To the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:

The recent terrible events in the United States must in no case be allowed to serve President Putin as a pretext to justify his policy in Chechnya. This policy, which he pursues in the name of fighting against terrorism, aims essentially at the civilian population and already has thousands of victims to its credit. Any attempt by the Russian President to use the American tragedy to rally the international community behind his policy must come to nought.

The "second Chechen war" has been going on for two years, with catastrophic consequences for civilians. The NGO's which manage to conduct research on the ground, daily denounce serious and massive violations of human rights. Here are just some examples:

On May 17, the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des droits de l'Homme (FIDH)* observed : "The civilian population of Chechnya continues to be the target of cleansing operations and reprisals - the closing of villages, arbitrary arrests, systematic racketing for the ransom of detained persons, summary executions . notably in Alkhan-Yurt, Alkhan-Kala, Argun and Staraya-Sunja.

"Human Rights Watch*, on July 6, noted that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chechen men were held prisoner by Russian troops who subjected them to torture, maltreatment and extortion.

The Russian Centre of Human Rights, Memorial*, describes "cleansing" operations (zachistka) in the villages of Alleroy, Starye Atagui, Tsotsin-Yurt, Tchiri-Yurt, Chernotechya, Sernoyodsk, Assinoyskaya and the region of Kurchalayevski, thus : "The inhabitants of Alleroy were beginning to starve. The Federal troops stole the stocks of food from the shops, markets and homes. The "cleansing" operation is accompanied by looting, drunken burglaries, arsons. . We were informed that 54 prisoners are being detained in holes at the edge of the village." (24 August 2001).

Amnesty International* reported on 14 August : " During ''cleansing operations'' (in Russian, zachistka) in towns and villages, Russian forces continued to arbitrarily arrest and use disproportionate force against civilians. Most people who were detained during such operations are reportedly beaten or subjected to torture while held in incommunicado detention; bribes are almost always extorted from relatives in exchange for their release. Hundreds of others simply "disappear" in custody. The mutilated corpses of some of the ''disappeared'' and of many other, unidentified individuals have been discovered in more than a dozen dumping grounds throughout Chechnya.".

Secours Catholique / Caritas France, through its humanitarian actions in Chechnya and the neighbouring republics, has born witness to the suffering of the civilian population who are victims of the conflict, whether they remain in Chechnya or live in refugee camps.

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, it is the primary responsibility of the Council of Europe to protect Human Rights and to promote the Rule of Law. You are the guarantors of this institution.

We ask you:

a. to demand that Russia respect the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular by stopping summary executions, forced disappearances, massacres, torture and arbitrary detentions;
b. to suspend the Russian delegation's voting rights again, in view of the lack of progress since the restitution of these rights in January 2001, and to ask the Committee of Ministers to initiate a procedure for Russia's suspension;
c. following the example of the vote of the Danish parliament on 17 May 2001 favouring the instigation of an case against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights, to introduce similar legislation in your national parliament and to encourage your government give it its full support.

22 September 2001

Signed,Comité Tchétchénie de Paris
21 ter rue Voltaire, 75011 Paris

Comité Tchétchénie de Strasbourg
16 A rue Principale, 67300 Schiltigheim

Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme (FIDH)
17 passage de la Main d'Or, 75011 Paris

Secours Catholique / Caritas France
106 rue du Bac, 75007 Paris

Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT)
7 rue Georges Lardennois, 75019 Paris

Comité Tchétchénie Midi-Pyrénées
18 rue de la Mouyssetié, 81160 St-Juéry

Comité Tchétchénie Cher 18
8 route de la Renardière, 18500 Berry Bourg

Comité de soutien au peuple Tchétchène
Les Chemins D'En Haut, Oriol, 05400 Veynes

Comité Tchétchénie Lyon-Rhône
C.C.O.  39 rue Courteline,  69100 Villeurbanne

Mouvement de la Paix
139 avenue Victor Hugo, 93400 St-Ouen

Mères pour la Paix
71 rue Gaston Baratte, 59650 Villeneuve d'Ascq

 * References of quoted material:
AI Index : EUR 46/024/2001 ,