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Open Letter to the Council of Europe
Member States Must Recognize the State of War in Chechnya and Demand the Application of International Humanitarian Law
January 27, 2000
January 27, 2000 — For the last six months Chechen civilians have been subjected to relentless indiscriminate bombardments by Russian forces throughout the territory. There is no place in Chechnya today where civilians can be safe either from indiscriminate attacks or the arbitrary rule currently in force in ‘liberated’ zones. Boys over the age of ten are threatened with arrest by the Russian authorities. The nature and scope of military operations prevent all forms of independent humanitarian relief, including the care of wounded, sick and vulnerable people within Chechnya.
The regular and arbitrary closure of escape routes, fear of arrest, the threat of forced repatriation from Ingushetia, as well as the many attacks against refugees and the presence of mines, considerably curtail any possibility of escape for those who wish to leave Chechnya.
Such military operations amount to a collective punishment whereby all civilians are considered suspects. The international community has so far failed to oppose the violence, which Russia claims is justifiable anti-terrorist action. Despite all evidence to the contrary, governments have so far endorsed this fiction, which deprives the population of all rights to protection and assistance.
No government to date has officially recognised the state of war. The UN Security Council has not even discussed the Chechen situation, de facto sanctioning the Russian position.
As the Council of Europe holds its emergency session on Chechnya today, Médecins sans Frontières calls upon Member States to;
We urge you to give these recommendations you most urgent attention.