WASHINGTON – Eight Members of the United States Helsinki Commission have written President George W. Bush, urging him to raise specific human rights issues with his counterparts during an upcoming trip through Russia and Poland. The issues include compensation for stolen property in Poland, continuing human rights violations in Chechnya, and Russia’s position regarding the abject human rights situation in the Republic of Belarus.
During a visit to Washington last July, Polish President Kwasniewski assured Members of Congress that a law providing compensation for private property stolen by the Nazi or communist regimes would be ready by the beginning of this year. As there has been no apparent progress in the adoption of such a law, the Commissioners urged President Bush to press Polish officials to move quickly on this longstanding issue.
While recognizing that some terrorist elements continue to operate in Chechnya, the Commissioners also urged the President to raise with President Putin the continuing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Chechnya. “Russia’s legitimate struggle against terrorism must not be a pretext for assaults on the civilian population or the indiscriminate use of force,” they wrote.
In addition, they ask President Bush to urge President Putin to cease liquidating camps for internally displaced persons in neighboring Ingushetia. This could save thousands of internally displaced persons from being forcibly returned to an unstable and insecure Chechnya.
Signing the letter to President Bush were Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Members Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD),Commissioners Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL) and Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN).