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Summit To End Human Rights Abuses In Chechnya

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

26 October 2000 EUR 46/044/2000

An appeal to the participating governments of the European Union - Russia summit to end continuing grave human rights violations and impunity in Chechnya

Amnesty International calls upon the governments of the participating states of the European Union - Russian Federation summit meeting taking place in Paris today to take concerted, effective and sustained action to bring to a halt the continuing crisis of human rights violations in Chechnya and those inflicted on Chechens in other parts of Russia.

Amnesty International urges the European Union to take effective action on the situation of Chechnya and Chechens which is commensurate with the standards espoused in the European Union Presidency Conclusions reached at the Santa Maria da Feira European Council meeting of 19 and 20 June 2000, which stated that: AA strong and healthy partnership must be maintained between the Union and Russia and must be based on common values, notably respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms@; and which called Aon Russia to meet its commitments and obligations concerning the continuing conflict in Chechnya@, including, inter alia: AAvoiding the excessive use of force@ and AEffective independent investigation into human rights abuses@.

Effective action must include:

< New measures employing appropriate instruments of the international human rights system to reinforce the European Union=s previous initiative, an April 2000 United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution which the Russian authorities are currently failing to implement in its key provisions. New measures are urgently required to ensure that effective independent investigation into human rights abuses is undertaken and that the perpetrators are brought to justice;

< European Union recognition of and engagement in monitoring and resolving the wider ongoing human rights crisis affecting Chechens throughout the Russian Federation: patterns of persecution, discrimination and arbitrary measures which have reduced Chechens to a status beneath the law, unable to avail themselves of the human rights protection to which Russia=s international obligations entitle them. The European Union should call for and assist the establishement of an independent commission or ombudsman office with the powers and resources to conduct independent investigations into alleged patterns, practices or instances of persecution, discrimination, or arbitrary measures exercised against Chechens, and to restore to Chechens the full range of human rights protection.

The current situation in Chechnya B the fruits of drift and complacency Amnesty International is concerned that both Russian forces and Chechen fighters continue to perpetrate grave violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law inside the Chechen Republic. These violations and abuses continue because, even now, those committing them believe they can do so with impunity.

The costs of a relaxation of international pressure upon the Russian authorities to meet their human rights obligations over Chechnya are high. The bill is being paid every day in Chechnya by those falling victim to new grave human rights violations. The European Union has a responsibility to ensure that pressure is sustained. Expressions such as Agentle diplomacy@ may only too easily be understood by the Russian authorities to mean Abusiness as usual@ and European Union acquiescence in the status quo.

Amnesty International continues to receive reports from Chechnya of unlawful killings and woundings by Russian forces; indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian areas in breach of humanitarian law; arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture, ill- treatment and deaths in detention and A disappearance@. The organization also receives reports of unlawful killings by Chechen fighters, and of the separatist Chechen authorities= incitements to kill members of the local administration appointed by the Russian authorities in Chechnya.

Amnesty International is gravely concerned that the bodies which have been established by the Russian authorities for the purpose of ensuring thorough and impartial investigations and the bringing of perpetrators to justice, such as the office of Vladimir Kalamanov, the Special Representative of the President on Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic, are failing.

Amnesty International monitors through individual cases of alleged grave human rights violations the degree to which these bodies are proving successful. The current results are alarming and indicate that renewed and sustained international pressure and concerted follow-up on the Russian authorities= implementation of their human rights obligations in Chechnya are urgently required

Three cases are presented in an appendix to this appeal:

< the Adisappearance@ of the speaker of the separatist Chechen parliament Ruslan Alikhadzhiyev;

< the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of the16-year-old Chechen boy Adam Abubakarov;

< the failure of the authorities properly to investigate the 5 February 2000 massacre of over 50 Chechen civilians at Noviye Aldi by Russian forces.

Amnesty International invites the European Union to pose questions about these cases to the Russian authorities at today=s summit.

Time to renew the European Union=s April 2000 initiative on Chechnya The Russian authorities are failing or refusing to abide by key provisions of the European Union-sponsored Resolution on the A Situation in the Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation@, adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights at its 56th session in April 2000. The European Union should respond adequately to this.

The Resolution expressed grave concern about, inter alia: Areports indicating disproportionate and indiscriminate use of Russian military force, including attacks on civilians, which has led to a serious humanitarian situation@; Areports of attacks against civilians and serious crimes and abuses committed by Chechen fighters@; Areports that gross, widespread and flagrant violations of human rights have been committed in the region, notably in the alleged Acamps of filtration@.

The Resolution, inter alia, called upon: Athe Government of the Russian Federation to establish urgently, according to recognized international standards, a national, broad- based and independent commission of inquiry to investigate promptly alleged violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law committed in the Republic of Chechnya in order to establish the truth and identify those responsible, with a view to bringing them to justice and preventing impunity.@ The Russian authorities had previously established the office of the Special Representative of the President on Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic, headed by Vladimir Kalamanov. They announced the formation of a separate national public commission of inquiry a few days prior to the adoption of the CHR resolution.

