MSF Denounces Politics of Terror On Civilian Populations of Chechnya

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Calls on European Council Member States to Take Issue to the UN Security Council

Brussels, November 22, 2000 — The international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today issued a public report addressing the consequences of the policy of terror by the Russian federal troops on the civilian populations in Chechnya. These include: arbitrary executions, cleansing operations; arrests and disappearances, extortion and a racket in corpses. The report, "Chechnya: The Politics of Terror," was issued to coincide with a public hearing this morning, given by the organization to the Political Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe.

300,000 people are currently refugees or displaced by the Chechnya crisis. Medical data prove that the indiscriminate use of force always creates high numbers of civilian victims. The wounds are a result of artillery fire, bullet wounds, aerial attacks or land mines. Between September and October 2000, over 280 fresh war wounded were treated in twelve to thirty still functioning hospital structures.

The war continues in Chechnya, despite the illusion of normalization given by the Russian leadership. People are forced to live in a ghetto, which locks them into a deadly day-to-day, face-to-face confrontation with the Russian army. They cannot move freely, and the wounded and sick are prevented from passing the military barriers. As soon as civilians move, as they are treated as suspects, staying alive turns into a game of "Russian roulette."

"These military operations and acts of violence committed against individuals are like a collective punishment, which turns each and every civilian into a suspect and a potential victim," said Loick Barriquand, MSF desk officer for Chechnya. "This unrelenting terror in Chechnya is worsened by the massive humanitarian needs in Chechnya, to which there is little response," he concluded.

In the absence of consistent international reaction and of sanctions against the perpetrators of the crimes, not only are Chechens lacking all forms of protection and of recourse, but they are also only receiving inadequate assistance.

None of the member states of the Council of Europe, or indeed on the part of any other state, have raised any opposition to the violence perpetrated against civilians. The only international instance, which resulted in concrete measures, was when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided to suspend the right to vote of the Russian Delegation.

MSF today denounced the massive aggressions and the policy of terror towards the civilians of Chechnya. The daily violation of their fundamental rights, including freedom of movement, also prevents them from having full access to what little humanitarian or medical assistance is available.

MSF calls on the Member States of the Council of Europe to raise the suffering of Chechnya with the European Court of Human Rights and the Security Council of the United Nations, so that they take on their roles and responsibilities.