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World community condemned over Chechnya
The international community has been condemned for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2004 13:21 GMT
Russian forces have been accused of widespread abuses
The international community has been condemned for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Chechnya.

In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the world's response to Russia's crackdown on separatists in its southern republic has been "shameful and shortsighted".

The human rights watchdog said the world has failed to hold Russia to account for its actions in Chechnya where it effectively enjoys complete impunity.

Report author Rachel Denber wrote: "The armed conflict in Chechnya, now in its fourth year, is the most serious human rights crisis of the new decade in Europe.

"It has taken a disastrous toll on the civilian population and is now one of the greatest threats to stability and rule of law in Russia. Yet the international community’s response to it has been shameful and shortsighted."

'Moral obligation'

Denber said the world has a moral and political obligation to protect the rights of people in and around Chechnya.

"It should with a unified voice be prevailing on the Russian government to halt forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention, which Russian forces perpetrate on a daily basis." 

"The international community has instead chosen the path of self-deception, choosing to believe Russia’s claims that the situation in Chechnya is stabilising, and so be spared of making tough decisions about what actions are necessary to stop flagrant abuses"

Rachel Denber,
Human Rights Watch

HRW urged the international community to press Russia to organise a credible accountability process for perpetrators of serious violations.

And it said it should stop Russia from forcing the return of displaced people to areas where their safety and well-being cannot be ensured.

But the rights group said none of this has happened.

"The international community has instead chosen the path of self-deception, choosing to believe Russia’s claims that the situation in Chechnya is stabilising, and so be spared of making tough decisions about what actions are necessary to stop flagrant abuses," Denber wrote.

'Counter-terror operation'

She said Russia has been able to shield Chechnya from serious UN scrutiny because it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

And she said the international community "disengaged" from the Chechen issue after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Since the attacks Russia has called the Chechen conflict a "counter-terror operation”, and has argued the war is a contribution to the US-led global campaign against "terrorism".

But Denber said: "In the long term, disengagement on Chechnya is a disservice to human rights in Russia. Having faced no diplomatic or other consequences for its crimes in Chechnya, the Russian government has certainly learned an important lesson about the limits of the international community’s political will in pursuing human rights."

President Vladimir Putin launched
the second Chechen war in 1999

Russia’s second armed conflict in Chechnya in the 1990s began in September 1999.

Indiscriminate bombing

Russian officials claimed it was a "counter-terror" operation, aimed at eliminating the chaos that reined in the republic since the end of the 1994-1996 Chechen war.

They also claimed their actions were aimed at liquidating "terrorist" groups that had found haven there.

However, five months of bombing and shelling in 1999 and early 2000 resulted in thousands of civilian deaths.

In the early months of the war, Russian forces razed Grozny in indiscriminate bombing, killing thousands and arresting thousands more.

But HRW said Chechen rebel forces have committed grave crimes too, including numerous attacks targeting civilians in and outside of Chechnya.

Source:
Aljazeera
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