Chechnya: Mary Robinson’s Report

Following are excerpts from the report, delivered on April 5, by Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, after her visit to the Chechnya region between March 31 and April 4 of this year.

On April 1 I traveled to Nazran, the capital of Ingushetia, where I visited the Sleptzovskaya camp for internally displaced persons. I saw the main camp where thousands of people live in tents. I also saw some of the ninety-six railway carriages which house some four thousand displaced persons. One carriage to which I went housed forty-five people from sixteen different families who told me that they had been there for six months. I was approached by many of the displaced persons, mainly women, who were distressed and made appeals for help. They were deeply concerned about what the future holds for them, about missing relatives—particularly those left behind in towns and villages which have been bombarded, and those taken to detention centers—about lack of health care, restrictions on travel, and difficulties with identity documents.

I met President Aushev and heard from him about the efforts his government is making to cope with the flood of IDPs [internally displaced persons] from Chechnya—whose number totals, according to the best estimates, 213,000—and about the severe strains being placed on the local economy and host families.

During my visit to the region I heard allegations of mass killings, summary executions, rape, torture, and pillage. On the evening of April 1, I heard detailed firsthand testimony from witnesses of alleged gross violations of human rights…in Chechnya. I regard these direct accounts and personal testimony as a most significant part of the visit since they bear out the scale and the seriousness of the allegations of human rights violations by Russian military, militia, and Ministry of Interior forces in Chechnya.

For several hours I listened to harrowing accounts from direct witnesses to events. I was given photographs and videotape evidence, and shown the wounds and scars of those who had themselves been injured. The individuals were clearly traumatized by what they had endured, and frightened, but they gave detailed, precise answers to close questioning. They were earnest to be accurate in response to questions, but, of course, the events would need full investigation and verification. I will describe three of these personal accounts, all of which shocked me by what they implied of how the military campaign is being conducted.

I listened to the account of a woman who, with two other women, went back to the Staropromoslovsky district of Grozny on January 21 to check on their houses. She described abuse at checkpoints, insults, ransom extorted, and finally that the three women were blindfolded by troops whom she described as being from the regular army. They were taken to a destroyed house and the blindfolds were removed. They pleaded desperately but the witness described how they shot the first woman and [how] part of her head came off, how they then shot …

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