Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 47

Russia is unhappy about the draft report prepared by a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) concerning the human rights situation in Chechnya. Entitled “Violations of Human Rights in the Chechen Republic,” the report was compiled by a member of PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Rudolf Bindig, who is a deputy in Germany’s Bundestag. In an interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta published on December 14, Bindig said that based on his own observations on the ground in Chechnya, kidnappings and murders continue in the republic and the federal Prosecutor General’s Office has shown little evidence of urgency to solve these crimes. “I recorded around 100 cases of serious human rights abuses that took place over the last one-and-a-half to two years,” he told the newspaper. “My task is not to analyze political developments in Chechnya. I concentrate on violations of human rights. All of my data is based on information received from primary sources. We emphasize that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is deeply troubled by the serious human rights abuses that now, as before, are occurring in large numbers in the Chechen Republic—and, in a number of cases, in the neighboring republics. All of this is taking place in an atmosphere of impunity. We, the PACE deputies, are criticizing the situation in Chechnya.”

Valery Grebennikov, deputy head of the Russian delegation to PACE, told Itar-Tass on December 14 that the PACE draft report fails to take into account the latest changes in Chechnya and, in particular, the holding of parliamentary elections there. The report, he said, has nothing to do with human rights and is based on “hollow statements” that are unconfirmed. “We are not refusing to cooperate with PACE, but our readiness is constantly coming up against a desire to make more and more accusations against Russia,” Grebennikov said. “There are certain forces in Europe that find it convenient to see Russia as a permanently guilty party, to make it into a kind of whipping boy and in the final analysis to place it in a position of dependence. In this situation it will be easier to gain not only economic, put also political concessions from it [Russia]. If PACE persists in its constant, unproven and groundless accusations about Russia being unconstructive [and] violating human rights, then the Russian Federation will reject the very idea of cooperating with European parliamentarians and Council of Europe institutions not only where Chechnya, but also other issues are concerned.”

Leonid Slutsky, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, denounced not only the report, but Bindig himself. “I call him our implacable opponent,” Slutsky told Novye izvestia in an interview published on December 14. “His mandate in PACE expires in January; I am speaking about it without any malicious joy. During the time of our cooperation with the Council of Europe, many have taken a constructive approach toward work with the Russian delegation on the Chechen dossier; they were more ready to help us than to criticize. Unfortunately, Bindig is a stranger to such an approach.” In response, Bindig said he could not understand why Slutsky had such an opinion about him—adding that it might be related to the “internal political situation” in Russia—and denied having anti-Russian feelings. He also predicted that a majority of PACE’s deputies would support his findings.

Meanwhile, the separatist Chechenpress news agency reported on December 14 that a group of Chechen NGOs had come out in support of an appeal by the International Association for Peace and Human Rights calling on PACE to take measures to stop the war in Chechnya, to recognize that gross violations of human rights and freedoms have occurred there and to take legal action in response to these violations. The NGOs – including the Peace and Freedom Association, the Association of Chechens in France, the Society for the Protection of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, and the Sintem (a Chechen word meaning “composure”) public organization – said they would join in a hunger strike called by the president of the International Association for Peace and Human Rights, former separatist minister of communication Said-Emin Ibragimov.

Earlier, several Russian and international human rights groups—including Memorial, the Helsinki Federation, the Russia-Chechen Friendship Society and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights—signed an open letter concerning Chechnya addressed to the British government as president of the European Union, MosNews reported on December 8, citing Reuters. The open letter accused the EU of “whitewashing reality” by giving an optimistic assessment of Chechnya’s November 27 parliamentary election. “By failing to confront the grave and systematic human rights abuses … and ‘welcoming’ the elements of the manipulated and dangerous ‘political process’ contributing to the present crisis in Chechnya, the UK Presidency of the EU doesn’t hold up to its commitments,” the letter read. “This statement not only contradicts the evidence assembled by the Russian and international human rights community … but also calls the EU’s commitment to human rights, democracy and rule of law into question.”