Human Rights Watch welcomed a resolution adopted by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights expressing grave concern about human rights violations in Chechnya.
Introduced by the European Union and cosponsored by 16 countries, the resolution strongly condemns the use of disproportionate force and serious human rights violations by Russia's forces and calls on Russia to ensure that both civilian and military prosecutors undertake credible and exhaustive criminal investigations of all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. It also raises concern about the pattern of forced disappearances, torture and summary executions perpetrated by Russia's forces in Chechnya.
But the resolution stops short of calling for an international commission of inquiry, a body for which Human Rights Watch and other groups had advocated.
"The Commission basically did the right thing today," said Joanna Weschler, Human Rights Watch's U.N. representative. "But the shabby investigations into abuse launched by Russia shows that only an international commission can establish the truth. Even if the Russian authorities refused to cooperate with it, they would at least feel external pressure and clean up their act somewhat as a result."
At its last session, in April 2000, the Commission adopted a similar resolution, calling for a national commission of inquiry to investigate violations-the first time a Commission resolution censured a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. But throughout the past year Russia willfully refused to comply with the resolution's requirements, and its forces continued to perpetrate atrocities with impunity.
"Today's vote sends a message that no matter how powerful a state is, it won't get a pass on human rights after ignoring the U.N.," said Ms. Weschler. "Now it's up to U.N. member states and other actors in the international community to press for compliance on the resolution in their relations with Russia."
The vote came just as new evidence documented Russia's failure to properly investigate a mass grave in Chechnya. According to a Human Rights Watch memorandum published Monday, the fifty-one bodies found in late February showed evidence of having been extrajudicially executed and bear unmistakable signs of torture.
Countries voting in favor were: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Latvia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Against: Burundi, China, Cuba, India, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
Abstentions: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Uruguay, and Zambia.