Mr. WELLSTONE (for himself and Mr. BROWNBACK) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations:
S . Res . 213
Whereas the United States Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights for 2000 reports that the ``indiscriminate use of force by Russian government troops in Chechnya has resulted in widespread civilian casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of persons'';
Whereas the United States Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights for 2000 reports that Russian forces continue to arbitrarily detain, torture, extrajudicially execute, extort, rape, and forcibly disappear people in Chechnya;
Whereas credible human rights groups within the Russian Federation and abroad report that Russian authorities have failed to launch thorough investigations into these abuses and have taken no significant steps toward ensuring that its high command has taken all necessary measures to prevent abuse;
Whereas there are credible reports of specific abuses by Russian soldiers in Chechnya, including in Alkhan-Yurt in 1999; Staropromysloviski and Aldi in 2000; Alkhan-Kala, Assinovskaia, and Sernovodsk in 2001; and Tsotsin-Yurt and Argun in 2002;
Whereas the Government of the Russian Federation has cracked down on independent media and threatened to revoke the license of RFE/RL, Incorporated, further limiting the ability to ascertain the extent of the crisis in Chechnya;
Whereas Chechen rebel forces are believed responsible for the assassinations of Chechen civil servants who cooperate with the Government of the Russian Federation, and the Chechen government of Aslan Maskhadov has failed unequivocally to condemn these and other human rights abuses or to distance itself from persons in Chechnya allegedly associated with such forces; and
Whereas the Department of State officially recognizes the grievous human rights abuses in Chechnya and the need to develop and implement a durable political solution: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that--
(1) the war on terrorism does not excuse, and is ultimately undermined by, abuses by Russian security forces against the civilian population in Chechnya;
(2) the Government of the Russian Federation and the elected leadership of the Chechen government, including President Aslan Maskhadov, should immediately seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict there;
(3) the President of the Russian Federation should--
(A) act immediately to end and to investigate human rights violations by Russian soldiers in Chechnya, and to initiate, where appropriate, prosecutions against those accused;
(B) provide secure and unimpeded access into and around Chechnya by international monitors and humanitarian organizations to report on the situation, investigate alleged atrocities, and distribute assistance; and
(C) ensure that refugees and displaced persons in the North Caucasus are registered in accordance with Russian and international law, receive adequate assistance, and are not forced against their will to return to Chechnya; and
(4) the President of the United States should--
(A) ensure that no security forces or intelligence units that are the recipients of United States assistance or participants in joint operations, exchanges, or training with United States or NATO forces, are implicated in abuses;
(B) seek specific information from the Government of the Russian Federation on investigations of reported human rights abuses in Chechnya and prosecutions against those individuals accused of those abuses;
(C) promote peace negotiations between the Government of the Russian Federation and the elected leadership of the Chechen government, including Aslan Maskhadov; and
(D) re-examine the status of Chechen refugees, especially
widows and orphans, including consideration of the possible resettlement
of such refugees in the United States.
Mr. WELLSTONE. Madam President, I rise today once again to draw attention to the suffering of people in
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The war in Chechnya has raged too long, and reports of egregious human rights violations by Russian soldiers continue to increase. Today, Human Rights Watch is releasing yet another report of such abuses, Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances, and Extrajudicial Killings During Sweep Operations in Chechnya. Year after year we receive reports telling the same stories, yet nothing seems to change. Since September 11, Russian officials have argued more vigorously that they are fighting terrorism in Chechnya. Whether the Russian government believes this to be true or not is not the issue. What is clear is that Russia is acting illegally and immorally in Chechnya, and it must stop.
I want to talk briefly about the United States and our relationship to this war. As we increase our cooperation with various governments in the war on terrorism, we cannot condone some of the actions these friends are taking in the name of fighting terrorism.
Russia has been a key member of the anti-terrorist coalition since September 11. It has played a crucial role in our success in Afghanistan. I applaud and support this U.S.-Russian cooperation. But what is happening in Chechnya cannot be justified by the war on terrorism. Russian forces in Chechnya have acted illegally and with unspeakable brutality against the civilian population there. There continue to be credible reports of summary execution, mass detention, rape, torture, forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and looting. The Russian government has so far refused to investigate such reports.
