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U.N. Rejects Bid to Censure Russia on Alleged Chechnya Abuses

BY Admin  April 17, 2003 at 5:25 PM EST

The resolution accused Russia of serious humanitarian and human rights violations in the dissident republic, where separatist fighters have engaged Russian forces in two bitter wars for independence. The allegations against Russia included forced disappearances and the use of torture during so-called “mop up” security operations, when armed forces conduct house-to-house searches for weapons or rebel fighters.

The 53 member nations of the U.N.’s top human rights body rejected the motion by a vote of 15 to 21 with 17 countries abstaining.

“The decision to submit such a resolution is regrettable,” Russian representative Leonid Skotnikov told the commission, according to Reuters.

It “directly stands in the way of a political settlement [in Chechnya] by sending, to put it mildly, the wrong signal to a small number of its opponents,” he said.

The EU had encouraged the U.N. to declare “deep concern at the reported ongoing violations … including forced disappearances, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, torture, ill-treatment … as well as alleged violations of international humanitarian law” by federal Russian forces in Chechnya.

The 15-nation EU, as well as seven other European countries, filed the draft resolution with the U.N. commission in early April.

The commission members supporting the proposal included the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States, Canada and Australia. The 21 opponents included Russia, China, Cuba, Brazil, Zimbabwe, South Africa and India.

The U.S. said it voted in favor of the motion due to “our deep concern over continuing violations of human rights by Russian armed forces and security services in Chechnya,” according to a Reuters report.

But the U.S. also criticized the “terrorist” acts of Chechen separatists, such as the hostage taking incident at a Moscow theatre last year that led to the deaths of more than 100 people. In February, the U.S. State Department added three Chechen groups to its list of organizations that pose a “significant risk” of committing acts of terrorism and imposed strict financial restraints on members of the groups and those who may support them.

Speaking for the EU, Greek Ambassador Tassos Kriekoukis said, “Upholding human rights is not only compatible with the fight against terrorism, it is an important step towards eradicating that scourge.”

Kriekoukis also said that commission members tried to agree on a “chairman’s statement” that would have eliminated the need for a vote on the measure, but would have required all members, including Russia, to agree to the text.

“Unfortunately, the Russian Federation did not want to enter into any discussion on the subject,” Kriekoukis said.

But Russia’s Skotnikov said that Moscow has “never attempted to avoid discussing the human rights situation in the Chechen republic,” according to an account by the Associated Press.

The commission condemned Russia in 2000 for human rights abuses, making it the first permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to suffer a censure, which brings no specific penalties but draws attention to a country’s record. Moscow was condemned again in 2001; the EU proposed a similar resolution in 2002 but the measure failed by one vote.

If the latest resolution had passed, the commission would have called upon Russia to “urgently take all necessary steps to stop and prevent violations of human rights and to ensure that all alleged violations were investigated systematically, fully, promptly, and that they were sanctioned,” the human rights body said in a press release.