Russia is committing war crimes and genocide in Chechnya
By Tilman Zuelch, President of STP International
A memorandum of Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker / Society for Threatened Peoples - International
Chechnya: Genocide is not an internal affair
Since 5 September 1999 Russia has been engaged in renewed aggression against the small Caucasian nation of the Chechen people. Approximately 400,000 Chechens have fled their homes under the onslaught of Russian bombardment, many for the second time in five years. Mosques, hospitals, market places and refugee convoys have all been attacked. According to Chechen government estimates, between 5.9.1999 and 1.11.1999 over 3,000 people were killed by bombs and shells. No-one has counted how many have perished from exhaustion and hunger. By their new war, the continuation of their genocide of 1994-96, the government of Yeltsin and Putin has demonstrated one thing clearly: the Stalinist tradition has survived intact in Russia.
The Chechen people must likewise give up their unlawful practices of hostage-taking and trafficking in human beings and distance themselves from their extremist military commanders. The Society for Threatened Peoples condemns the atrocity of the bombings carried out in Moscow and Volgodonsk, whoever they may have been committed, as well as Russia's terror bombing of Chechnya. Genocide is the most heinous crime of which human beings are capable. This is a matter on which there can be no compromise. Extremists such as Hattab, Raduyev and Bassayev are popular because of the courage they have shown in fighting the criminal activities of the Russians in Chechnya. However they have brought ruin to Chechnya. The Russian human rights activitist Sergei Kovalyov was right when he called for the Chechens to build themselves a humane legal system: "They must renounce the barbaric system of Sharia law. People do not chop hands and feet off."
Most importantly, though, the international community of nations, which intervened in Kosovo and East Timor and put an end to genocide, has given its pledge of support. The pioneering work done by the OSCE in Chechnya in 1996 was remarkable. The inhabitants of Grozny still remember with gratitude how the leader of the OSCE mission, Tim Guldimann, stood by them in adverse circumstances, in the face of the Russian bombing attacks, and organised the democratic elections from which President Aslan Maskhadov emerged as victor.
However, the international community has abandoned Chechnya. Out of consideration for Moscow's shrill cries of protest against alleged interference in its internal affairs the democratic world has made no effort to restore stability in Chechnya and contain the influence of the Islamist extremists. In February 1999 the newly appointed German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, representing the environmental and human rights party, the Greens, responded to Russian protests by abandoning support even for humanitarian projects to assist Chechnya: support for a mine-clearance programme to train young Chechens in the removal of landmines laid by the Russian army at the time of its departure in 1996 and contaminating wide areas of Chechnya's agricultural land, was withdrawn.
The Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, and the government of the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin have no respect for their international commitments under the CFE Treaty limiting conventional ground and air forces, the OSCE Agreement, international humanitarian law - and the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. Russia's war of aggression against Chechnya is not therefore a domestic matter. The European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the UN and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must condemn the crimes being committed by Russia in Chechnya and use all political and economic means at their disposal to bring an immediate halt to Russia's bloody deeds in Chechnya.