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Chechnya: Russians Refused UN Official Access To Camps

Moscow, 3 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The top United Nations human rights official, Mary Robinson, says Russian authorities refused to allow her to visit sites in Chechnya where human rights violations are alleged to have occurred. Robinson's spokesman (Jose Diaz) said authorities cited logistical problems or continuing military operations as reasons for denying her access yesterday to several Chechen villages and Russian-run detention centers.

Robinson came to Chechnya to probe allegations that Russian forces murdered, tortured and raped Chechen civilians. She has also called for investigation into reports of rights violations by Chechen rebel fighters.

Robinson is due to return to Moscow today.

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly opens a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, today. The week-long session is due to include a debate on the situation in Chechnya and reports of human rights abuses against the civilian population there.

Members of a Council of Europe delegation that visited Chechnya last month alleged that war crimes had been committed by both Russian troops and Chechen rebel fighters.

Yesterday, the deputy speaker of the Russian State Duma lower house of parliament, Vladimir Lukin, said there is a strong chance the Council may suspend Russia's membership or impose other sanctions because of human rights concerns in Chechnya.

The 41-country Council monitors human rights and democracy in Europe.