Amnesty International had urged that the CHR Resolution should call for an international investigation, as the only way to bring perpetrators to account and ensure justice for the victims. The organization noted that the national public commission is made up of high- profile public figures, and does not include medical and forensic experts. Amnesty International stated that: AThere is a worrying lack of credibility and clarity surrounding the mandate of the national commission of inquiry@, fearing that: A[I]t is more likely to be a timely public relations exercise by the Russian authorities, rather than a credible investigative body@. Six months on, this remains true, despite the good intentions of the national public commission=s members. It has no investigative powers or resources. In this vital respect, the CHR Resolution remains unfulfilled B there is no independent investigation of alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya being conducted to recognized international standards. Neither the Kalamanov office nor the national public commission measure up to such standards.

The CHR Resolution requested the relevant special rapporteurs and working groups of the Commission to undertake missions to Chechnya and neighbouring republics and submit reports without delay, and urged the Russian authorities to cooperate in expediting these missions. These included the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict. At the time of writing the Russian authorities had not complied with this aspect of the resolution.

In its vital provisions, the European Union-sponsored CHR Resolution remains unimplemented. If the European Union is to be true to the human rights standards it itself defines as the cornerstone of its partnership with the Russian Federation it must follow up and renew through appropriate instruments its initiative of April 2000.

Beneath the law - Chechens in the wider Russian Federation Amnesty International calls upon the European Union to incorporate into its actions and its dialogue with the Russian authorities over the Chechnya conflict concern and engagement with the wider crisis of the corrosion and breakdown of Chechens= human rights protection throughout the Russian Federation. Through the 1990s an accumulating combination of anti-Chechen antagonism and racism in Russian society, and official Russian pronouncements, actions and policies gradually reduced Chechens in the Russian Federation to their present status of an ethnic group beneath the law, prey to abuses, persecution, extortion, and arbitrary treatment, including restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The Russian authorities have fought two wars in Chechnya within the last decade for the declared purpose of preserving the territory as a constituent part of the Russian Federation, and of guaranteeing to its inhabitants their rights under the Russian constitution. However, Chechens are now subjected by the authorities throughout the Russian Federation to forms of arbitrary treatment which suggest that, unless concerted, sustained action is taken to reconstruct for them an effective system of human rights protection, their future in Russia is that of a subjugated, conquered people.

In its December 1999 report AFor the Motherland@ (AI Index: EUR 46/46/99) Amnesty International documented the persecution of Chechens in Moscow by the police, and the unconstitutional measures instituted by the Mayor Yury Luzhkov to expel thousands of Chechens from Moscow, and to deny registration to internally displaced Chechens who had fled the conflict zone. Restrictions placed upon Chechens, preventing them from taking up residence in Moscow and other Russian cities, are reported to be Acomplemented@ by restrictions which prevent many of them from leaving Chechnya and Ingushetia. These include the reported prevention of movement of Chechens by Russian federal forces and police deployed on the roads which link Ingushetia with the rest of the Russian Federation and the blocking of the entry of Chechens to other territories of the north Caucasus, such as Kabardino-Balkaria, by local police.

The Moscow police anti-terrorist operation entitled A Whirlwind@, which was initiated in September 1999, is continuing. Similar anti-terrorist operations are reported in other large Russian cities. For Chechens and other people originating from the Caucasus region the Moscow operation has been characterized by arbitrary detention, cases of ill-treatment, the Aplanting@ of incriminating evidence such as drugs or bullets upon detainees, and cases where torture has been used to induce detainees to confess to possession of drugs, weapons or bullets. In late August 2000 the newspaper Noviye Izvestiya revealed, and a Moscow police spokesman confirmed1, that at the end of every shift police officers have to fill in a table to document how many Chechens, Georgians or Azeris they have detained and the alleged intended purposes of the money which they have confiscated from the detainees.

Russian authorities have repeatedly hastened to place the blame for Aterrorist@ bombings upon Chechens, without awaiting the results of investigations. Such statements have directed public anger at Chechens, heightening anti-Chechen racism and antagonism in Russian society. They have contributed to a Russian social climate which now tolerates, and even approves of, the perpetration of human rights abuses against Chechens. The Russian central authorities launched aerial bombing and then a ground invasion in Chechnya after attributing the September 1999 apartment block bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, in which nearly 300 people died, to Chechen terrorists, although there was at that time no evidence of Chechen involvement, and strenuous denials were issued by the Chechen separatist leadership. Since 1996 the Moscow city authorities have attributed blame similarly. As documented in Amnesty International=s April 1997 report: Torture in Russia, AThis man-made hell@ (AI Index: EUR 46/04/97), Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, upon arriving at the scene of a bomb explosion on a trolley-bus on 12 July 1996, investigation of which had not yet commenced, publicly called for the expulsion of all Chechens from Moscow, and supported the proposal of a police officer to: Aintroduce terror on the streets@ to that end. Mayor Luzhkov=s immediate attribution of the 8 August 2000 Pushkin Square bombing to Chechens prompted a new wave of police persecution of Chechens in Moscow.

The situation of Chechens in the Russian Federation requires a radical new institutional solution, such as the establishment of a national commission or ombudsman office with the powers and resources to initiate and sustain measures to restore to Chechens the human rights protection to which they are entitled under Russia=s international obligations. The European Union should use the influence, instruments and resources available to it to call for and assist the establishment of such an institution 1 Alexander Oboidikhin to The Moscow Times, article entitled A Cops are counting arrested Chechens@ by Oksana Yablokova, 2 September 2000.

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