Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 15

Yesterday marked the opening of the January session of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). The voting rights of the Russian delegation to the assembly, which were suspended last year on the basis of human rights violations in Chechnya, were not reinstated yesterday, and the issue of whether to lift the suspension is likely to be taken up on January 25, when the European parliamentarians will hear a report by Lord Judd, who headed the PACE delegation that just returned from a fact-finding mission in Chechnya (see Chechnya Weekly, January 17, 23). PACE’s chairman, Lord Russell-Johnston, said that the assembly is more positively inclined toward reinstating Russia’s voting rights, but that it needs to get answers to remaining questions about the human rights situation. Russell-Johnston said he believed that the character of the war in Chechnya had possibly changed but that the conflict was by no means over. His comments were almost identical to those Lord Judd made during the PACE visit to the republic (NTV,, January 22; Nezavisimaya gazeta, January 19).

The Russian delegation’s voting rights in PACE were suspended last April in response to human rights violations federal forces committed in the Chechen military campaign. It is clear that the January 25 session on Chechnya will be stormy. Yesterday, during PACE’s hearings on the issue of press freedom in Russia, Yevgeny Kiselev, NTV television’s general director and host of its weekly news analysis program “Itogi,” said he believed that the Kremlin had organized the Russian authorities’ actions against NTV on the basis of how the television channel covered the Chechen conflict. Andrei Babitsky, Radio Liberty’s former correspondent in Chechnya, charged that the Russian authorities were continuing to limit press freedom in the country (NTV, Radio Liberty, January 22).

There is little question that the human rights situation in Chechnya remains terrible. The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch released a memorandum on January 22 charging that Russian forces, often with little pretext, held detainees in underground pits or oil tanks and subjected them to beatings and sometimes to electric shocks. The memorandum, which was based on nearly 100 interviews with residents of Chechnya, accused troops of extracting bribes from detainees’ relatives in exchange for their release and said that Chechens were often simply murdered and buried in unmarked graves. Human Rights Watch urged the PACE not to restore voting rights for the Russian PACE delegation (Reuters, January 22).