Europe's Top Rights Official Visits Russia

By: Vladimir Isachenkov - AP Writer
By: Vladimir Isachenkov - AP Writer

MOSCOW (AP) - Europe's top human rights official urged the Kremlin on Thursday to end a wave of abductions in North Caucacus and to prosecute the killers of a prominent rights activist.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, said after a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he raised the issue of abductions and forced disappearances of people in Chechnya and other restive provinces in
Russia's North Caucasus.

The Council of Europe is the continent's top human rights body.

Hammarberg was quoted by the ITAR-Tass, RIA Novosti and Interfax
news agencies as saying that he also emphasized the need to solve
the murder of rights activist Natalya Estemirova, who was killed in
July. He warned that the failure of authorities to track down those
who killed Estemirova would contribute to an atmosphere of

Estemirova worked for the Russian rights group Memorial, and her
reports on abductions and other rights abuses in Chechnya made her
unpopular with the region's strongman leader.

She was abducted in Chechnya and found dead in the neighboring
province of Ingushetia later in the day.

The killing underlined deadly risks for opposition and rights
activists in a region that has been increasingly mired in violence
stemming from two separatist wars in Chechnya.

Hammarberg said he didn't discuss the case of Russia's Yukos oil
company, which is set to be considered soon by the European Court
of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Former shareholders of Yukos
are seeking $100 billion in damages for what they call a forced
bankruptcy and takeover by the state.

The Kremlin issued a terse statement about the meeting, quoting
Medvedev as telling Hammarberg that a "well-established dialogue
between Russia and the Council of Europe helps solve different
issues." It didn't give any details of the discussion.

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