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Russia: Foreign Ministry Says War Crimes Tribunal For Chechnya 'Absurd'

Moscow, 5 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry today dismissed as "absurd" a proposal by the Council of Europe to set up a war crimes tribunal for Chechnya. Interfax quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevgeny Voronin as saying no one can deprive Russia of its right to enforce its own legal system on its own territory. Voronin added that the proposal is "openly anti-Russian," and does not account for what he called progress in finding a peaceful solution to the Chechen conflict.

The Council of Europe yesterday said it will consider the proposal to establish a war crimes tribunal for Chechnya during its plenary session starting 31 March. The proposal suggests modelling the tribunal on the UN war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia. The proposal also says that both Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters commit abuses amid "a climate of impunity."

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Chechnya, including many civilians, since the second conflict between Russian forces and Chechen rebels began in 1999. Human rights organizations have accused the Russian military of committing major human-rights violations against civilians in the course of fighting the war.