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Chechnya: Russian ombudsman calls for mass grave probe, backs amnesty

Moscow, 31 March: Russian human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov has called on the authorities to open mass burial sites in Chechnya to identify the bodies and establish the reasons for their deaths.

"It is necessary to open a number of graves in Chechnya and see why the people died, carry out necessary expert examinations, and then bury them as humans deserve," Mironov told a news conference in Moscow on Monday [31 March].

Chechen civilians very often accuse the Russian military of committing crimes for which guerrillas are responsible, and so the opening of mass burial sites in the republic will help discover the truth, the ombudsman said.

Asked by journalists to comment on an initiative put forward by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] member Rudolf Bindig of Germany to set up an international tribunal for crimes committed in Chechnya, Mironov said: "There is no need to set up an international tribunal. There are enough organizations in Russia to investigate crimes committed there," he said.

Mironov also supported an amnesty in Chechnya. "I support the amnesty idea, but it is necessary to properly draw up an amnesty order," he said. He emphasized that the amnesty must concern only those who did not commit grave crimes.

In addition to Chechen guerrillas, Mironov said, amnesty should be granted to servicemen who committed misdemeanours against civilians.

Source: Interfax news agency, Moscow, in English 1237 gmt 31 Mar 03

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