MSF and Amnesty International organised a protest demonstration at the Russian Embassy in The Hague December 23, 1999. The organisations appealed to the Russian authorities to stop the violence against civilians in Chechnya.
Some 70 MSF and Amnesty staff members gathered in front of the Embassy, dressed in white T-shirts with 'Chechnya' printed in Dutch and Russian. Campaigners also carried placards showing the names of Chechnyan civilians and towns that had been shelled by the Russian army.
After a speech by Operational Director Marcel van Soest - in which he quoted the eyewitness report of a Chechnyan woman who had fled the country - a hundred balloons went up into the air, symbolising the hundreds of thousands of victims of the war.
It was unfortunately impossible to present a report of Amnesty International. The report, containing witness reports from Chechnyans about violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, had to be delivered through the letterbox.
The representatives of both organisations received a clear 'Njet' in answer to their request to explain their concerns in greater detail in a personal interview.
Torches were subsequently lighted. After a moment of silence, the demonstrators attached placards to the embassy fence. The demonstration received a great deal of coverage from the Dutch media.
Through local networks, MSF distributes relief supplies to refugee camps and local hospitals in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, where more than 200,000 Chechnyans have sought refuge. MSF is most concerned about the unknown number of people who are still in Chechnya. So far, the heavy fighting between Russia and the armed opposition has made it impossible to work in Chechnya.