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Chechnya: U.N. Action on Chechnya Urged

U.N. Action on Chechnya Urged

Russian Investigations Not Serious, Says Rights Group

(New York, March 22, 2000) -- Russian government investigations into atrocities committed in Chechnya have shown that they are unlikely to produce any serious result, Human Rights Watch said in letters sent to several European and U.S. foreign ministers today. The letters urged ministers to initiate or sponsor a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, now meeting in Geneva, condemning the abuses committed by Russian forces in Chechnya and setting in motion a "sustained and thorough" U.N. investigation.

Yesterday, the Russian military prosecutor's office said that its investigation had concluded Russian soldiers were not involved in the massacre of more than 60 civilians in the Grozny suburb of Aldi in early February. The massacre was first reported by Human Rights Watch, based on extensive and closely-corroborated testimony from witnesses and survivors of the massacre. In December, the military prosecutor also concluded that "no crime" had taken place in Alkhan-Yurt, where Human Rights Watch had found that at least fourteen civilians were summarily executed.

"The Russians have shown that there's no longer any point in waiting for their investigations," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "The only alternative now is a sustained and thorough investigation by the U.N. Member states should do everything possible to make that investigation happen."

The letter was sent to the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, urging them to initiate a resolution in Geneva.

In recent high-level meetings with the Russian military, the military procuracy, and the Presidential Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya, Human Rights Watch officials were disappointed that none of them seemed to have taken significant steps toward a full investigation. Yuri Dyomin, the military procurator of the Russian Federation, told Mr. Roth on March 10 that he had "never heard of" the massacres in the Staropromyslovskii and Aldi districts of Grozny, where Human Rights Watch found that at least 110 civilians were summarily executed.

Human Rights Watch said it welcomed the appointment of Vladimir Kalamanov as Presidential Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya, but regretted that his mandate is primarily to forward cases to a military procuracy that has shown itself to be so cynically disposed to allegations of abuse. The letter urged that the appointment of Mr. Kalamanov, even with two proposed international experts from the Council of Europe on his staff, should not be viewed as a substitute for measures that the U.N. Commission could take to hold Russia accountable for the worst abuses perpetrated in Chechnya.

"The United States and the European Union have repeatedly condemned the abuses in Chechnya," said Roth. "But no forum is more appropriate for frank talk and tough action than the U.N. Commission in Geneva. This opportunity must not be missed."

The text of the letter is available at
http://www.hrw.org/press/2000/03/chech-letter.htm

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For more HRW Chechnya coverage, visit http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/


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