High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses "deep concern" over situation in Chechnya, urges restraint

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today reiterated her deep concern regarding the situation in Chechnya and said she joined with members of the international community in calling on the Russian Government to exercise restraint.
The High Commissioner pointed to yesterday's ultimatum to the people of Grozny to leave the city by 11 December or face intensified attack as "particularly disquieting", saying it would endanger the lives of the elderly and the infirm.

"Russia has legitimate security concerns," she said, "but it is not appropriate to respond by violating people's human rights. International requirements for the protection of civilians in armed conflict are clear cut and must be respected".

Mrs. Robinson added that she is very worried about the plight of displaced persons and of civilians in regions such as the southern Chechen Shatoi district who reportedly cannot escape air attacks by the Russian military. "Do we really wish to see in a new century with thousands more people being driven from their homes and having to live in miserable conditions? There must be greater efforts to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict", said the High Commissioner.

The High Commissioner discussed the situation with the Russian Permanent Representative in Geneva yesterday and repeated her offer to send a personal envoy to the region.