Racial Violence Alarms UN

GENEVA -- A key United Nations rights body has voiced alarm at mounting racial violence in Russia and called on Moscow to take firm action against ultranationalist and neo-Nazi groups and hate speech in the media.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also urged the government to hold an investigation into police repression of Georgians in Russia in 2006.

The committee said it was "gravely concerned about the alarming increase in the incidence and severity of racially motivated violence, especially by young people belonging to extremist groups."

The targets of violence and hate speech, it said, were Chechens and other people from the Caucasus, people from Central Asia, Roma, Meskhetian Turks, ethnic minorities of Jewish or Muslim faith and Africans.

The committee's report followed a discussion its 18 expert members held with a Russian delegation -- and with rights groups from the country -- earlier this month as part of a review of UN states' racism record.

Russian human rights activists said during the hearings that police often stood by when skinhead and neo-Nazi groups staged demonstrations against Jews, ethnic minorities or foreigners.

The committee said a "thorough investigation" was needed into events in 2006, which Tbilisi at the time said reflected official racism against Georgians, stoking tension between the two former Soviet states.

According to reports cited by the committee, Russian police rounded up hundreds of Georgians and ethnic Georgians with Russian citizenship, held them in packed jails and deported them to Georgia with little or no legal process.

The review was held before this month's conflict setting Russian and pro-Russian forces against Georgian troops in and around Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Roma also suffered from discrimination, the report said, asserting that courts around the country were ordering the destruction of well-established settlements while children attending school were put in special classes.

It called on Russia to take action against police and other officials engaging in "racially selective arrests, searches or other unwarranted acts" based on how people looked.