The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:
It is decreasingly deniable that Russia's armed forces have committed major abuses -- war crimes -- in Chechnya. The most vivid recent evidence is videotape from a German television network, which shows Russian troops roughly disposing of the handcuffed bodies of executed Chechen fighters. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has just surveyed 326 Chechen refugees in next-door Ingushetia. Fully 44 percent had seen civilians killed by Russian fire. PHR has also compiled firsthand accounts of systematic torture and extortion at the notorious Chernokozovo ''filtration camp,'' where Russian forces send military-age male Chechens and interrogate them about their links to the Chechen rebels. Foreign journalists who have interviewed former inmates have heard similar accounts.
Still, Russia tries to deny. ''Falsification of the year,'' snorted Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky when confronted with the German videotape. He said the offending network should be expelled from Russia. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Russia is a leading member, have been denied access to the battle zone, as has the International Committee of the Red Cross. The only official outside inquiry permitted so far consisted of a single day's visit to devastated Grozny by Alvaro Gil-Robles, head of the Council of Europe's human-rights commission. He was told that his group could open a Grozny office in a few weeks -- though whether anything will remain of Grozny by then is an open question.
The Clinton administration needs to demand greater accountability from the government led by acting Russian President Vladimir Putin. A good place to start would be the March 20 session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
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