Russian human rights groups havecensured US President George W. Bush for giving a White House reception to aRussian general accused of serious human rights abuses in Chechnya, demandinghim a clear explanation.
"Was that meeting with Vladimir Chamanov amisunderstanding and a very unfortunate mistake? Or do you believe that ... warcrimes and crimes against humanity may remain uninvestigated, and theperpetrators may go unpunished?" said an open letter signed by leaders of13 Russian human rights groups, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters Friday,April 6.
Bush met General Chamanov in March as part of aUS-Russian commission on missing soldiers.
Chamanov has said his meeting with Bush wasorganized by the White House.
His March 27 visit lasted 10 to 15 minutes and"George Bush said he was satisfied with our commission's work,"Chamanov said, adding that
The groups said Bush, in receiving Chamanov,appeared as if he was endorsing his atrocities against Chechen civilians.
"Whether you wanted it or not, theinternational community received a signal that the leader of a world power ...welcomes a general who is allegedly responsible for war crimes."
Signatories of the letter included several prominentRussian human rights campaigners.
One of the signatories, Tatyana Lokshina, met Bushand told him about rights abuses in
International human rights watchdogs had said in ajoint statement that rape, torture and extrajudicial executions by Russiantroops have become everyday occurrences in
Thousands of Chechens have also been abducted andnever seen again.
A White House spokeswoman said it was"unlikely" Bush would have met Chamanov if he had known about theabuse allegations. But the rights groups did not buy this.
"The rather vague apologies of the White Housedon't seem sufficient in such a grave situation. We hope to hear your ownexplanation," they said in their letter.
"The White House's superficial excuses are insufficientin this serious situation."
The letter said Chamanov "has become the symbolof serious and massive human rights violations."
Human Rights Watch has said the general was"implicated in serious human rights violations, including the murder of civiliansin the villages of Alkhan-Yurt in 1999 and Katyr-Yurt in 2000... and thetorture of prisoners in 2000."
In Alkhan-Yurt, southwest of
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