Jo Swinson: “There is A Climate of Fear in Chechnya”
Lord Judd and Jo Swinson, an MP of UK Parliament, made their blunt assessment after a two-day visit to Chechnya last week during which they met and interviewed a large number of officials and human rights activists.
The Daily Telegraph, British newspaper, reported that both said they were deeply concerned by what they had heard and disclosed that they had tried in vain to learn more about ongoing investigations into the 2006 murder of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the 2009 killing of human rights defender Natalya Estemirova.
The delegation, part of Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, ignored Foreign Office advice not to travel to Chechnya and visited this dangerous territory. Their comments are likely to anger the Kremlin and local puppet authorities in Chechnya who have rejected foreign criticism in the past as meddlesome interference in Russia’s internal affairs.
“I am constantly making comparisons to Guatemala, El Salvador and Central America in the late 1980s,” said Lord Judd, a long-standing expert on Chechnya. “It is this business of the calculated creation of a climate of fear and targeted assassinations.
“It is more organised and systematic and sinister than when I was here seven years ago.” Witnesses who saw atrocities in Chechnya were routinely intimidated, he added, and homes belonging to relatives of rebel fighters regularly burned to the ground. It was a policy that was bound to stoke Islamist extremism, he warned.
Ms Swinson said she had been left “shocked and disgusted” by a meeting with Chechnya’s puppet government’s human rights ombudsman who she said had openly accused a leading human rights group of profiting from the murder of one of its activists.
“It is very clear that there is a climate of fear here and that nobody dares to criticise Ramzan Kadirov,” she said.
Lord Judd said the UK and other countries should place the issue of Chechnya at the heart of their relations with Russia in order to lobby for change. He conceded that Grozny, the Chechen capital, had been impressively rebuilt but he emphasized and said: “Stalin built a lot of impressive buildings too!”
Let’s remind you, leading rights activists all around the world and local defenders have repeatedly accused Kadirov of complicity in torture, kidnapping and murder, allegations that Kadirov has strongly rejected.