Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 41

Russian expert,” who was not named, complained to the official Itar-Tass news agency on November 6 that the Assistance Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which resumed its activities in Chechnya five months ago, “has failed to play a constructive role in the Northern Caucasus.” “Representatives of the OSCE, possibly under external influence, have,” the anonymous expert groused, “failed to change their attitude and to stop picturing the situation, especially its human rights component, negatively.” The OSCE group, he continued his indictment, “is not fastidious about speculations of those who are trying to blacken the Russian servicemen [who are] strengthening the foundation of a new peaceful life in Chechnya” (Itar-Tass, November 7). This report may be a signal that Russia intends to have the OSCE group removed from the republic, leaving the more favored Council of Europe group as the sole Western organization with official representation there.

On this subject, in a recent lengthy report concerning a fact-finding mission it had conducted to Moscow and the Republic of Ingushetia from September 27 to October 7, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee wrote: “The OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya returned to Chechnya ([settlement of] Znamenskoe) on June 15, 2001, after a spell of some years when it was stationed in Moscow. The Group is protected by special forces from the Ministry of Justice (GUN), and for security reasons their movements are severely restricted. The group has visited Grozny once, but has so far been advised against going further south by their guards. Monitoring the human rights situation is part of the mandate of the Group, but it has proved difficult given the security obstacles. It is obviously a problem for a human rights monitor to be dependent on the approval of the authorities for every step he takes outside his office. It may also be difficult to convince the local population of the group’s discretion and good intentions when it is accompanied by a detachment of federal special forces. However, the group cited some examples of its involvement in cases of detention in northern Chechnya that led to the release of detained civilians” (Prague Watchdog, www.watchdog.cz, November 9).