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Russian Woman Receives Human Rights Award for Monitoring Violations in Chechnya - 2004-04-10


A Russian woman who monitors human rights violations in Chechnya has won an award for her work. The award is named after Martin Ennals, Amnesty International's first secretary-general. It is presented in Geneva every year to coincide with the annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Lida Yusupova heads one of the few human rights organizations still operating in Grozny, the Chechen capital. The award was for her work collecting testimonies from victims, and investigating killings and disappearances. She explains how disappearances take place in Chechnya.

Ms. Yusupova says, many cars arrive at a house. Masked men enter and snatch someone, usually a man, and leave. She says most people disappear forever. If someone is found, she says, the body almost always bears marks of having been tortured.

The winner of the Martin Ennals award is chosen by a jury of 10 of the world's leading human rights organizations. It is considered the main award of the world human rights movement.

Amnesty International's secretary-general, Irene Khan, says the award recognizes Ms. Yusupova's tireless efforts in a situation of war and extreme danger, especially for women. She says the Martin Ennals award also helps shed light on what she calls an appalling human rights crisis the world wants to forget.

"I would call it a conspiracy of silence, a conspiracy of silence by powerful governments, who are unwilling to confront the Russian government with its responsibility in this situation," said Irene Khan. "And, a conspiracy of silence that encourages the culture of impunity, within which the serious abuse and violations continue against the Chechen people." Ms. Khan says an Amnesty mission has just returned from Chechnya, deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation there, and worried that the conflict might spread to the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia.

The European Union has drafted a resolution condemning Russian violations in Chechnya to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which has been criticized for ignoring such resolutions in the past.

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