Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 43

On November 26 in Strasbourg, a “roundtable” devoted to problems connected with the defense of human rights in Chechnya and sponsored by the Council of Europe got underway. Among those invited to participate in the roundtable were representatives of the human rights organizations Memorial and Civil Assistance, several deputies of the Russian State Duma and representatives of the Chechen diaspora. The pro-Moscow Chechen civilian administration, representatives of the Russian Procuracy and officials of the Russian presidential Southern Federal District also took part, as did the previously mentioned presidential human rights representative Vladimir Kalamanov. The direct organizer of the seminar was the Commissar for Europe for Human Rights, Alavaro Gil-Robles, who expressed himself in favor of maximal participation in the round-table by all political and social circles in Chechnya. Key issues to be discussed during the “roundtable” were the fate of displaced persons in Chechnya, the prospects for a peace settlement and the economic situation the republic. It was also underlined that “tens of thousands of [Chechen] refugees are presently living in tents while awaiting their third winter of the war” (Vremya Novostei, November 27).

Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow civilian head of Chechnya, flew to Strasbourg for the roundtable and for talks with Walter Schwimmer, secretary general of the Council of Europe. In his comments, Kadyrov “pointed out that amongst many challenges in Chechnya, two might have a key role in generating more positive [momentum]: improvement in the record of behavior of the Federal Forces toward the civilian population [which would] stem the inflow of fresh rebel recruits motivated by revenge; and reconstruction and creation of employment [which would] attract refugees to return to their homes.” In his remarks, Walter Schwimmer “again stressed the Council of Europe’s priority in ensuring proper follow-up, by the [Russian] Military Prosecutor, of applications brought to the Office of the Russian President’s Special Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya” (Council of Europe Press Release, November 28).

In an open letter sent on November 27 to Alvaro Gil-Robles in his capacity as European human rights commissar, Akh’yad Idigov, chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen separatist parliament, discussed the reasons why the separatists were not participating in the Strasbourg “roundtable.” Officials appointed by Moscow, he emphasized, should not be viewed as “representing the entire Chechen people.” They should not be taken as substitutes for the legitimate separatist Chechen parliament which was popularly elected in 1997. The decision not to participate in the “round-table,” Idigov underscored, should in no way be seen as a repudiation by the separatists of the quest for a peaceful resolution to the conflict (, November 27).

On November 30, it was announced in Strasbourg that members of the Joint Working Group on Chechnya–a body that brings together deputies of the Russian State Duma and parliamentarians of the Council of Europe–were to visit Chechnya, Ingushetia and Moscow on December 2-6. The joint group was to be headed by Lord Judd (United Kingdom) and Dmitry Rogozin [Russian State Duma] (Council of Europe Press Release, November 30).