WASHINGTON –The Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), today condemned the announcement by the Russian military that it would keep in custody all Chechen males, ages 10 to 60 years old, to check their alleged associations with guerrilla groups. Russian guards have sealed off the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia and are preventing men and boys from joining their families in returning to their homes.
“This policy is simply inhumane and underscores the brutal strategy that Russia has followed toward the non-combatant population all along,” said Chairman Smith. “This inhumane and shortsighted response promises to fuel the mistrust Chechens have towards Moscow and may well contribute to hardening further the resolve of the Chechen population. I urge Moscow to countermand this decision, heed the advice of the international community, and enter into good-faith negotiations with the legitimate political representatives of the region before it’s too late.”
The second Chechen war of the decade has created more than 200,000 internally displaced persons who have fled from northern Chechnya primarily to the region of Ingushetia west of Chechnya. The Ingushetia government has criticized this latest policy of detaining Chechen males. Smith continued, “We know even from the scant reporting on the situation that the Russian military has inflicted major abuses against the civilian population in Chechnya. The Russian Government seems to have instituted the reverse of the Hippocratic Oath: ‘Do all the harm you can.’”
On November 16 of last year the House of Representatives passed a resolution expressing concern for the situation in Chechnya and urging all sides to negotiate. Two weeks earlier, on November 3, the Commission held a hearing during which a panel of experts testified on the growing threat to the civilian population of Chechnya. At the Istanbul Summit of the OSCE, Russia tentatively opened the door for OSCE involvement in resolving the conflict.