PUTIN-EU SUMMIT: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST NOT BE 'TRADED' FOR RUSSIAN SUPPORT FOR 'COALITION'

The EU stated on 12 September, following the attacks on New York and Washington, that 'Nothing can justify the utter disregard for ethical values and human rights'. Amnesty International believes that this statement of principles must not now be applied selectively.

Amnesty International is disturbed, for example, by comments made by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during a joint press conference with the Russian President in Berlin on 25 September. Following an announcement that Russia would help arm Afghanistan's Northern Alliance opposition, Mr Schroeder said that 'there must be a more differentiated evaluation in world opinion' regarding Chechnya.

Amnesty International EU Office Director Dick Oosting said:

'A worrying tendency to soft-pedal on human rights in order to foster the broadest possible coalition is now emerging - Russia being one of the clearer examples.'

Amnesty International believes that the 3 October Brussels summit is a key opportunity for EU leaders to make clear their support for universal human rights.

'There is a universal right to justice for innocent victims everywhere – whether they are buried under the rubble in New York, Grozny or Moscow', said Mr Oosting.

The human rights situation in Chechnya remains critical and Russian assurances to the EU and the UN have not been honoured. All parties to the conflict continue to commit serious human rights abuses and breaches of international law, although Russian forces are responsible for the overwhelming majority of physical harm and material damage suffered by Chechen civilians. In particular:

· Russian forces continued at least until August with 'cleansing operations' in towns and villages, arbitrarily detaining civilians and using disproportionate force against them;

· Russian authorities have failed to investigate, or ensure justice for civilian victims of human rights abuses by Russian forces;

· Independent human rights observers still face significant obstacles in gaining access to Chechnya;

· Russia has still not complied with the demand of the UN Commission on Human Rights for accountability and full cooperation with the UN;

· Russia still provides very little assistance for the estimated 150,000 Chechen displaced people currently in the Russian republic of Ingushetia.

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