspoken critic of Russia. One cannot discount the possibility that he was Litvinenko was "another Mace."

We need to be constantly reminded of this history, because we are reliving it, as the International Herald Tribune reports:

GENEVA: A U.N. anti-torture panel told Russia on Friday to outlaw the alleged practice of secret detention and kidnapping in the restive southern province of Chechnya. In a 12-page report on Russia's compliance with a global ban on prisoner abuse, the U.N. Committee Against Torture said it had "reliable reports of unofficial places of detention in the North Caucasus."

The committee, comprised of 10 independent experts, said it had learned of "allegations that those detained in such facilities face torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." In addition, the committee's report highlighted "numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations that abductions and enforced disappearances" in Chechnya were carried out by or take place with the consent of officials, and that perpetrators go unpunished.The incidents were linked with anti-terrorism operations, the panel said, adding that it was aware of allegations that relatives of terror suspects were also regularly detained.

Last week, Human Rights Watch told the committee that torture in Chechnya was both widespread and systematic. The New York-based rights group said it documented 115 torture cases in Chechnya between July 2004 and September 2006, with most of the incidents being carried out by security forces under Chechnya's Kremlin-backed prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. The group also said it had received descriptions of at least 10 unlawful detention centers used by the forces, known as the Kadyrovtsy, throughout the republic. At the time, Interfax quoted Deputy Chechen Prime Minister Ziad Sabsabi as denying the allegations.

The U.N. anti-torture panel did not specify who carried out the reported acts of torture, but said the incidents allegedly have taken place in facilities run by the Second Operational Investigative Bureau, an agency formed in 2002 to work against organized criminal groups — which in Russia includes militant groups. The committee, which periodically reviews the record of each of the 142 signatories of the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture, also highlighted "numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations" of torture by police officials elsewhere in Russia. It urged Russia to address reports of hazing in the military and the harassment and killing of human rights defenders. Citing the case of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed on Oct. 7 while apparently investigating reports of torture in Chechnya, the panel said Russia should enforce national and international laws to combat human rights abuses, investigate all torture allegations and punish those responsible.

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