UNHCHR statement on Chechnya

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Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 08:58:00 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: UNHCHR statement on Chechnya

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Original sender: Tanya Smith <tsmith.hchr@unog.ch>

UNHCHR statement on Chechnya

16 February 2000
Points to Need for Increased Monitoring of Human Rights Situation
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today
called on the Russian Government to allow human rights monitoring of
the situation in Chechnya, Russian Federation, and to act on mounting
evidence of serious human rights violations during and after the
assault on Grozny and  other parts of the territory.
Expressing deep regret that the Russian Government had not agreed to
her request to visit Moscow and the areas affected by the conflict, or
to her earlier offer to send a personal envoy to the region, Mrs.
Robinson said the failure of the Russian authorities to respond to
legitimate worries "leads to heightened concern that allegations of
human rights violations may be well-founded".
The High Commisioner expressed particular concern over the
"catastrophic situation" facing civilians in Chechnya and their
exposure to disproportionate use of force by the Russian military,
including heavy bombardment and attacks with especially devastating
"The suffering caused by indiscriminate bombing and seeming disregard
for civilians must not be compounded by the denial of the basic human
rights of people in Chechnya", she said.  "It is the responsibility of
the Russian authorities to do all they can to ensure that those under
their jurisdiction enjoy the rights and freedoms they are entitled to
under international law and to provide for effective remedies for
victims of violations".
Mrs. Robinson listed allegations, gathered despite severely restricted
access, brought to her attention by different organizations,
 reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on
the situation of the civilian population as a result of the war in
Chechnya indicate that recent severe fighting in Grozny left tens of
thousands of civilians with extremely limited water, food, medical
care, electricity or gas.  The ICRC said the same precarious situation
is likely to prevail in other conflict zones in Chechnya;
 ICRC reports that numerous captured persons are in need of
protection.  The ICRC has not been granted access to detainees held by
the Russian authorities;
 documented cases of some 40 civilians reportedly summarily executed
by Russian forces in Grozny and Alkhan-Yurt, Chechnya;
 the reported rape of Chechen women by Russian soldiers in
Russian-controlled areas of Chechnya.  Rapes have reportedly taken
place in Alkhan-Yurt and the village of Shali;
 overly restrictive accreditation requirements for journalists,
limiting independent coverage of the conflict;
  the case of Andrey Babitsky, who was apparently exchanged by
Russian forces for soldiers being held by Chechens.  The release of
Mr. Babitsky into the hands of people the Russian authorities consider
terrorists would be in contravention of the provisions of common
article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and article 5 of Protocol II
of the Conventions;
Mrs. Robinson said the extent of the allegations pointed clearly to
the need for increased monitoring of the situation.  She underlined
that allegations should be investigated and persons found to be
responsible for abuses brought to justice.  The same applied to the
allegations of serious human rights violations by Chechen fighters,
she added.
"Only a political solution and scrupulous application of accepted
standards of international law by will lead to lasting peace and
respect for human rights in Chechnya", said the High Commissioner.
Mrs. Robinson said she would be addressing the situation in Chechnya
at the upcoming session of the United Nations Commission on Human
Rights, which opens in Geneva on 20 March.

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