Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 22

A Chechen government delegation headed by Chechen President Alu Alkhanov and including the speaker of the lower house of Chechnya’s parliament, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, was set to take part in a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) roundtable meeting in Strasbourg, France, on June 1 on the subject of Chechnya. RIA-Novosti quoted Russian parliamentary sources as saying that the Chechen delegates would seek to convince PACE representatives that future roundtables on Chechnya should be held inside Russia, not outside, thereby enabling PACE, which has often criticized Russia for human rights violations in Chechnya, to “see for itself the positive changes that have taken place in the republic recently.”

Itar-Tass quoted Alkhanov as saying prior to leaving for France that he hoped to persuade PACE representatives to hold a meeting in Grozny so that they could see the “positive changes” that have taken place in Chechnya, including those “ensuring the safety, rights, and freedoms of citizens.” Were they to come to Chechnya, Alkhanov said, the PACE representatives would be able to see how “civil society” is evolving in the republic and to “hear the voice of the people.” Alkhanov said that while in Strasbourg he intended to discuss “the process of the formation of civil society in Chechnya, conditions for the work of human rights organizations there,” as well as measures to fight kidnapping, which, he said, Chechnya’s security forces are devoting the bulk of their efforts to eradicate. “We are open to discussion and interaction with PACE at all levels,” Alkhanov said.

Abdurakhmanov, for his part, said prior to leaving for France that Chechnya’s problems should be discussed in Grozny rather than Paris. “This is the last time I am going to travel to Europe to take part in discussions on the situation in the Chechen Republic,” he told Interfax on May 31. “I am no longer inclined to take part in debates on the situation in Chechnya anywhere outside Chechnya and Russia… Neither Europe nor America has lifted a finger to help the Chechen Republic in anything or provide assistance in solving its problems, in rebuilding its economy, or in creating even a single job. I cannot cite a single example of America or Europe building a school, a kindergarten, or another facility, including hospitals for survivors. The situation in Chechnya today radically differs from what it was five or six years ago. There is absolutely no need to discuss the so-called political situation in Paris or any other European city. The political situation in the Chechen Republic is no different from the situation in other regions of Russia.”

The Associated Press on May 31 quoted Erik Jurgens, a Dutch PACE delegate who has visited Russia to press Moscow to implement verdicts rendered by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, as rejecting Russian accusations that the court is politically biased against Russia. Jurgens also sharply criticized Moscow for rights violations in Chechnya, abuses by its police forces, and infringements of media, social, religious, and minority freedoms. “It is very, very important that security forces are impregnated with human rights thinking, that when they go out and do their work, which is difficult work, they realize that they also have to keep to the human rights convention, especially regarding civilians, who could be victims of what they are doing,” Jurgens said. On May 29, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov accused the European Court of Human Rights of interfering in politics rather than fulfilling solely a legal function.

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel on May 29 quoted Svetlana Gannushkina, chairwoman of the Civil Assistance aid committee, as saying that the employee of the Chechen branch of her organization, Burat Chilaev, and Aslan Israilov, another Grozny resident who was kidnapped along with Chilaev by unidentified men in April (Chechnya Weekly, April 13 and 20), were killed on the day of their disappearance. Gannushkina told the website in a May 26 interview that Chilaev’s father was told by a source in Grozny that his son’s body would be handed over only after he ended his picket demanding “a proper search” for his son and those who kidnapped him.