Chechen human rights activist Said-Emin Ibragimov ended his hunger strike in Strasbourg on January 18 after receiving guarantees that the situation in Chechnya would be on the agenda of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly (PACE), Kavkazky Uzel reported. Ibragimov had told the Associated Press a day earlier that he had been on a hunger strike for 39 days to demand Europe’s help in achieving lasting peace in Chechnya and would continue until the chairman of PACE pledged to do more to end the violence in Chechnya. Rudolf Binding, who is the PACE rapporteur on human rights violations in Chechnya, had written a letter to Ibragimov asking him to end the hunger strike. “The disastrous human rights situation in the Chechen republic remains a matter of the highest concern,” Binding wrote. “I will personally continue my efforts to put an end to the unacceptable sufferings of your people, who need human rights defenders to remain alive. So I appeal to you to stop urgently your hunger strike and to restore your forces and energy to help me and your people in this huge task.”
The European Union, meanwhile, criticized Russia over Chechnya, the Associated Press reported on January 18. “The political, social and human rights situation in the Caucasus republic continues to be unsatisfying and, indeed, worrying,” said Hans Winkler, state secretary for European affairs of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency. “The EU continues to have reservations about the human rights situation in Chechnya and calls upon the Russian authorities to give the process more legitimacy and transparency.” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the commission planned to open an office in the North Caucasus, possibly in Vladikavkaz, to be able to better monitor its aid programs for Chechnya.