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WP :Editorial: Chechnya's Disappeared

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  • mariuslab2002
    Editorial Chechnya s Disappeared Monday, April 4, 2005; The Washington Post Page A20 WHEN RUSSIAN forces killed Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov last month, they
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2005
      Chechnya's Disappeared

      Monday, April 4, 2005; The Washington Post Page A20

      WHEN RUSSIAN forces killed Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov last month,
      they also eliminated the best remaining hope for a negotiated
      settlement between Russia and Chechen separatist forces. The strongest
      surviving Chechen leader, Shamil Basayev, is a terrorist who favors
      the slaughter of Russian civilians and with whom negotiations are
      unthinkable. Mr. Maskhadov, by contrast, the elected leader of the
      breakaway region in Russia's south, was a secular Muslim who
      repeatedly called for a political solution to the grinding conflict --
      and who was just as repeatedly rebuffed by President Vladimir Putin.

      Now a new report from Human Rights Watch illuminates some of the human
      costs of this conflict without apparent end. In the capital of Grozny,
      the nonprofit advocacy group reports, full-fledged combat no longer
      takes place, but what remains is "worse than a war," according to many
      residents. The city remains in ruins, without running water or
      electricity, but what makes life truly unbearable there and throughout
      the Connecticut-size province is the constant threat of
      "disappearances." According to the respected Russian human rights
      group Memorial, between 3,000 and 5,000 civilians have "disappeared"
      since 1999, when Russian troops moved into Chechnya for a second time
      in the decade. Official government statistics acknowledge more than
      2,000 disappearances.

      During a January reporting trip to Chechnya, Human Rights Watch
      investigators found that the vast majority of abductions are carried
      out by Russian or pro-Moscow Chechen security forces. Most of the
      victims are men, but increasingly women are being taken also. Security
      forces, often armed and hooded, sometimes drunk, typically come to a
      house and take someone away without explanation. Some bodies, showing
      signs of torture, have been recovered; in most cases, relatives have
      no idea whether their loved ones are dead or alive. "According to a
      Chechen official, 1,814 criminal investigations were opened into
      enforced disappearances, yet not a single one has resulted in a
      conviction," Human Rights Watch reports.

      For the most part people outside Russia don't speak much about these
      crimes. U.S. officials are reluctant to press Mr. Putin on Chechnya
      while seeking his cooperation elsewhere in the world; the Bush
      administration's vulnerability to charges of human rights abuse in Abu
      Ghraib and elsewhere also may be an inhibiting factor. Most European
      officials face no comparable charge of hypocrisy but, driven often by
      commercial considerations, are even less willing to offend Mr. Putin
      by discussing his crimes against humanity in Chechnya. And the
      conflict seems so intractable, and many of the Chechen fighters
      themselves are so unsympathetic, that there is a tendency to shrug and
      move on to other issues.

      Meanwhile Chechen civilians continue to fall victim to fighters on
      both sides of the conflict. The population once numbered 1 million;
      though no one knows exactly, probably hundreds of thousands have been
      killed, wounded, "disappeared" or forced to move during two wars with
      Russia (the first lasted from 1994 to 1996). No one can force Mr.
      Putin to negotiate an end to the war, and for now perhaps no one can
      conjure a negotiating partner. But the U.N. Human Rights Commission
      could insist that disappearances be investigated and that responsible
      officials be held accountable.
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