Findings of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly mission to Moscow and North Caucasus

MOSCOW, 13.03.2000 - "It is beyong comprehension that at the beginning of the 21st century, a European city like Grozny could be systematically destroyed by the forces of its own government", said Lord JUDD, Leader of the COUNCIL OF EUROPE Parliamentary Assembly delegation at the end of their fact-finding mission to Moscow and the North Caucasus from 9 to 12 March.
The objective of the mission was to monitor progress made by the Russian authorities on the requirements voted by the Parliamentary Assembly as its January 2000 session.

The delegation was deeply disturbed by the distress and the trauma suffered by civilians as a result of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the Russian military.

The delegation calls for an immediate cease-fire to be respected by both sides and for arrangements to be made to guarantee the secure and free access of humanitarian agencies to the area.

At the same time the delegation calls on the Russian governement, without any further delay, to begin negotiations on a political solution to the conflict with the elected Chechen representatives and other influential Chechens. These discussions could also involve the provisional Chechen administration. The delegation firmly supports the proposal for a Regional Conference on the North Caucasus with the participation of representatives chosen by the Chechens.

The delegation believes that serious human rights violations and war crimes have taken place in Chechnya on both sides. Eyewitnesses gave accounts of arbitrary killings and harassment by Russian forces, as well as unacceptable acts of violence by Chechen fighters, the implementation of the Sharia Law and hostage taking.

The delegation therefore calls on the Russian authorities to intensify investigation of all alleged violations in co-operation with international representatives. The delegation also urges the Russian parliament to set up without delay a special committee to investigate these crimes. It further underlines the importance of access by all prisoners to legal advice and calls for the release of all hostages.

The members of the delegation are concerned about the humanitarian plight of the civil population of Chechnya both inside and outside its borders. They call on the Russian authorities supported by the international community to increase and expedite assistance to the refugees and local supporting communities. The delegation re-emphasises that no direct or indirect pressure should be put on displaced people to return to Chechnya.

The delegation will report to the Parliamentary Assembly's April session. Meanwhile all the requirements of the Assembly remain on the table. However, it is the firm conviction of the delegation that the greatest challenge to the Council of Europe and the international community is to mobilise their resources in striving to ensure that the statements of intent and the Human Rights mechanisms now put in place by the Russian Federation begin to produce significant and substantial results.

During their visit, the delegation met with the Chairman of the State Duma and the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Federation, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Justice, Emergency Situation, Federal Affairs and Nationalities, the special Assistant of the Acting President and his Special Representative on Human Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic. Meetings were also organised with representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the new Russian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, representatives of international organisations, NGOs and the media.

Upon arrival in the region, the delegation met with the President of Daghestan. In Chechnya the delegation visited Grozny, a hospital in Argun and detainees both in the Cernokosovo detention centre and in the local police station in Naurskaya. It then met the President of North Ossetia-Alania and the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Russian Federation. Finally, in Ingushetia, it visited refugee camps and held a meeting with the President.

The delegation is composed of:

Lord JUDD, (United Kingdom, SOC), Leader of the delegation and rapporteur for the Political Affairs Committee,
Rudolf BINDIG, (Germany, SOC), Deputy Leader and rapporteur for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and "Monitoring" Committee
Tadeusz IWINSKI, (Poland, SOC), rapporteur for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography
Doros CHRISTODOULIDES (Cyprus, UEL), Migration, Refugees and Demography
Anneli J=C4=C4TTEENM=C4KI (Finland, LDR), Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Reginald MOREELS (Belgium, EPP/CD), "Monitoring"
Lára Margrét RAGNASDOTTIR (Iceland, EDG), Political Affairs
Hanne SEVERINSEN (Denmark, LDR), Political Affairs and "Monitoring"
Juris SINKA (Latvia, EDG), "Monitoring"

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