Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 3

On January 14, two monitors from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Lord Frank Judd of Great Britain and Rudolf Bindig of Germany, flew from Moscow to the North Caucasus region to assess Russia’s human rights record in Chechnya. On January 22-26, the two monitors are to deliver reports concerning Chechnya at the assembly’s winter session in Strasbourg which will debate, among other items, whether to reinstate Russia’s voting rights, suspended in April 2000 due to alleged large-scale human rights violations committed during the present conflict.

Judd and Bindig met on January 14 in the southern Russian city of Stavropol with President Putin’s special human rights envoy, Vladimir Kalamanov. On January 15, the second day of the four-day mission, the monitors, accompanied by Kalamanov, visited a Chechen refugee camp in Znamenskoe, located in northern Chechnya close to the Terek River. According to press reports, Kalamanov was mobbed by angry Chechen refugees who demanded medicine, food and clothes. The camp’s director, Zora Tataeva, informed the monitors that there was widespread illness among the camp’s 2,400 residents. “We have not,” she underscored, “received the medicines we need. Forty percent of the refugees here are sick. Many of them suffer from tuberculosis.”

“We also, Tataeva went on, “need winter clothes. Some of the children here cannot go to the village school because they do not have anything to wear.” Questioned by Judd, Tataeva explained that refugees who fell ill could not be sent elsewhere for necessary treatment because there was no funding. Some of the refugees told an Agence France Presse journalist that many of the camp’s children were going hungry because there wasn’t enough food, but Tataeva denied this claim. “We haven’t received any bread for two weeks,” one woman in her forties complained, but she declined to give her name “because she said she was afraid of official reprisals for speaking out” (Agence France Presse, January 14-15). On January 17, the two PACE monitors were scheduled to meet with officials of the Russian interior and defense ministries in Moscow.

On January 8, three former high-ranking American officials, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., and Max M. Kampelman, sent an open letter to Lord Russell-Johnston, president of PACE, in the name of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, an organization including some 100 distinguished U.S. citizens, calling for “a stronger response to the disaster in Chechnya.” After receiving reports from its monitors visiting Chechnya, PACE, the authors urged, should “renew its efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

On January 11, the general secretary of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Jan Kubis, stated publicly that he hoped that the OSCE’s mission to Chechnya would soon be able to return to the field. At an OSCE heads of state summit held in Istanbul in November of 1999, Russia had pledged to permit the mission to return, but that pledge had then been followed by fourteen months of foot-dragging (Agence France Presse, January 11).