Thomas Hammarberg, of the Council of Europe, visited a prison in the Chechen capital of Grozny in advance of a human rights conference this week.
"Today I have met people who convinced me there is not only a system of bad treatment, but even torture," Hammarberg told the Putin-backed acting president, Ramzan Kadyrov. "It's not just one or two cases, but a whole system."
Kadyrov denied that Chechnya has secret prisons, and said that he "welcomed" monitoring from European human rights groups.
"With God's help, I will become president and there will be no more cases of abduction," Kadyrov added.
Kadyrov is a 30-year-old former rebel and son of murdered Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov. The Kadyrov clan split from separatist groups during the Second Chechen War and sided with Moscow.
Kadyrov carries considerable baggage with him, should he fulfill expectations and formally assume the Chechen presidency. He is widely believed to have illegally profited from his political and military connections, amassing wealth from corruption, extortion, kidnapping and ransoms. Human Rights Watch maintains that Kadyrov's paramilitary forces illegally detain individuals "secretly at unlawful detention facilities, and use illegal methods of interrogation, including torture and ill-treatment." HRW described some of these torture methods:
With very few exceptions, all interviewees who were detained by Kadyrov’s forces told Human Rights Watch that they had been brutally tortured. The most common methods of torture they described were the use of electric shocks and beatings through punching, kicking and the use of clubs. Victims, interviewed separately, consistently described the administration of electric shocks through a portable device with a handle for producing electricity and wires that the torturers attached to the victims’ fingers, toes, ears, or other body parts.Kadyrov's claims that Chechen militias can be trusted - or at least controlled - should be met with suspicion. The Chechen leader also had an odd quote attributed to him in an interview yesterday with a reporter from Radio Free Europe; he said that "If you're a leader, people should fear you. Why? They should not fear being beaten, but they should fear letting down the people who have given them their trust."