U.S., Russia Clash on Human Rights Issues

By Sands, David R. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

U.S., Russia Clash on Human Rights Issues


Sands, David R., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The United States and Russia faced off in a high-profile squabble over deteriorating humanitarian and human rights conditions in Chechnya yesterday after Moscow angrily objected to a meeting this week between U.S. officials and a leading Chechen politician.

Russia's foreign ministry labeled the meeting "totally unacceptable," even as a leading human rights group issued a new report detailing abuses by Russian troops battling separatists in the North Caucasus republic.

State Department human rights and refugee officials met Monday with Seilam Beshayev, the deputy chairman of the breakaway Chechen Republic's parliament. Unlike past contacts with Chechen officials, the meeting was conducted within the department itself.

Sensitive to any suggestion that Chechnya's independence was being accepted abroad, the Russian foreign ministry warned: "We can only consider the meeting with Beshayev as an openly unfriendly step toward Russia which cannot be justified by any internal political motives."

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin brushed aside the Russian complaint, saying Moscow's own crackdown on information about human rights abuses in Chechnya was to blame.

"If the Russian government wants to avoid people seeking out specific individuals to get information, they would be well advised to provide accreditation to journalists to go down there and tell the world what's going on in Chechnya," Mr. Rubin said.

In Moscow, a leading human rights monitoring group charged that Chechen men detained in the fighting were being tortured and abused by their Russian captors.

Human Rights Watch said interviews with refugees detailed "filtration camps" in which more than 1,000 Chechen males held after Russia's capture last week of the capital, Grozny, were being harshly questioned in search of ties to rebel fighters.

"Chechen filtration camps are centers of wholesale abuse and torture," Human Rights Watch's Malcolm Hawkes told reporters in Moscow. …

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