The Russian government believes it is fighting terrorism in Chechnya. In fact, it frequently compares the U.S. war on terrorism to its own efforts in Chechnya. But the world community must remind Russia's leaders that even in a war on terrorism, ends do not necessarily justify any means. A war against terrorism does not permit abuses against civilians. We must remind Russia that the war against terrorism is a struggle for freedom and democracy. Free and democratic nations do not round up boys and beat them so badly that they have to be carried home when the are finally released. They do not torture and rape women. Today as I read the reports of intensified human rights violations on a massive scale in Chechnya, as well as of Russia's refusal to investigate such reports and hold responsible individuals accountable, I have to question Russia's commitment to democratic norms and to internationally recognized human rights standards.
We have a moral duty not only to speak out against Russian atrocities in Chechnya, but also to ensure that we aren't unintentionally allowing them to continue. We must ensure that no security forces that are the recipients of U.S. assistance or participants in joint operations with the U.S. are implicated in human rights abuses in Chechnya. This resolution urges the President to provide that assurance.
It saddens me to speak once again about a war that has now entered its third year. It is a war that has been conducted with such brutality that it has been hard at times to imagine the situation getting worse. Unfortunately, it has gotten worse. The Russian government apparently has intensified its campaign against civilians in the name of fighting terrorism. When I met recently with the Chechen Foreign Minister, he made it clear to me that he believes the post-September 11 period will be remembered as one of the most savage times in Chechen history.
The New York Times reported recently that, according to Chechen police officials, Russian troops are killing civilians in a campaign of executions and looting that takes place alongside military operations aimed at destroying rebel forces. According to the article, Russian units roll into a town during the day to scout neighborhoods for residents who appear to have money or property worth stealing. Then, at night, the soldiers return in their tanks and burst into houses, stealing goods and killing witnesses. In one of the largest of Grozny's four districts, Chechen investigators have documented 17 cases in the last 12 months implicating Russian Interior Ministry troops in killing civilians during such looting.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both documented accounts of terrible human rights violations in Chechnya. Our own State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reports the execution of at least 60 civilians last February in the suburbs of Grozny. It reports torture by police officers using electric shocks. It reports the rape of Chechen women by Russian soldiers. These are reports from 2000. The new report for 2001 will be released soon, and, sadly, no one expects it to be better.
There have been credible reports of human rights violations on both sides of the conflict in Chechnya. I condemn human rights violations by all parties, as does the resolution we offer today. Chechen rebel fighters have increasingly targeted for murder Chechen civilians they believe are cooperating with the Russian government. Human Rights Watch World Report for 2002 reports that Chechen fighters murdered at least 18 leaders of district and town administrations and at least five religious leaders, as well as numerous Chechen police officers, teachers and low ranking officials. There are extremist groups in Chechnya--some with ties to Arab extremist groups and possibly to al-Qaeda. I condemn all acts of terrorism, but what is happening in Chechnya is a human tragedy, and nothing justifies the often brutal use of violence by Russian soldiers there.
Credible reports estimate that the war in Chechnya from 1994-1996 left over 80,000 civilians dead. The State Department cities evidence that the current war has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. There is credible evidence of the displacement of nearly 40 percent of the civilian population, or close to 400,000 people. According to the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, a group committed to finding a political solution to this conflict, a significant portion of the male population between the ages of 16-55 is simply gone.
Doctors without Borders reports that the humanitarian situation for an estimated 180,000 refugees in camps in the neighboring Republic of Ingushetia is deteriorating. The majority of the refugees are living with families, but over 60,000 people remain in tents, empty schools, and factory buildings. Shelter and sanitation facilities are poor, worn out and far below acceptable standards. Sometimes one latrine serves 100 people or more. The government of Russia also refuses to register the refugees, arguing they are economic migrants. Since these refugees are being accorded no legitimate status, they are often unable to get the humanitarian assistance they need. The resolution we offer today urges the Russian government to secure the distribution of humanitarian assistance and to register refugees as required by both Russian and international law.
The government of Russia must work to find a political solution to end the war in Chechnya. In must put a stop to human rights violations by its soldiers, hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions and ensure that refugees get the assistance they need. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.
Again, this resolution, which Senator BROWNBACK from Kansas and I submit, urges the Russian Government to seek to negotiate a settlement to the conflict there. This deals with the suffering of the people in Chechnya, and it calls on the Russian Government to end human rights violations by Russian soldiers there, to investigate and initiate prosecution against those who are accused, and to ensure that refugees receive the assistance they need.
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Senator BROWNBACK and I submit this resolution timed with a report that Human Rights Watch is releasing today, which deals with these abuses. The title of the report is ``Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances, and Extrajudicial Killings During Sweep Operations in Chechnya.''
