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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
Redgrave stages Chechen plea
Vanessa Redgrave
Redgrave made an impassioned plea to the crowd
Actress Vanessa Redgrave has launched an impassioned plea for individuals and governments to take more notice of the plight of Chechen refugees.

She asked a crowd at this weekend's World of Music and Dance (Womad) festival in Reading in England to support an Amnesty International campaign to improve human rights in the breakaway republic.

European governments have refused to recognise a Chechen government, despite democratic elections in 1997, she said.

And she read a plea for support from hunger strikers in the country during a 30-minute stage address.


We're in a bad world if our European governments will not recognise a democratically elected government

Vanessa Redgrave
Redgrave, who is a member of the Amnesty International group in Reading, was joined by local Labour MP Martin Salter and Akhiad Idigor, foreign affairs spokesman for the unrecognised Chechen government.

"Why will no government in Europe recognise a government that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Boris Yeltsin recognised as democratically-elected in 1997?" she asked.

Russian torture

"We're in a bad world if our European governments will not recognise a democratically elected government."

The average Chechen had been made a refugee five times in the last two years, she said.

"Russian government forces are continuing to use torture and every kind of illegal weapon, as well as what is called normal military weapons," she told the crowd at the three-day festival.

Akhiad Idigor
Akhiad Idigor: speaks of Chechens' plight
"They've turned the whole of Chechnya into a concentration camp."

Mr Salter promised to take up the issue with prime minister Tony Blair and foreign secretary Jack Straw.

He told BBC News Online that one of the aims of Womad, where more than 60 bands from all over the world are taking to the stage, was to highlight world issues.

"We should recognise that people have a right to those basic democratic freedoms that we take for granted," he said.

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See also:

17 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia wrong-footed on Chechnya
11 Jul 01 | Media reports
Russian media mull Chechnya abuses
11 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia admits Chechnya abuses
10 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia accused of Chechnya abuses
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