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Outside Investigations Needed For Chechnya

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(Geneva, April 5, 2000) -- Human Rights Watch today expressed skepticism that a Russian investigation in Chechnya would reveal and punish the perpetrators of extensive atrocities there. The organization called on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, now meeting in Geneva, to reject the notion that a Russian inquiry is any substitute for an international investigation and to establish a thorough and transparent investigation by the United Nations instead.

Today in Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, gave her imprimatur to reports of massive human rights violations in Chechnya. She called upon the Russian government to investigate reports of its own wrongdoing, but failed to underscore the parallel need for the U.N. to create an ternational investigative body.

"Russian investigations into atrocities in Chechnya have simply not been credible," said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch. "The United Nations must seize the initiative here -- not hand it back to Moscow."

Human Rights Watch has documented the summary executions of more than one hundred civilians in Chechnya, and believes the actual number is much higher. It has also provided detailed accounts of rape, torture, beatings, and other serious human rights violations by Russian forces in Chechnya.

The Russians have already "investigated" a massacre in the Aldi. district of Grozny, and found no Russian soldiers accountable for it. But Human Rights Watch has collected detailed testimony from survivors of the massacre indicating clearly that Russian forces are culpable.

Senior officials from Human Rights Watch met with representatives of the Russian military, procuracy, and foreign ministry in Moscow four weeks ago. Some of the Russian officials had never heard of major massacres perpetrated by their own troops in Chechnya.

"If the U.N. tosses the ball back to the Russians, it will have abdicated its solemn responsibility to safeguard human rights," said Cartner. "The Commission on Human Rights is the U.N.'s highest authority on this issue. If it fails to launch its own investigation in Chechnya, it has foresworn its most important duty."


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