"The recent threat by the Russian army to the citizens of Grozny «to leave or die» is particularly unacceptable", the Bureau members said.
The Bureau condemned the continued use of force affecting the civilian population in Chechnya and demanded that it be stopped immediately.
It regretted that Resolution 1201, adopted by the Assembly's Standing Committee on 4 November 1999, in the presence of and with the agreement of the Russian delegation, has not been followed up by the Russian authorities. The Resolution contained a call for an immediate cease-fire, a demand to abstain from any human rights violations and a call for talks with the Chechen President, Mr MASKHADOV.
"Russia has the right to preserve its territorial integrity and protect its citizens from the threat of terrorism. However, it should do so through means that are in line with its obligations as a Member State of the Council of Europe", the Bureau said.
The Bureau recalled that, upon accession in 1996, Russia committed itself to settle internal as well as international disputes by peaceful means and to respect strictly the provisions of international humanitarian law, including in cases of armed conflict on its territory.
"Moreover, as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia is obliged to respect the European Convention on Human Rights throughout its territory, including Chechnya. Many of the rights protected under the Convention are being violated through indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force affecting large numbers of the civilian population.
The population of Chechnya has been for far too long deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms, first by years of lawlessness and widespread crime, and now as victims of the military actions. The Assembly is ready to actively support all efforts to give the population of Chechnya the possibility to enjoy the same rights as their fellow Europeans", the Bureau said.
The Bureau also launched a pressing appeal to the Chechen authorities for the release of all hostages.
It considered that the Committee of Ministers and Member States of the Council of Europe should review their programmes in Russia and take action, in co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE, to de-escalate the conflict and help the search for a political solution.
It calls on the Russian Government to make immediate provision of effective humanitarian aid and support for refugees in the camps and for those who have returned to their homes; and to appeal for and expedite all offers of international help.
The Bureau adopted this declaration after having heard a report from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro GIL-ROBLES, who recently visited the North Caucasus.
A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 41 member states.
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