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Goff Concerned For Chechen Civilians


During a call today by the new Russian Ambassador, Gennady Shabannikov, Foreign Minister Phil Goff expressed serious concern over the humanitarian plight of civilians in Chechnya and on reported atrocities against civilians and detainees.

"The international community understands Russia's concern to combat terrorism. However, the relentless and indiscriminate use of force in civilian areas is not a proportionate response and the lasting hatred that such actions create will almost certainly encourage on-going terrorist and guerilla activity," Mr Goff said.

Mr Goff urged Russia to allow a permanent international monitoring presence in Chechnya, given the numerous reports of atrocities and human rights abuses.

"We are pleased that Russia has appointed its own Special Representative. But the Special Representative appears to have no direct mandate to investigate or report on complaints.

Mr Goff asked why the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, had been denied access to Chechnya and why the Red Cross had not been granted access to detainees held by Russian forces.

"The Ambassador stated that the Russian Central Government was not behind human rights violations but there had regrettably been individual violations. He said 130 cases were currently under investigation and those who were found guilty would be punished.

Mr Goff concluded, "the Russian Government must investigate and act upon any findings of atrocities and torture on detainees. It should allow reputable international rights organisations to monitor its actions and the situation on the ground.

"There must also be urgent relief applied to the high levels of suffering and distress visited on the civilian population caught up in the war. A durable resolution will only be found through political dialogue and negotiations".

ENDS Contact: Paul Goldsmith 04 471 9794 025 477 982


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