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Goff Welcomes Russian Concessions

Media Release
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
11 March 2000

GOFF WELCOMES RUSSIAN CONCESSIONS

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade today welcomed reports that the Russian Government has agreed to a visit to the Chechen region by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

"Last week I expressed directly to the Russian Ambassador, Gennady Shabannikov, my concerns at reported human rights violations in Chechnya, including alleged brutality against persons detained by Russian troops in so-called ‘filtration’ camps.

"I further emphasised to him my concerns that human rights groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, had been prevented from entering Chechnya. This, I suggested, raised suspicions that authorities were seeking to cover up human rights abuses.

"Mr Shabannikov acknowledged that there had been human rights violations but said that these resulted from individuals and were not condoned by Russian authorities.

"He also stated that some 130 cases were under investigation in regard to abuses.

"He additionally pointed out that violations were not simply occurring from one side. I concurred with him in that regard, noting that New Zealanders, like Russians, had been victims of terrorist actions by groups within Chechnya. However, I felt that the military action and destruction by Russia in Chechnya was disproportionate to the actions of some Chechen groups.

"I welcome the fact that Russia has now agreed to allow the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, to visit Chechnya next month.

"It is a positive sign that the Russian Government has also allowed the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe to both visit the troubled territory as well as become more involved in monitoring developments there," Mr Goff concluded.

ENDS.

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