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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release March 2, 2000


Washington, DC -- Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky's account of his captivity and torture in Chechnya is profoundly disturbing to anyone who cares about democracy, freedom of the press, and rule of law in Russia.

Babitsky described a situation at a camp in Chernokozovo as "everything we read about Stalin's concentration camps" -- including greeting every new arrival with "a few dozen blows of a truncheon," spraying tear gas into cells, humiliating prisoners, torturing women, and beating the teeth out of one man -- as other prisoners listened.

We accept Russia's obligation to fight terrorism and defend its territorial integrity. But Russia also has an obligation to meet international norms of human rights. If the Moscow authorities did not know about this situation, they do now. And now that they know about it, they should end it.

The story of Andrei Babitsky is seen around the globe as a measure of freedom of the press and strength of democracy in Russia, and I urge the Russian authorities to honor an essential obligation of a democracy: to preserve the safety and protect the rights of Andrei Babitsky and others like him, who take risks to report the news so that citizens can honestly evaluate the actions of their leaders.

Freedom of the press is cherished in America, but it is not made in America. It is not a western value; it is a universal right. To deny that right diminishes the Russian leadership and Russian democracy in the eyes of its people and in the eyes of the world.

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