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Full Text of Helsinki Commission Letter to Powell on UNCHR, Chechnya

April 11, 2003

The Honorable Colin L. Powell
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We respectfully urge the United States to press for the adoption of a strong resolution on the conflict in Chechnya at the current session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. This conflict has resulted in egregious violations of international humanitarian law. Despite concerted efforts by the Russian leadership to portray the situation in Chechnya as approaching normal, the pattern of clear, gross and uncorrected violations of OSCE commitments by Russian forces continues. Of particular concern are so-called “special operations” undertaken by these forces often resulting in disappearances, torture and reported summary executions.

Any resolution in Geneva must take account of these egregious human rights violations while recognizing the sovereign right of the Russian Federation to combat terrorism on its territory. The latter, however, does not justify the kinds of human rights violations detailed in the State Department’s recently released Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. Measures such as the recent referendum on Chechnya’s political future will prove meaningless unless there is a serious initiative by Moscow to end the pattern of abuse in that region. It is essential that the Russian leadership undertake meaningful efforts to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights in Chechnya if it ever hopes to return life in that war-torn region of Russia to normal.

Mr. Secretary, a strong resolution addressing these concerns would be fully in keeping with the principles declared by the President in his National Security Strategy to champion aspirations for human dignity while strengthening alliances to defeat global terrorism.

We urge strong U.S. leadership in Geneva to accomplish this important objective. Sincerely,

BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, U.S.S.
Co-Chairman

CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, M.C.
Co-Chairman

GORDON SMITH, U.S.S.
Commission Member

STENY H. HOYER, M.C.
Ranking Member

BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, M.C.
Commission Member

ROBERT B. ADERHOLT, M.C.
Commission Member

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