Verbatim of PACE's debate on Chechnya (part 1)
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A PROVISIONAL VERSION OF THE REPORT OF THE DEBATE OF 23 JANUARY 2002 AT 10 A.M. WHICH MAY STILL BE CORRECTED BY THE SPEAKERS
Conflict in the Chechen Republic
(presentation by Lord Judd of report, Doc. 9319, on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee; by Mr Bindig of opinion, Doc. 9329, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights; and by Mr Iwiński of opinion, Doc. 9330, on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography)
Ms Ragnarsdóttir (Iceland)
Mr Einarsson (Sweden)
Mr Bársony (Hungary)
Mr van der Linden (Netherlands)
Mr Slutsky (Russian Federation)
Mr Jakić (Slovakia)
Mr Serguei Kovalev (Russian Federation)
Mr Rogozin (Russian Federation)
Mr Grachev (Russian Federation)
Ms Zwerver (Netherlands)
Speakers (of the resumed debate):
Mr Gönul (Turkey)
Mr Shishlov (Russian Federation)
Mr Neguta (Moldova)
Mr Andican (Turkey)
Ms Gamzatova (Russian Federation)
Mr Guimond (Observer from Canada)
Mr Zavgayev (Russian Federation)
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The next item of business this morning is the debate on the report on conflict in the Chechen Republic presented by Lord Judd on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee (Document 9319) with an opinion presented by Mr Bindig on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Document 9329) and an opinion presented by Mr Iwiński on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography (Document 9330).
The list of speakers closed at 7.30 p.m. yesterday. There are twenty-eight names on the list, and thirty four amendments and one sub-amendment have been tabled.
We will have to interrupt the list of speakers at about 11.55 a.m. to allow time for the replies to the debate by the Rapporteurs and the Chairperson of the Political Affairs Committee before the statement by Mr Peres at 12 noon. I remind you that votes on the amendments will be held during this afternoon’s sitting at approximately 4.45 p.m.
I also remind you that the Assembly agreed at its sitting on Monday to limit speeches in all the debates today to four minutes.
I call Lord Judd, Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee.
Lord JUDD (United Kingdom). – First, I must express my appreciation of a number of people, including my colleagues on the joint working group and in the Duma, especially Rudolf Bindig and Tadeusz Iwiński for their important work in their specialist fields as rapporteurs; to the Secretary General of the Assembly, Bruno Haller, who has been magnificent in the support he has given to us and the work he has done; to the staff of the Council of Europe on many levels; to their colleagues on the staff of the Duma; to the Council of Europe’s representatives in Mr Kalamanov’s office; and to the Commission on Human Rights, with which we have worked closely in recent weeks.
I have been asked how 11 September affects the situation. My own view is that military action may be necessary after such events, but ultimately the battle against terrorism is won by winning hearts and minds. If we are to win hearts and minds, however severe the provocation, we have to demonstrate in all we do and the way we do it – not least the military action itself – that we are about something that is based on decency, human rights and the protection of the liberty of individuals.
So what is the general situation? I wish that I could be more positive. Frankly, the situation is still far from reassuring. There is a long way to go. In the sphere of human rights, progress is frustratingly slow. Let me give some examples. There is still a failure to distinguish between initiating action to prosecute those responsible for unacceptable actions and bringing such legal action to a conclusion. The number of cases is small, but the number of conclusions is depressingly small. There has been no significant action so far on the mass killings. There is no convincing evidence that when lists of cases have been prepared, those lists have resulted in the level of activity necessary to follow them up. Indeed, I am convinced that we need to produce a new list quickly and to monitor its implementation closely.
In the military sphere, there is still indiscriminate and disproportionate action. It may not be on the same scale as in the past, but it is still happening. When rules are laid down, such as the rule that the prosecutor general must be present when mop-up operations take place, they are honoured more in the breach than in the application. We heard first-hand evidence on that point. I still remain concerned that the counter-productivity of such military action is driving people – the young especially – into the arms of the extremists.
On a humanitarian level, the prospect is depressing, especially in the winter. We hear grave stories about supplies not getting through and Tadeusz Iwiński will say more. There is the task of economic reconstruction with desperately limited resources and with the challenge of corruption on a wide scale and at all levels, which undermines so much that a few are trying to achieve.
