ICJ condemns Russia’s revanchist war in Chechnya

Today, the ICJ firmly condemned the use of force by the Russian army against civilian targets in and around Grozny, in Chechnya.

So far it has resulted in an undisclosed number of civilian deaths and an estimated 160.000 persons having to seek refuge mostly m the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia.

By bombing civilian targets, the Russian army violates the right to life of unarmed civilians. International humanitarian law provides that non-combatants are protected and that there can be no justification whatsoever for the use of force against them. Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions provides: “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities … shall in all circumstances be treated humanely…” Article 3 also expressly prohibits “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture…”

The ICJ notes with concern that the Russian government seems committed to destroying Chechnya’s infrastructure, including residential areas and villages, on the suspicion that it might have been Chechens who bombed apartment blocks in Moscow last month. This amounts to collective punishment against the Chechen community. Such collective punishments are illegal under international law. While it is a priority for Russia to take action to preserve the security of its citizens, such action must remain, at all times, consistent with Russia’s obligations under international law.

The ICJ firmly condemns the numerous cases of police harassment and human rights abuses against persons from the Caucasus throughout the Russian Federation reported by its Moscow-based affiliate, the International Protection Center. According to Ms. Karinna Moskalenko, the Center’s Director, the entire Chechen population in the Federation is being subjected to harassment and discrimination. The ongoing police campaign is motivated more by a penchant for base retribution than by justice and policing.

The ICJ calls upon the Government of the Russian Federation to refrain from the use of indiscriminate force against civilians, to bring the actions of its agents into conformity with international standards, and to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The ICJ urges the Government of the Russian Federation to put an end to unjustified and unlawful arrests, detention, deportation, harassment, and discrimination against innocent Chechen civilians. Such actions are in blatant violation of the Russian Federation’s international obligations and in particular of the European Convention on Human Rights ratified by the Russian Federation.

The ICJ urges the Government of the Russian Federation to ensure unimpeded access by the UNHCR, the ICRC, and all other humanitarian organisations in Ingushetia, to all refugees and internally displaced persons.

The ICJ calls upon the international community to exert maximum pressure on the Government of the Russian Federation to avoid further unnecessary bloodshed in Chechnya.

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