MSF condemns Council of Europe's reluctance to censure Russia's conduct of the war in Chechnya

No international institution appears able or willing to protect the fundamental rights of these people.
Paris - Yesterday's (Jan 23) vote by the Council of Europe, approving Russia's conduct of the war in Chechnya, marks the failure of a strategy pursued by this institution for more than seven years. The Council purported, through a policy of cooperation, to integrate Russia into the ranks of democratic states. It is clear that this now includes siding with a state that violates the most basic rights of civilians in a time of war. In its session on Chechnya, the Parliamentary Assembly heard evidence, which painted a sombre picture of the grave and systematic violation of human rights. And yet the Assembly's only response was to "call on the Russian authorities to cooperate with all the bodies of the Council of Europe". MSF is dismayed at the weakness of the 'pressures' that this institution - which is supposed to enforce respect for human rights on its 43 member states - seems ready to exercise on Russia. MSF's evidence to the Parliament demonstrated clearly that civilians in Chechnya live under a reign of terror, in a prison-like environment characterised by arbitrary rules and daily violence. Those conditions are causing large numbers of civilians to seek refuge in neighbouring Ingushetia, where between 20,000 and 50,000 of them have not even been officially recorded. They are then housed in squalid, inhumane conditions. The lack of help and care for these people is combined with direct threats to try to drive them back to Chechnya. No international institution appears able or willing to protect the fundamental rights of these people.