Russia

Robinson voices concern for Chechnya in New Year's message

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today said her thoughts went out to the civilian population of Chechnya "who face great trials and danger as a result of the fighting," in her message marking the end of the Twentieth Century.

"The legitimate goal of combating terrorism does not remove the responsibility to observe the human rights and humanitarian conventions designed to protect civilians, and to which the Russian Government is a party," she said. She urged the Russian Government to ensure the safety of the civilian population of Grozny and to pursue "all possible means" of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Looking ahead to the next century, Robinson said she regarded the prospects for human rights "with a mixture of hope and apprehension" and noted that the current level of support for human rights is "unparalleled in human history."

She added, however, that the slogan "All human rights for all" is still far from becoming a reality. "We are reaching the end of a very bloody century, with conflicts still claiming lives in the Great Lakes region and other parts of Africa, with violence in Indonesia, continuing attacks against the Serb and Roma minorities in Kosovo, and with the people of East Timor facing fresh evidence of mass killings perpetrated there," she said.