Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 218

Opening a forum yesterday (November 27) in Strasbourg devoted to the human rights situation in Chechnya, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe’s high commissioner for human rights, said that participants in the meeting, who included officials from Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office and Supreme Court, would try to agree on “mechanisms for protecting human rights in Chechnya” and to outline measures needed to repatriate Chechen refugees. The human rights seminar was in some ways an overture to another two-day Strasbourg forum scheduled to start today. This second meeting will include some thirty representatives from various Chechen organizations, both official and nongovernmental, and the Council of Europe’s working group on Chechnya, which includes deputies from both the council’s Parliamentary Assembly and Russia’s State Duma (Radio Liberty, November 27; RBK, November 26).

However,–official website of the “president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria,” Aslan Maskhadov–posted an article yesterday highly critical of the Strasbourg meetings. It took Gil-Robles to task for failing to invite to Strasbourg officials from the Russian agencies and ministries that have been accused of human rights abuses in Chechnya (apparently meaning the Defense and Interior Ministries and the Federal Security Service, which is in charge of the “antiterrorist operation” in the breakaway republic) while inviting “the main Kremlin propagandists”–Vladimir Kalamanov, who is President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for human rights in Chechnya, and Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s aide in charge of information on the Chechen military campaign. The website suggested Gil-Robles had also invited members of Moscow’s Chechen diaspora knowing they would say nothing against Moscow’s policy in Chechnya. said that by way of protest, the rebel government was cutting off all contacts with the Council of Europe until it changed its policy toward Chechnya and the Chechen people. It denounced the current seminar as “another step in the ongoing policy of genocide by the Russian authorities” in Chechnya (, November 27).

On the other hand, some of the Russian representatives to the human rights meeting in Strasbourg seem to feel the proceedings are stacked against them. One representative, Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Pridinsky, said the Russian delegation had “expressed a wish and readiness for cooperation” but that speeches by some of the nongovernmental organizations had sounded “rather malicious.” He may have been referring to speeches like the one made by Vakha Banzhaev, the head of an association of camp prisoners, who alleged that 78,000 Chechens had been detained in so-called “filtration camps,” 28,500 of whom had been disabled during their incarceration (NTV, November 27).