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E.U. Should Press Russia on Chechnya

E.U. Should Press Russia on Chechnya

Tue, 13 Feb 2001 06:50:25 -0800

Human Rights Watch Media Release:

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E.U. Should Press Russia on Chechnya

(Brussels, February 13, 2001) Russian officials have done almost nothing to investigate atrocities in Chechnya and European officials should not let them off the hook, Human Rights Watch said today.

On the eve of a visit by E.U. officials to Moscow this week, the watchdog group released a new analysis detailing the procuracy's feeble efforts to investigate some of the worst atrocities of the eighteen-month war.

"Last year the E.U. stressed repeatedly that only the Russians can punish their own troops for abuse in Chechnya, without international interference," said Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "But now it's clear that the Russian government is not investigating these crimes in good faith, and the E.U. has to call them on it."

The 10-page analysis, based on dozens of recent Human Rights Watch interviews with victims' relatives and on correspondence with the Russian procuracy, charges that government investigations have been too few and of poor quality. One-third of the 35 investigations against servicemen relate to inadvertent or minor crimes; only 12 pertain to murder.

More than one year after 130 civilians were killed in the execution-style murders in Alkhan-Yurt, Staropromyslovski, and Aldi, no one has been held criminally accountable. A few investigations into individual murders in these massacres were launched, but only after victims' relatives had filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. Many relatives have not been questioned, and many bodies remain to be exhumed. Law enforcement agencies have made no effort to gain the trust of witnesses who are terrified of further abuse. Witnesses are too frightened to report for questioning to the Khankala military base, where many Chechen men have "disappeared" in custody.

No one has been charged with torture, despite hundreds of well-documented cases. Investigations into the "disappearances" of individuals taken into Russian custody have stalled due to lack of cooperation on the part of the military.

Meanwhile, abuses continue. Russian soldiers and police on sweep operations arbitrarily detain men and women, particularly young Chechen men ranging in age from fifteen to forty-five, and loot homes. Detainees are frequently taken to makeshift detention facilities such as earthen pits, where they are routinely tortured and denied all due process rights. Many detainees have "disappeared" without a trace after being taken into Russian custody. Groups of masked men, often speaking unaccented Russian, burst into homes of civilians at night and take away or kill their inhabitants.

Chechen rebels have threatened and killed civilian administrators and are presumably responsible for the bombing of Russian positions that have killed and wounded numerous civilians.

"The E.U. can't just set aside the Chechnya mess in order to do 'real business' with Russia," said Cartner. "This is their real business with Russia."


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