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UN Criticizes Russia On Chechnya

April 25, 2000

GENEVA (AP) _ The top U.N. human rights body criticized Russia today for ``widespread and flagrant″ human rights abuses committed during the war in Chechnya, including attacks on civilians.

A resolution to the 53-nation Human Rights Commission was approved by 25 votes to seven, with 19 abstentions.

The document, introduced by the European Union, said it was ``gravely concerned by the continued violence in the Republic of Chechnya ... in particular reports indicating disproportionate and indiscriminate use of Russian military force, including attacks against civilians.″

It also expressed concern at reports of ``gross, widespread and flagrant violations of human rights,″ but stopped short of demands by human rights organizations that the world body set up its own probe.

In Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright welcomed the decision and through spokesman James P. Rubin criticized Russia for blocking a consensus stand by the commission.

Formal votes aside, Rubin said ``the objective is to get the Russians to act.″

He said Russia’s treatment of civilians in Chechnya was on the agenda for talks Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is having in Washington with President Clinton and Albright.

Portuguese Ambassador Alvaro de Mendonca e Moura, speaking for the European Union, said his delegation had been working with the Russians to find a text which everyone could agree to, but they had not been able to reach an agreement.

``Unfortunately the Russian Federation was not in a position to accept the minimum that this commission must ask for when seriously addressing human rights and international humanitarian law in Chechnya,″ he said.

The Russian spokesman criticized the resolution, saying it was an ``anti-Russian initiative″ that had come at a time when the human rights situation was improving in Chechnya.

The resolution gave ``a false picture of the human rights situation in Chechnya and takes no account of the threat from terrorism to Russian and other countries,″ he said.

The resolution urges Russia to set up a national commission of inquiry and asks a series of U.N. human rights experts to undertake missions to Chechnya ``without delay.″

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