Chechyna Human Rights Abuses subject of NZ - Russia talks

  • Phil Goff
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Foreign Minister Phil Goff condemned actions by Chechnyan terrorists but told Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that abuses of human rights in Chechnya by Russian troops was also unacceptable.

The two Ministers met yesterday for two hours in Moscow to discuss foreign policy issues.

"While our discussions were wide-ranging, the hostage situation in Istanbul clearly gave immediacy to the issue of Chechnya.

"New Zealand has suffered directly from the actions of terrorist elements in Chechnya. Two New Zealanders have been murdered in Chechnya - Red Cross nurse Sheryl Thayer in 1996 and telecom worker Stan Shaw in 1998 – last year another Red Cross worker from New Zealand, Geraldo Cruz, was kidnapped but eventually freed. Three of the hostages in Istanbul were also New Zealanders.

"New Zealand condemns those terrorist actions and will continue to work internationally and with Russia against terrorist groups which threaten and murder innocent people.

"However, I pointed out to Mr Ivanov that New Zealand also has concerns about alleged human rights abuses running into the hundreds, against Chechnyan civilians by Russian forces.

"Those abuses, including murder and rape, must be investigated systematically and credibly in order to establish the truth and identify and bring to justice those responsible.

"I suggested to Mr Ivanov that an independent national commission should be established in Russia for that purpose. Troops in Chechnya should meet internationally acceptable standards of behaviour and there should be mechanisms for ensuring this.

"I also argued, and Mr Ivanov agreed, that only a political and not a military solution could ultimately achieve a lasting peace in Chechnya," Mr Goff said.

Discussions between the Ministers also covered trade issues, disarmament and missile defence, global warming and regional problems in the Middle East, Balkans, Indonesia and East Timor.