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U.S. Department of State
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Press Statement


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Press Statement by James P. Rubin, Spokesman
April 26, 2000

U.S. Response to Decision of UNCHR To Pass Resolution on Chechnya

The following statement was issued by Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and Nancy Rubin, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights, at the Commission in Geneva, in response to the decision of the Commission today to adopt a resolution on the situation in Chechnya.

"Today's passage of a resolution by United Nations Commission on Human Rights reflects the worldwide concern about the current situation in Chechnya. We call on the Government of the Russian Federation to act swiftly to facilitate and implement the Commission's recommendations. Although we take no satisfaction in the need for such a resolution, the United States co-sponsored this resolution because we remain gravely concerned by the human rights situation in Chechnya."

"As Secretary Albright noted in her March 24th speech to the Commission, 'We cannot ignore the fact that thousands of Chechen civilians have died and more than 200,000 have been driven from their homes.' Together with other delegations, we have expressed our alarm at the persistent, credible reports of human rights violations by Russian forces in Chechnya, including extrajudicial killings. There are also reports that Chechen separatists have committed abuses, including the killing of civilians and prisoners."

"Our consistent criticism of Russia's policy in the North Caucasus should not be interpreted as a defense of Chechen insurgent groups. We have never questioned Russia's responsibility to defend its territorial integrity or to combat terrorism and lawlessness. But that does not begin to justify the Russian Government's decision to use such massive force against civilians inside Chechnya."

"The war in Chechnya has greatly damaged Russia's international standing and is isolating Russia from the international community. Russia's work to repair that damage, both at home and abroad, or its choice to risk further isolating itself, is the most immediate and momentous challenge that Russia faces."

"We welcomed Russia's appointment of a Presidential Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya, and appreciate his engagement with the international community. The Russian Government has made it possible for many groups to visit the North Caucasus region, including a delegation led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. But reporting and visits alone are not substitutes for holding those accountable who have committed violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. For that reason, it is important that Russia conduct immediate, transparent, impartial and independent investigations of all credible allegations of human rights violations, including those associated with Alkhan-Yurt, Staropromoslovsky and Aldi. We welcomed the strong statement by Acting President Putin that allegations of human rights violations would not be disregarded, that violations of Russian law would be prosecuted, and that those guilty would be brought to justice."

"To facilitate an impartial investigation, we concur with the High Commissioner's call for Russia to engage with an independent, broad-based, national commission of inquiry to investigate promptly all allegations of violations of human rights according to international standards. We also support the call for Russia to engage with the relevant existing U.N. special rapporteurs, special representatives, and working groups. Unless the Russian Government moves swiftly on these proposals, the skepticism of the international community and supporters of human rights inside Russia can only mount."

"We share Russia's goal of a stable and secure Chechnya within the Russian Federation. We remain convinced that political means alone will achieve this goal."

[end of document]

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