Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 18

The May 5 issue of Izvestia featured the text of a recent interview granted to the newspaper by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. One of the questions put to the new secretary concerned the U.S. position on human rights, “especially as it concerns Chechnya.”

In his response, Powell noted that President Bush and he were seeking to achieve the best possible observance of human rights throughout the world. In the State Department’s recent report assessing the state of human rights in Russia, he noted, progress had been seen in certain spheres but reports deserving of trust concerning the infringement of human rights in Chechnya had also been underlined. As an example, Powell cited the recent discovery of a mass dumping ground for bodies near Djohar (Grozny) as representing one of a number of disturbing manifestations of a cruel war.

While the international community has recognized the legal right of Russia to defend its territory, Powell went on, it has also stipulated Russia’s obligation to preserve constitutional guarantees and to respect its international obligations in defending the rights of the populace in Chechnya. Numerous reports concerning the disappearance of people, extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and kidnappings for ransom provide serious grounds for concluding that in Chechnya there has been created a culture of impunity. It is essential, Powell stressed, that Russia demonstrate to its own citizens and to the international community that those responsible for such acts will be brought to justice.

Powell concluded his remarks on Chechnya by noting that the UN Commission on Human Rights had recently adopted a resolution concerning Chechnya which called upon the Russian government to create, on a broad basis, an independent Russian national commission to study reports of the infringement of human rights and of violations of international humanitarian law, and to facilitate the visit to Chechnya of special officials of the UN.