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    Kremlin angered by war crimes proposal -

    Kremlin angered by war crimes proposal

    The Russian government has registered anger at foreign suggestions that there should be an international role in the prosecution of those responsible for human rights abuses in Chechnya.

    Responding to comments by the Council of Europe and Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the Kremlin angrily denounced all notions of bringing those suspected of crimes in Chechnya to account internationally.

    Almost three years into President Vladimir Putin's war in Chechnya and in the light of persistent reports of gross human rights violations by the Russian forces there, Lord Judd, the Council of Europe's rapporteur on Chechnya, called on the council's parliamentary assembly this week to devise ways of ensuring the prosecution of abusers.

    He further angered the Russians by pushing for A Chechen consultative body including representatives of the separatist leader, President Aslan Maskhadov, who was freely elected but is regarded by Moscow as illegitimate.

    Vladimir Kalamanov, the Kremlin's human rights commissioner for Chechnya, said that Lord Judd was deluding himself that he was the head of the Russian government, and advised him to behave more modestly.

    Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin spokesman on Chechnya, told the news agency Interfax: "Chechnya is not Bosnia or Kosovo and Russia is not the former Yugoslavia . . . The very idea of an international trial, the same as mediation in Chechnya, is senseless and hopeless."

    Three weeks ago Human Rights Watch in New York accused the Russian forces of randomly "detaining, torturing, and killing civilians in a climate of lawlessness" in Chechnya, and the Russian -human rights group Memorial reported 20 "disappearances" of Chechen civilians in December.

    Visiting Moscow this week, Lord Judd said that the next session of the council's assembly should consider ways of guaranteeing the prosecution of human rights abuses in Chechnya.

    Human Rights Watch said the Russian forces enjoyed "carte blanche" for violence against civilians in Chechnya and that Russian conduct was "undermining Russia as a credible partner in the international war against terrorism."

    By Ian Traynor - guardian / March 23, 2002

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