NGO Appeal against the war in Chechnya
Date: December 9, 1999
"ORC" - "Alarm"
President B. Yeltsin
The Coordinating Council of International Human Rights Organizations is writing to inform you, and to express its deep concern, about the latest tragedy that has been played out in Chechnya:
On 3rd December 1999, Russian forces brutally opened fire on a refugee column consisting of a bus and 7 cars, travelling from Grozny to the village of Goity. As a result of this barbaric act, some 50 peaceful citizens were killed, the majority of whom were women, children and the elderly.
In this case, as in other inhumane actions carried out against peaceful citizens (for example the explosion on Grozny market on 21/10/99 which led to the death of about 300 women and children; the killing of a girl in Sleptsovsk; the attack on a refugee column on 29/10/99, which killed over 52 people, including 2 Red Cross employees; the shooting of 3 men and women who were bringing a corpse from Sleptsovsk to Katyr-Yurt on 17/10/99), the story originally put forward by the military was that such action was a response to provocation from Chechen terrorists. However, the federal army allegedly did not control the region at the time of the attack. It is strange that the military is not bothered when the facts undermine their version of events and the world recognizes that they - the Russian military - are the ones responsible for human losses.
The Russian army has confirmed that this tragedy took place on the Caucasian Route, on the way from Grozny to Goity. The day before this tragic event, the mass media reported that, according to commanders on the western and eastern fronts, the Caucasian Route was controlled by the Russian army and Grozny was surrounded. What is more, literally a few minutes after the attack on the refugee column (as reported by Taisa Aidamirova, a refugee), when the bus full of women and children was still burning, Russian soldiers (no longer wearing masks) approached them and offered to give first aid to refugees who were still alive but wounded.
The fighters are better protected from the bombings and artillery fire (in basements, bomb shelters, trenches, dug-outs, etc.) than the peaceful population. The latter are dying both as a result of the bombardment of inhabited areas, and as they flee from their homes in refugee columns to escape inevitable death, driven out by Russian bombings.
In reality, there is no special anti-terrorist operation being carried out in Chechnya, but rather a large-scale war in which peaceful citizens have become hostages to, and are losing their lives because of, both the terrorists and the Russian army. Claims that the war in Chechnya is being fought in the interests of the people, and that they understand this, cannot change the heart of the matter. General Troshev's pronouncement that simple Chechens have at last understood who are their friends and who is the enemy is not indisputable. What is more, every barbaric bombing increases the number of "terrorists" and boosts the ranks of those seeking national vengeance. Does the Russian leadership really not see this, and the international community, which is being called upon to defend the most fundamental human right - the right to life? Is it really not obvious that no amnesties granted to the fighters will help to end the conflict in Chechnya, as long as the mobilization of fighters continues as a result of bomb attacks against peaceful citizens?
We call upon you to take all measures within your power to stop the deliberate destruction of a people, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. Humanity will not forgive indifferent observation of this inhuman action.
On behalf of the following international human rights organizations:
1. International Human Rights Committee A. Betmirzaev
Chairman of the Coordinating Council of International Human Rights Organizations "ORC" ("ALARM") A. Betmirzaev