I recommend that my colleagues and their staffs look at this report, which is deeply troubling.
I ask unanimous consent that a piece in the New York Times, written by Patrick Tyler, on January 25, 2002, be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Police in Chechnya Accuse Russia's Troops of Murder
ROZNY, Russia, Jan. 22.--Nearly two years after major hostilities ended here in Chechnya, the devastated republic in the Caucasus, Russian troops are killing civilians in a campaign of executions and looting that takes place alongside military operations aimed at destroying rebel forces, according to Chechen police officials.
Chechen police authorities working under the republic's pro-Russian government said in interviews over the past week that Russian Interior Ministry units, known by their acronym, Obron, have been scouting neighborhoods during mine-sweeping operations for residents who appear to have money or property worth stealing.
At night, the soldiers return in armored personnel carriers, some with identifying markings, and burst into the houses, stealing household goods and killing witnesses. Chechen police investigators say.
In the central Leninsky district of Grozny, skeletal shards of buildings teeter above a landscape of debris that evokes scenes from European cities destroyed in World War II. The rubble now lies sealed under a winter blanket of snow as thousands of Chechen families eke out an isolated existence in bomb-damaged homes.
In Leninsky, the largest of Grozny's four districts, Chechen investigators have documented 17 cases in the last 12 months implicating Interior Ministry troops in killing civilians during looting. One of the most notorious of the units is known as Obron-22, the Chechens say.
But in each case, military and civilian prosecutors have refused to bring criminal cases, the police said. Instead, the prosecutors set aside files as inactive or return them with demands to provide the names of soldiers involved.
``These units burst into people's houses on the pretext of `mopping up' operations and commit murders,'' said Alvi Magomed-Mirzoyev, a police lieutenant colonel who returned to Grozny from Moscow a year ago to lead a criminal investigation department in Leninsky.
In Moscow, the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry and prosecutors were asked to comment on these allegations, but declined.
Chechen police authorities are drawing up a republic-wide list of unsolved killings of civilians in which federal forces have been implicated by witnesses, but which prosecutors have refused to pursue. One senior member of the Chechen administration in Grozny, taking a significant risk, provided documents on 163 such cases compiled under the heading, ``Some cases of detention by representatives of the federal forces of civilians who subsequently disappeared or were found dead.''
``These are the conditions we are living under,'' he said he handed over the document and disappeared into a police headquarters building where Chechen recruits are certified and inducted into a new force.
A typical case in the file is that of Magomed H. Vakhidov, 57, once mayor of Urus-Martan, just south of Grozny. He fled Chechnya when the second war with Russia broke out in September 1999; a year later he sought and received an amnesty to return home.
But at 3 a.m. on July 20, 2001, a squad of Russia soldiers fired smoke grenades into his home and then burst in and arrested him, according to the documents. Russian military authorities denied taking him into custody. On July 31, his body was found in the gardens of a state farm, badly mutilated from torture, electric shock, knife wounds and burns from a blow torch.
Russian officials routinely attribute such killings to ``rebels.'' But, as one Chechen police official noted, ``the rebels do not travel in armored personnel carriers.''
A number of unsolved cases relate to Chechen rebels who took advantage of amnesties issued by Moscow and by Russian military commanders.
In March 2000, after Russian forces had driven rebel forces from Grozny, Roman S. Bersanukayev, 19, turned himself in to the commander of Russia's 245th Rifle Regiment near Martan-Chu, near Urus-Martan.
When his relatives asked the local office of the Federal Security Service about his status, they were given a document showing that no criminal proceedings would be lodged against him. They also received an amnesty certificate signed by the Russian military commandant for the district, Y.A. Naumov. But Mr. Bersanukayev then disappeared from federal custody and is feared dead.
``I am an officer and I took an oath to Russia to uphold the law,'' said Colonel Magomed-Mirzoyev, the policeman, ``but I am sick and tired of being afraid and I hate the lawlessness that is going on here, and I want to do everything I can to bring it to an end.''
On a visit to Paris this month, President Vladimir V. Putin asserted that Russian troops committing acts of violence against Chechen civilians were being held accountable and that judicial and law enforcement organs were functioning normally. ``About 20 servicemen have already been brought to justice,'' he said.
By lending strong support to President Bush's war against terrorism, Mr. Putin has successfully blunted Western criticism of Russian conduct in Chechnya. Several governments have suggested that Russia had more justification for its actions than had been acknowledged.