Rights Activists Want Chechen Vote Postponed

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 25

Leaders of Russia’s most prominent independent human rights organizations have proposed that the special election for the presidency of Chechnya, scheduled to take place on August 29, be postponed. As their joint statement of June 15 put it, “the current situation in the Chechen Republic leaves no chances that such elections, if they are conducted within the period indicated in the Constitution of the Chechen Republic, will be freer and fairer than the previous ones.”

The statement was signed by Sergei Kovalev, chairman of the Russian Memorial Society and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Oleg Orlov, chairman of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Center; Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Center and chair of the Civic Assistance committee; Tatiana Lokshina of the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Demos center; and Sergei Davidis of the Antiwar Club. It suggested that Moscow should formally declare a “state of emergency” in Chechnya—which would provide a legal basis for postponing the August special election—and then should use the emergency period “to prepare actual conditions in the Chechen Republic to conduct honest elections there.”

During that period, as proposed by the human-rights leaders, the federal government would announce a broad amnesty to rebel guerrillas, stating specifically that the mere fact of having engaged in combat against federal soldiers would not make one ineligible for amnesty: “The only condition to deny someone such an amnesty is his having committed grave crimes against civilians, prisoners and forcibly kept people….Separatism as such, unless it is connected with violence and propaganda of ethnic or religious hatred, cannot be considered a crime.”

International monitors from both governmental and nongovernmental organizations would be invited to observe the situation in Chechnya, and the state of emergency would be canceled “only when the international observers from the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe, European Union and other major international and inter-state organizations come to a conclusion that conditions for conducting honest elections in Chechnya have been established there.”