(Washington, DC, March 24, 2000) - Citing war crimes in Chechnya, Human Rights Watch today called on the World Bank to withhold a $100 million payment to the Russian government. With the Russian government pressing hard for disbursement prior to presidential elections March 26, a decision on the loan is imminent.
In letters to World Bank President James Wolfensohn and to the Bank's board of directors, the rights group argued that paying the funds when the Russian government is waging an abusive military operation in Chechnya undermines the Bank's mission and stated policy.
"The Bank cannot just pay lip service to the 'human aspects' of development," said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch's executive director. "Here we have a government committing war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. The World Bank should not be financing it."
The pending payment is part of a $800 million loan package agreed in 1997. To receive payments under the loan, the Russian government must undertake various reforms of its coal industry, but once received, the funds may be spent by the Russian government as it sees fit, including to finance its war effort.
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