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Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2002


Situation One of Decade’s “Greatest Tragedies” in OSCE Region

(Washington) - Eleven Members of the United States Helsinki Commission have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing their “deep concerns about the terrible conflict in Chechnya” and urging that the “Russian Government take all possible actions to alleviate the situation for the many innocent victims of the brutal violence” in the region.

“We urge you to make a renewed effort to find a political solution to the conflict in Chechnya, as was called for in the final communique of the OSCE’s 1999 Istanbul summit. We ask that all possible steps be taken to reduce the terrible toll of suffering in Chechnya and in surrounding areas. Reports of a high number of civilian casualties suffered during clean up operations (‘zachistki’) are particularly disturbing.”

In the September 16 letter, Helsinki Commission Members call attention to the conflict in Chechnya as “one of the greatest tragedies that has taken place within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) during the past decade.” The Commissioners called upon the Russian Government not to forcibly return thousands of internally displaced Chechen refugees from their safe-haven in a neighboring province.

Signing the letter were Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Commissioner Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Ranking Commissioner Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD). Also signing the letter were Commissioners Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL).

The full text of the letter is available on the Helsinki Commission’s Internet Web site at The Helsinki Commission held a May 9, 2002 hearing examining “Developments in the Chechen Conflict.” An official transcript of the hearing is located on the Internet at

The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Media Contact: Ben Anderson
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Chairman Chris Smith (L), Bill Browder, author of Red Notice, and David Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedom at the McCain Institute. Courtesy of The McCain Institute for International Leadership. (Feb. 2015)