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Chechnya Investigation Called A Whitewash

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(New York, April 16, 2000) -- On the eve of Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin's visit to Britain, Human Rights Watch has released a report documenting Russian forces' massacre of civilians in the village of Alkhan-Yurt, in Chechnya.

The report is available on line at:

Russian soldiers went on a rampage in the Chechen village of Alkhan-Yurt in December 1999, looting and burning dozens of homes and summarily executing at least fourteen civilians, according to the 32-page report.

The report criticizes Russia's military and political leadership for failing to investigate the crime, and charges that Russia's military command is complicit to the abuses. The events in Alkhan-Yurt were previously revealed in Human Rights Watch press releases, but the new report provides a more comprehensive account of the massacre and its victims.

Human Rights Watch called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is receiving president-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia in London today and tomorrow, to warn his guest that Britain will take Russia to the European Court of Human Rights if the massacres are not fully investigated by Russian prosecutors.

"This report documents the abuses in Alkhan-Yurt in great detail," said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "There can be no question about what happened there. The only question is what Russia -- and its international partners -- are going to do about it."

Russia's military began shelling and bombing Alkhan-Yurt in November 1999. The offensive lasted until December 1, when Russian troops entered the village and went from house to house to ensure that no fighters were left. During this so-called "mop-up" operation, soldiers threw live grenades into basements, began looting houses and sent hundreds of residents to a neighboring village. In the two weeks following December 1, soldiers sealed off the village and went on a rampage, looting and burning many homes, killing at least fourteen civilians, and raping several women.

When the allegations first emerged, the Russian military and political leadership dismissed them out of hand, claiming that Chechen rebels had unleashed an "information war." Then, as evidence of the killing mounted, the military procuracy was forced to open a criminal investigation into the events. However, this investigation: it focused only on the period leading up to and including the seizure of the village by Russian forces, although the rampage took place in the two following weeks. The military procuracy told Human Rights Watch that it had closed the investigation and no one was charged.

"Now that Russian law enforcement agencies have shown their bad faith, it's up to the international community to insist on an international investigation," said Ms. Cartner. "The crimes committed in Alkhan-Yurt are too serious to go unpunished."

Last week the Council of Europe called on member states to file a complaint against Russia in the European Court for Human Rights on human rights abuses in Chechnya. The United Nations Human Rights Commission, currently in session in Geneva, is currently considering a resolution on Chechnya that calls for a national investigation into human rights abuses.


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