Leading article: A cause for outrage, but not a cause for surprise

Share

The latest edition of Novaya Gazeta will have a far greater impact than this liberal Russian newspaper is accustomed to making. The reason is that it prints fragments of the last article by the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whose assassination last Saturday shocked the world. No one doubts that Politkovskaya was killed because of her courageous work as a dissident journalist in Russia. And many suspect that it was the contents of this very article that led to her death.

The piece - the latest in a long line of Politkovskaya exposés of human rights abuses in the north Caucasus region - describes the torture of suspected terrorists by Chechen security services. It is accompanied by graphic images of torture wounds and the written testimony of a Chechen man who was beaten, subjected to electric shocks and suffocated with a bag over his head to force him to confess to killings he did not commit.

Such evidence is a cause for outrage. But it should not be a cause of surprise. The brutal war that began over a decade ago when Russian troops marched into Chechnya to put down a separatist revolt may officially be over. The rebel leader Shamil Basayev may have been killed and a pro-Moscow local leader installed. But, as human rights organisations have long argued, the abuses of civilians never stopped. Prime Minister Kadyrov - a tyrant who controls his own private army, the "Kadyrovtsy" - has continued the vile practices of the Russian army. Earlier this year a secret torture dungeon was uncovered. And according to Vladimir Lukin, Russia's human rights ombudsman, civilians continue to "disappear" daily.

Moscow, which has charged Kadyrov with stamping out the remnants of the separatist movement, refuses to call anyone to account for such crimes. Moscow has continually blocked UN observers from visiting the region. In the aftermath of the 2004 Beslan school massacre, President Putin took the opportunity to drag a good deal of power back from the regions to the Kremlin in the name of "security". But Chechnya has retained a high level of autonomy. President Putin has even made Kadyrov a "Hero of Russia". There can be no clearer sign that he approves of what is going on in the region.

The influence of the Kremlin on the media means that little of this horror goes reported in Russia. Voices like Politkovskaya's have been a rarity. But where is the international condemnation? Why has the US, the self-styled champion of democracy, been silent? Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have distracted international attention from the suffering of the Chechen people. And, in any case, a shameful catalogue of human rights abuses in recent years - from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib - have made it difficult for the US to criticise what has been portrayed by Moscow as part of its own domestic fight against terrorism.

But the West has not simply been silent. President Putin is actively feted by the United States as an ally in the "war on terror". Our own government, apparently terrified of diverging from the Washington line, follows suit. Meanwhile, many European nations attempt to stay on good terms with Moscow for fear of jeopardising their supplies of oil and natural gas from the "energy superpower".

It has taken the murder of perhaps the bravest journalist in modern Russia to get the world to pay attention once again to the vile abuses being perpetrated in this part of the world. If our leaders expect their condemnation of Politkovskaya's murder to be taken seriously, they will make it clear to President Putin that the criminal brutality taking place in Chechnya will no longer be ignored.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King in hospital with his mother  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations led to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband