[JURIST] A Russian military court convicted four army soldiers in the January 2002 killing of six Chechen civilians [Amnesty backgrounder] Thursday, sentencing them to between 14 and 9 years in prison. The four defendants, three of which remain fugitives and were tried in absentia, had previously been tried and acquitted [JURIST report], but the Russian Supreme Court overturned their second acquittal [JURIST report] in August 2005 citing criminal procedure violations. Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov described the conviction as a "just decision."
The soldiers initially fired upon the vehicle carrying the six civilians when the vehicle missed a checkpoint and killing an passenger, but subsequently also killed the survivors in the vehicle. The soldiers allege that they were ordered to execute the survivors to cover up the incident. In March, the Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) [official website] called on Russia to deal with allegations of torture and abuse in Chechnya [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], where militants have fought for independence from Moscow for over a decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reuters has more.