On April 18, Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, charged that European institutions have been inefficient in defending civil liberties in Russia despite the countless monitoring bodies that have been set up solely for this purpose and cited Chechnya as the prime example of this problem. According to the Associated Press, Roth told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France, that while the council can order Russia to amend its laws to prevent human rights abuses, it has no efficient follow-up mechanism to enforce sanctions on Moscow in the case of continuing violations. “The clearest example is the Council of Europe’s striking failure to respond effectively to the continuing, pervasive impunity for grave human rights violations in Russia’s Chechnya,” he said. “The problem cannot be chalked up to a lack of information about conditions on the ground. A range of Council of Europe bodies have extensively documented atrocities in Chechnya…Shockingly, Russia has faced no adverse consequences.”
AP noted that the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee said in a report earlier this year that Chechnya continues to be plagued by torture and unlawful detentions, with human rights violations rarely investigated (Chechnya Weekly, March 15). The European Court of Human Rights, which is administered by the council, has blamed the Russian government for the disappearance and presumed killings of several people in Chechnya, and has ruled against Moscow in other cases concerning fighting in the republic during the last 12 years. However, Roth said there has been little concrete action to curb the abuses and blamed the pressure exerted by Russia – a Council of Europe member – and the council’s decision-making system, which requires unanimity to act against any of its 46 members. As AP noted, Russia has faced no sanctions for human rights abuses in Chechnya, apart from being ordered to pay several hundred thousand dollars to relatives of some of the victims. The news agency quoted PACE Chairman Rene van der Linden as saying that while the council has no permanent presence in Chechnya due to security concerns, monitoring of the province continues from the outside. “I cannot accept that this has to do with pressure from Russia,” he said.