Policy Memos

Human Rights Violations in Chechnya: Implications for Western Assistance to Russia

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Complaints of human rights violations by Russian authorities in Chechnya are now rampant. In early March 2000, Human Rights Watch representative Peter Bouckaert testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he and his coworkers had conducted over 500 interviews with Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, finding evidence of widespread arbitrary arrests, beatings, and military targeting of civilians by Russian forces. Bouckaert also said that Human Rights Watch had documented three large-scale massacres of Chechen civilians by Russian troops, including two in districts of Grozny and one in the village of Alkhan-Yurt. The arrest, detention, and beating of journalist Andrei Babitsky added fuel to the fire of those calling for a Western response to these reports of atrocities.

Russian authorities deny many of these accusations, and proof is often difficult to establish in war zones where freedom of the press is absent. In some cases, Russian authorities have promised to investigate the claims and punish wrongdoing by troops, although Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have expressed doubts about the thoroughness or objectivity of such investigations. While the pattern of violations appears strong, it is hard to force Russian authorities to admit to its existence. [...]

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About the author

Professor; Chair of the Political Science Department
Barnard College, Columbia University