Where is the positive potential? First, we have seen what might be described as an atmospheric change. Whereas originally we were met with total denial, there is now a willingness to engage in rational discussion about the situation. Much evidence suggests political pluralism in Russia. There is also the work of Mr Kalamanov and the Council of Europe’s representatives in his team. There is also the initiative by President Putin towards talks. I see that as significantly accompanied by our own action in bringing about consultative meetings with a wide cross-section of people from Chechnya, as well as from Russia, which has resulted in the proposal for a consultative council that can provide space for thoughts on how negotiations can be taken forward. If that consultative council is to be successful, it must have the widest possible representation. It is essential to talk with people with whom it is difficult to talk. Political solutions will not be found by simply talking with those with whom it is easy to talk. I believe that the presence of Mr Maskhadov, the last elected president of Chechnya, or his representatives is absolutely indispensable in that process. We must ensure that that happens. We have also seen the establishment of the Council for the Protection of Human Rights, under the auspices of Mr Kalamanov, and we wish it well, but I hope that it will involve a wide cross-section of people.
Extremists do operate in Chechnya and they have no interest in a rational political solution. There are criminal opportunists, but we would deceive ourselves if we did not recognise that there are people who in the past would have been described as freedom fighters. They are people who, in desperation because they see no avenue for political progress, have taken up arms. Unless those distinctions are kept in mind, we will not make progress. It is clear that the continuing cycle of violence will turn Chechnya into a desolate desert. The fighting has to stop. Therefore, we must call on those on all sides who believe in a political process to lay down their arms. We must insist that as part of that the number of federal forces in Chechnya is reduced and those who remain are based firmly in their barracks.
A generous amnesty will be part of the way forward. There is an interesting inter-relationship between human rights, the rule of law and a settlement. A settlement will not be possible without advances on human rights and the rule of law, but equally the cause of human rights and the rule of law will be advanced by the process of finding a settlement. The two are intimately linked.
We must also step up our humanitarian support and put our money where our mouths are. I know that Mr Bindig has already approached the German Government and I have had discussions with the Department for International Development in London and with the humanitarian organisation Oxfam. I hope that we are all doing the same with our national governments and non-governmental organisations.
The way forward is positive engagement. Positive engagement involves candour. It means telling it like it is. That may be difficult for our Russian colleagues, but in the end it will help them. It means extending our involvement in Chechnya and the Caucasus and remembering all the time that the solution lies in the hands of the people of Chechnya and Russia and their leaders. It is not something that can be imposed by the Council of Europe. We can support the process, but the solution must come from them. We must say, amid all the militarism now abroad in the world, whether we believe in the power of political dialogue or not. I do.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Lord Judd. I call Mr Bindig to present the opinion of the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Mr BINDIG (Germany) said that the conflict in Chechnya was in its third winter with no end in sight. The situation could not be described as one of terrorism. Chechnya wanted self-government, and the government of the Russian Federation was out of line with both international opinion and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Human rights violations continued on both sides. There had been a systematic plundering of villages by soldiers of the Russian Federation. Although human rights abuses continued to be documented, prosecutions were rarely successful, no light had been shed on mass killings, and no-one had been brought to justice. When the committee had visited Chechnya in December, there had been a report of a “mop-up” operation the very next day, which indicated that violations of human rights persisted.
In the course of the political process, human rights should not be ignored. The Russian Federation was duty-bound to ameliorate the situation, as that had been a condition of their joining the Council of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Bindig. I call Mr Iwiński to present the opinion of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.
Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland). – My opinion is based on information gathered from a number of sources. I have also used the findings from my visit to Chechnya and Ingushetia last week. That was my fifth visit to Chechnya in recent years, so I can take a comparative approach.
The humanitarian situation in the North Caucasus continues to be difficult. There are almost 300 000 internally displaced persons. Approximately half of them remain in Ingushetia and 130 000 in Chechnya. Many people are facing their third winter in camps, although fortunately the weather is relatively mild. There is a shortage of warm clothing and shoes, particularly for children. Food is distributed regularly but its quality is often poor. There is sometimes a shortage of medicines, especially antibiotics. A positive development is that the railway carriages used for accommodation in Karabulak and Svernovodsk have now disappeared.
My main message to the Assembly is that the people in refugee camps want to return, but only if they are sure that they will be safe and if security conditions allow. Of course, there must be no forced returns. I visited two camps in Znamenskoye, Severniy and Yuzhniy, where I noticed tangible improvements since my last visit in November 2000 and since Lord Judd's report at the beginning of December last year. New tents arrived before and after the new year to replace the old ones. I was told that people from those two camps who wished to do so would be able to return to Grozny during the first three months of this year.
