– RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES REFUSE TO REGISTER DUTCH NGO
Russia’s Federal Registration Service has refused to register the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative, a Dutch NGO that has represented Russians in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, in cases of abuse in Chechnya. The Moscow Times reported on November 27 that the registration service had notified the Dutch organization on November 15 that it had not registered the organization’s representative office in Moscow because of improper paperwork and that the NGO could resubmit its application after making the appropriate corrections. In July, the Strasbourg court ordered Russia to pay 35,000 euros ($45,836) to Fatima Bazorkina, whose son disappeared in Chechnya in February 2000 and who was represented by the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative. The court ruled that Russia had violated her son’s “right to life” and failed to conduct “an effective investigation” into his disappearance. The ruling was the first of its kind, and human rights activists said it could provide impetus for thousands of other Russians to file complaints over disappearances (Chechnya Weekly, July 27).
– PACE DELEGATION VISITS CHECHNYA
A Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation has visited Chechnya and said it will back the idea of holding a roundtable discussion on the situation in Chechnya under certain conditions, RIA Novosti reported on November 26. The delegation’s head, Andreas Gross, the Swiss MP and chairman of the PACE sub-commission on the Chechen roundtable, previously the PACE rapporteur on Chechnya, said during a November 26 meeting in Gudermes with Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov that the idea of holding a roundtable in Grozny made sense, but that it should include both those who believe Chechnya is part of Russia and those based in Moscow, Berlin and Grozny who are critical of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration. The news agency quoted another member of the PACE delegation, Tadeusz Iwinski, as saying: “We visited Chechnya last year and it is possible to say today that positive changes have taken place and progress can be noted” in the security situation in the republic. However, Iwinski also said that Kadyrov had admitted that kidnapping is still a problem for Chechnya but that the problem is being tackled.
– MEMORIAL ISSUES REPORT ON TORTURE
Echoing a recent report on torture in Chechnya released by the Human Rights Watch (Chechnya Weekly, November 16), the Memorial human rights group held a press conference in Moscow on November 22 to present the findings of a report on torture in Chechnya that it had jointly prepared with the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights. Like Human Rights Watch, the Memorial-International Federation of Human Rights researchers found that victims of torture are afraid to speak about it. The joint Memorial-International Federation of Human Rights report found that 143 people have been kidnapped this year, 54 of whom disappeared without a trace. The bodies of eight others were found with signs of torture. According to Memorial, however, the official figures on disappearances are contradictory and incomplete. Memorial board chairman Oleg Orlov said that the number of people who disappear without a trace is half what it once was. “That, of course, can be interpreted as a victory of democracy and lawfulness in the republic,” said Orlov. “But that is far from true. The fact is that nowadays such crimes…are simply retreating into the shadows.”