The UN Friday voiced concern at first-hand reports of arbitrary detention and torture of women in Russia's war-torn republic of Chechnya, a UN official said Friday.
"I heard first-hand accounts of women being arbitrarily detained and tortured following targeted operations [by the Russian special forces]," said Yakin Erturk, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, after a visit to Chechnya.
"This is said to be in response to women's involvement in terrorist attacks, particularly as suicide bombers," Erturk explained.
Two women were among a team that seized a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September, resulting in 344 deaths, and many suicide bombings over the past few years have been committed by so-called "black widows" seeking to avenge their dead husbands, sons or brothers.
"In the absence of the rule of law, the civilian population suffers abuse by security forces and Chechen armed groups, leaving a climate of fear and insecurity," Erturk said.
After the first armed conflict in Chechnya in 1994-1996, Moscow again poured troops into the rebellious republic in October 1999, quickly getting mired in a brutal guerrilla standoff against various rebel warlords.
Meanwhile a communique issued from UN headquarters in Geneva quoted Erturk as calling on Russia to ensure that laws and practices aimed at curbing terrorism conformed to international human rights norms.
Erturk was reporting on a fact-finding mission on the situation of women in Russia during which she collected evidence from victims of human rights violations, including relatives of missing persons and displaced persons in the Northern Caucasus areas of Chechnya and Ingushetia.
On the general theme of treatment of women in Russia, the UN official's report also called on the Russian government to protect women from domestic violence.
The overall situation of Russian women had improved over the last decade, she said, noting that the Russian Federation had undertaken administrative and legislative changes contributing to improving matters.
But violence against women and sexual discrimination nevertheless remained only secondary themes on the political agenda.