January 20th 2003 · Prague Watchdog / Timur Aliyev · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

Chechen human rights activists oppose referendum on Chechen constitution

Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus – A group of representatives of Chechen human rights organizations came out against holding a referendum on the Chechen constitution. This announcement was presented at a conference of civic organisations in Nazran on January 18.

At the meeting, attended by about 40 representatives of non-governmental organisations from Chechnya, two key issues were discussed: “Referendum in the Chechen Republic – suppression of the will of the people or free expression of the will of the people?“ and “Seeking ways for the implementation of a democratic approach to solving the conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic.”

“For the Chechens the war means mainly mop-up operations and bombardment, rather than armies in trenches,” says chairman of the Anti-war Congress Salambek Maigov. “And our primary task is to bring it to an end. However, by methods such as a referendum you cannot decide on the issue of terminating military activities in Chechnya.”

“We understand that by our boycott we cannot stop the referendum, but it will discredit itself when half a year after the announcement of stabilisation of the situation in the republic people will see that nothing will have really changed,” says Maigov.

Instead, human rights activists supported an alternative project presented by the chairman of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation Ruslan Badalov, to carry out a referendum among Russian citizens on whether to continue or stop waging military activities in the Chechen Republic. Ruslan Badalov was given the task to set up an initiative group for advancing this idea.

The human rights campaigners also supported an initiative presented by Lema Shakhmurzayev, the organiser of the conference and chairman of the political coalition “National Unity”. In order to settle the military conflict in the Chechen Republic, Shakhmurzayev proposed they should approach Aslan Maskhadov and Vladimir Putin with a suggestion of holding peace talks.

“The main subject of controversy between the two fighting sides is the issue of the status of Chechnya,” claims the activist. “Limited in their activities by the fundamental laws of the country, Maskhadov and Putin have no legal basis for solving this issue. However, they may forward it to the Chechen people, so that by means of any democratic procedure they could decide on the issue of their own sovereignty by themselves,” he explains.

Shakhmurzayev sees such a way in a multi-stage election of the National Assembly – a non-governmental body of general nationwide authority, consisting of 200-400 delegates.

“Indirect voting rights and a multi-stage electoral system (or a multi-stage system of delegation) are the only methods suiting the political culture, legal notions and mentality of Chechens,” explains Lema Shakhmurzayev.

According to his plan, the Assembly would then establish a state, give it a constitution, and elect the head of state from the members of the Assembly.

“This would help bring an end to the war in Chechnya as well as save Russia’s face,” says Shakhmurzayev.

According to Shakhmurzayev, he has already reached a certain degree of agreement with a number of Chechen field commanders and politicians.




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