On January 23, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting in Strasbourg, devoted one of the sessions of its five-day winter assembly to the situation in Chechnya. Journalist Anton Chernykh summarized the session’s proceedings on the pages of Kommersant: “Having remarked that there had recently taken place some positive changes in the republic, the deputies nonetheless arrived at the conclusion that, as previously, all is not well with human rights [in Chechnya]. It was recommended to Russia that it enter into negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov” (Kommersant, January 24).
“The main speaker [at the session],” Chernykh continued his account, “was the head of the political committee of PACE, Lord Judd, who shared with the deputies his impressions concerning his recent trip to Chechnya. He admitted that what he saw there did not elicit enthusiasm on his part. Having named among the positive changes ‘the desire of President Putin to begin negotiations,’ Mr. Judd maintained that he possesses ‘direct testimonies’ concerning continuing mopping up operations being conducted in Chechnya. In addition, he expressed regret that the Russian authorities have not speedily investigated facts concerning mass murder. Lord Judd proposed to attract to the Public Consultative Council on Chechnya (an organ created within the [pro-Moscow] government of Chechnya in October which may be considered the prototype of a possible legislative assembly) the largest possible number of various people, in the first instance representatives of the ‘lawfully elected president of the Chechen Republic,’ Aslan Maskhadov. In order to be able to control the peace process, [Judd] proposed the creation of a permanent bureau of the Council of Europe in the North Caucasus.”
The presentations of three other speakers at the session were briefly summarized in the Kommersant report: “[Judd’s] co-presenter, the chairman of the PACE Committee on Legal Problems and the Rights of Man, Rudolf Bindig, painted a gloomier picture…. Then there ascended to the podium the well-known Russian human rights defender Sergei Kovalev [a Duma deputy], who, as is his tradition, harshly criticized the actions of the federal forces in Chechnya. The head of the Russian delegation to PACE, Dmitry Rogozin, did not agree with the previous speakers and graphically explained to the deputies why one could not deal with well well-known [Chechen] field commanders. ‘A wolf can put on sheep’s clothing, but the clothing will not always be able to conceal the wolf’s bared teeth,’ remarked the head of the Russian delegation, who sarcastically counseled those who proposed meeting with Aslan Maskhadov to also enter into negotiations with Osama Bin Laden.”