LETTER : Inflammatory use of the word genocide

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was surprised to see that Phil Reeves's piece on Medecins Sans Frontieres's report on the bombing and killing of civilians by the Russian military in Chechnya ("Russia is accused of genocide in Chechnya", 19 April) had been given such an unfortunate title.

Our teams in Chechnya have witnessed what they have described as "gross and systematic violations of humanitarian law" by Russian troops, including the use of civilians as human shields, but however repulsive those practices, they do not amount, in our present knowledge, to genocide.

The accusation of genocide should never be used lightly, as it carries exceptional legal and political responsibilities for all members of the international community. All MSF asked G7 governments to do this week was simply to hold the Russian government accountable to the standards of conduct it undertook to adhere to by its membership of the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

The use of such inflammatory language only makes the already dangerous work of our colleagues on the ground even more difficult.

Anne-Marie Huby

Executive Director

Medecins Sans Frontieres UK

London EC1

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