Watchdog rebukes Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov, 30 June 2010 Ramzan Kadyrov launched a stinging attack on rights workers

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Europe's top human rights body has strongly criticised Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for calling rights campaigners "enemies of the people".

Dick Marty, a rapporteur on human rights for the Council of Europe, said the comments were "unacceptable".

Mr Kadyrov was speaking in a TV interview in which he also praised people who fire paintballs at women not wearing Islamic headscarves.

Rights group Memorial says it has recorded several such attacks recently.

Since the beginning of June unidentified men with paintball guns have been driving round the centre of the Chechen capital, Grozny, shooting at girls with uncovered heads, Memorial said.

In his interview, which was broadcast on 3 July, Mr Kadyrov launched a stinging attack on human rights campaigners.

"They are getting big salaries from the West and in order to report on their activities they write all kinds of nonsense and filth in the internet," he said, according to a translation of his comments on Memorial's website.

"That is why they are not my opponents. They are the enemies of the people, enemies of the law, enemies of the state."

Paintball praise

Mr Marty called the remarks "unacceptable and unworthy".

"Such words, similar to those uttered by Mr Kadyrov against Natalya Estemirova, a member of Memorial's staff subsequently murdered last summer, are barely disguised threats," Mr Marty said.

He also appealed to the Russian government "to ask the Chechen authorities to ensure the protection of human rights defenders".

Ms Estemirova's bullet-ridden body was found dumped in a forest near Grozny last July.

Memorial was ordered by a Moscow court to retract its claim that Mr Kadyrov had been behind Ms Estemirova's murder following a lawsuit brought by the Chechen leader.

On the paintball attacks, Mr Kadyrov referred to the women who had been shot at as "naked", adding that they should be "ashamed".

He was then asked if he knew who was carrying out the attacks.

"I don't know, but when I find them, I will express my appreciation," he replied, according to the Memorial transcript.

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