Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 11

The Russian delegation to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly received another reminder on March 31 that at least some members of that body will continue asking tough questions about human rights in Chechnya despite the recent resignation of Britain’s Lord Judd. Germany’s Rudolf Bindig, for one, did not back down from his recent proposal for an international tribunal to try perpetrators of atrocities on both sides (see Chechnya Weekly, March 6, 2003). More than that, Bindig reinforced the proposal with a new addendum to a report of the human rights committee which he chairs.

Bindig’s addendum was, in essence, a response to a letter received on March 3 from Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for human rights in Chechnya. Bindig used language strikingly blunt by diplomatic standards: “I have analyzed the contents of this letter, and I must admit that it does not change my general appreciation of the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic.”

Bindig noted that, according to the Russian official’s own figures, “last year nearly two persons went missing per day in the Chechen Republic–a worryingly high figure, which clearly shows how far removed from normality the situation in the Republic remains.”

In addition, the data provided by Sultygov indicated that his office had transmitted to military prosecutors some 385 cases of alleged offenses by Russian servicemen against Chechen civilians–but that only nineteen of these 385 cases had reached the courts. Bindig commented: “This means that the ‘success rate’ (measured as the percentage of cases which are referred to military courts for examination on the merits) lies at about 5 percent, which must be a discouragingly low figure for victims of such crimes.”

“In fact,” concluded Bindig, “the information provided by the deputy prosecutor general is depressingly familiar. Basically, the investigations are continuing in all these cases, but have, so far, not produced any results….I am glad that the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation ‘shares the concerns expressed over the progress and outcomes of the investigation into the above-mentioned cases and is taking the relevant statutory measures to solve the crimes in question and to complete the investigations.’ However, I must repeat that these investigations–some of which have been running for over three years now–cannot be called effective (I refer to the case-law of the European Commission on Human Rights), especially also in view of the wealth of information provided to the prosecutor’s office by the victims themselves (or their relatives), and national and international NGOs.”

In light of “the Russian judicial and prosecutorial failure to bring to justice those responsible,” Bindig reiterated his suggestion for an international tribunal “to deal with the worst of these crimes.”