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Europe: Stay Firm on Chechnya

The European Union must keep a firm stand against human rights abuses in Chechnya at the E.U.-Russia summit, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter sent today, Human Rights Watch called on E.U. leaders to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin that the common struggle against terrorism will not mean condoning abuse in Chechnya.

"President Putin has tried to use the events of September 11 to get carte blanche for the conduct of Russian federal forces in Chechnya," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "The E.U. can't allow this to happen."

Human Rights Watch has documented very serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by federal forces in Chechnya, including summary executions, torture, forced disappearances, and indiscriminate bombing. The E.U. has been a principled critic of abuse in the two-year old conflict. It sponsored resolutions two years in a row at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemning these abuses, as well as acts of terror committed in relation to the conflict. The resolutions also called for the Russian government to investigate and punish the perpetrators, and for U.N. investigators to visit the region.

President Putin is also due to meet with NATO General Secretary Lord Robertson. In a letter to Lord Robertson, Human Rights Watch urged that any discussion of Russia's membership in NATO make clear that Russia would have to comply with the alliance's standards-including respect for the laws of war.

"NATO has to ask itself-is it prepared to have among its members a country whose armed forces are implicated in such serious abuse?" said Andersen. "Russia would have to clean up its armed forces before it could meet NATO standards."

Abuse continues in the conflict in Chechnya. In response to attacks by Chechen forces this summer, Russian federal forces conducted a series of sweep operations in three villages that involved the arbitrary detention of hundreds of villagers. Many were tortured, and several were the victims of extrajudicial execution or forced disappearance.

In July 2001, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 victims and eyewitnesses of these abuses.

Click here for more information on Human Rights Watch's research on Chechnya.

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