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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Human Rights Activists Plan to Boycott Grozny Meeting

Leading rights activists plan to boycott a human rights conference scheduled to be held in Grozny this week, saying attending would give legitimacy to the region's Kremlin-backed government.

A letter signed by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Lev Ponomaryov and three others said they made the decision because the conference was to be hosted, in part, by acting Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, whose paramilitary officers are suspected of involvement in widespread civilian abductions, possible torture and other human rights abuses.

The conference, they said, was aimed at "using the authority of many rights defenders, the rights movement and the idea of human rights in Russia and the international arena to strengthen the legitimacy of the Chechen Republic's illegitimate regime."

The activists said Chechnya's only legitimately elected president was Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed in 2005.

Ponomaryov said that although only five activists signed the letter, they spoke on behalf of many more organizations.

"We do not want to take part in the conference because otherwise it would have been legitimization of Kadyrov's totalitarian regime," he said. "We wish he could offer some actions, real actions in respecting human rights, not just words. We do not want his declarations, but we would like to see effective routine cooperation. However, instead we see abductions, tortures and other violations."

Allison Gill, Moscow director for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch, said many of the invitees to the conference were given very short notice.