STRASBOURG - The Council of Europe has accused the Russian Federation of inflicting electric shocks, asphyxiation and other tortures against prisoners in the North Caucasus during its wars on Chechnya, Dagestan and North Ossetia.
"To tackle the phenomenon of torture and other forms of severe ill-treatment, the relevant authorities - both at the republican and federal level - have first of all to acknowledge its existence," said the report by the council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) released on Thursday, January 24, and cited by World Bulletin website.
"On the contrary, certain of the high-level interlocutors met during the visit, in particular at republican level, appeared to be in a state of denial, it added.
The CPT expressed serious concerns about the treatment of persons held by law enforcement agencies in North Caucasus.
It also questioned the effectiveness of the action taken by the investigative authorities concerning possible ill-treatment.
The report was released after Russia for the first time authorized the publication of findings gathered by the council's committee on torture on a 2011 trip to Chechnya, Dagestan and North Ossetia.
It revealed vivid details of individual cases, including those of one man in Dagestan who allegedly had electric shocks applied to his hands, tongue and genitals.
In Chechnya, another man alleged he was subjected to severe beatings, had boiling water poured over his feet and had to have one of his toes amputated after receiving severe electric shocks.
Chechnya has been ravaged by conflict since 1994, with just three years of relative peace after the first war between Russian forces and Chechen fighters ended in August 1996.
The second war was ordered by late president Boris Yeltsin in 1999, just months before he resigned and was succeeded by Vladimir Putin, now the prime minister.
Tons of bombs rained the capital Grozny in 2002, leading the UN to describe it as "the most destroyed city on the planet".
Responding to the report, the Russian Federation contested the claims."In 2010 and during the first six months of 2011, six criminal cases were initiated following reports about police officers using violence and illegal techniques against citizens in the Republic of Dagestan," the Russian statement published on the CPT website said.
Yet, a history of condemnations for the Russian Federation by human rights groups proved the contrary.
International human rights watchdogs had said in a joint statement that rape, torture and extrajudicial executions by Russian troops were everyday occurrences in Chechnya.
Thousands fled to neighboring Ingushetia living as refugees in battered tent camps, fearing to return home because of insecurity.
At least 100,000 civilians -- about 10 percent of the population -- are estimated to have been killed in both wars, though rights groups say the real numbers are much higher.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Russia in 186 cases of abuses involving Chechnya alone, leading Moscow to pay thousands of dollars in fines as a result.
It also cited the use of secret detentions, as in the case of Islam Umarpashayev, a Chechen who was kidnapped, beaten and handcuffed to a radiator in a private residence last year, for a period of five months."In the vast majority of cases, when evidence of possible torture or other forms of ill-treatment emerges, the matter is dropped after a preliminary enquiry," the CPT report said.