The authorities estimate that approximately 150 000 to 200 000 people out of the 700 000 living in Chechnya are in Grozny. Less than 30% of that population live as IDPs. The city has two faces: during the day, it is relatively normal, but at night it is extremely dangerous. The socio-economic situation is precarious. The reconstruction of the infrastructure is under way. Bus services in Grozny and the railway connection with Moscow have been restored. Three universities opened last September, but less than 50% of Grozny's children attend school. Let me emphasise again that the precarious security situation is the main reason why people displaced from Chechnya, and in particular from Grozny, are reluctant to return.
In conclusion, there is a real danger of decreasing international donor support for humanitarian operations in the North Caucasus as the emergency situation continues unresolved. That must be avoided and I call on the donors to continue and even to step up their financial support.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you. I call Ms Ragnarsdóttir on behalf of the European Democratic Group.
Ms RAGNARSDÓTTIR (Iceland). – I take the opportunity to thank the rapporteurs for their valuable work on behalf of the Assembly and for the fruitful co-operation with the joint working group.
At the outset, I express my deep reservations about the situation. Although considerable progress has been made on a few specific fronts, the main thrust of our work must be to resolve the plight of the Chechen people, who live in deplorable conditions way below our perceived standards of human dignity. We must not forget what we are advocating and on whose behalf we are undertaking all this work. The Chechen people have been subjected to hardship beyond bearing. That must be reversed before the weight of history, hatred and destruction sets in motion a downward spiral beyond control. In many respects, we have stepped in too late.
The overall situation is far from satisfactory. The Russian authorities must do their utmost to deal with the evident shortcomings and ensure that a lasting solution in Chechnya will materialise. Similarly, all responsible agents in Chechnya, many of which have not grasped the opportunity to put their case before the joint working group, must do everything in their power to facilitate peace. Clear and unquestionable actions and a total commitment to the peace process is needed.
Looking beyond the situation in Europe and further south in the Caucasus, we must recognise that we cannot allow the international community to lose sight of the great problems in Chechnya. Chechnya is our responsibility and we have a commitment to the Chechen people. With reference to Lord Judd's recommendation, I emphasise that there are those who have taken up arms as a result of oppression and frustration, and there are those who have done so for pure material gain. Let us acknowledge that in Chechnya there are fighters who thrive on chaos and despair, and who have nothing to gain from a peaceful settlement. We cannot condemn such operators strongly enough. They have a great responsibility not to sow the seeds of hatred, but to look forward with the Chechen people. Therefore, I insist that the Chechen militants stop all attacks immediately.
The Council of Europe is the only international organisation with a parliamentary dimension present in Chechnya. We must strive towards a political solution and guarantee that the joint working group is allowed to continue its work and that the Council of Europe can continue its valuable work in the offices of Znamenskoye. Hopefully, that will allow us to have a more fruitful debate on Chechnya in April.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Ms Ragnarsdóttir. I call Mr Einarsson on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr EINARSSON (Sweden). – On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, I express our support for Lord Judd, his work and the proposals in his report. When I took part in the joint working group's visit to Chechnya in December last year, it was my first visit to that tormented part of Russia. Although it was a very short visit – a few hours in Grozny and a few hours in Znamenskoye – it was important to see with one’s own eyes the reality behind the resolutions and political speeches. I fully agree with Lord Judd when he states that the conditions in which the displaced persons were living at the beginning of winter were deeply disturbing. Therefore, I am happy to hear that by January, by the time of Mr Iwiński’s visit to the camps, the conditions had already improved. They are still bad, but some progress has been made. It is pleasing if the Council of Europe has contributed to that.
It has been said before but might be worth repeating that it is not the task of the Council of Europe or the joint working group to settle the conflict in Chechnya. A political solution to the conflict – there is no other kind of solution – can be realised only by the people of the Russian Federation, including the people of the Chechen Republic. It must be based on the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe had hoped to provide opportunities in which a political process may be started – a process that eventually may lead to the possibility of a political solution.
There are a lot of mights and maybes, but there is no other way. There is no quick fix, no fast track. Chechnya is not an American western movie in which the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys black hats. It is a fundamental mistake to reduce the conflict to a fight between two well defined sides. It cannot be reduced to slogans such as “a war against terrorism” or “a fight against Russian oppression.” A political solution will of course include negotiations, but cannot only consist of that. There must be a political process including all sections of the Chechen people as well as ordinary Chechen men and women.
The Council of Europe has been and should always remain an uncompromising defender of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Every violation of those fundamental principles should be condemned wherever it occurs. The Council of Europe at its best does not stop at resolutions but tries to make some difference to real life. The resolutions, the work of our experts in the Kalamanov office in Znamenskoye and the work of Lord Judd himself are perfect examples of that. It would be a mistake of tremendous proportions to be too cowardly to continue such effort.
THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Bársony, who speaks on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – May I first on behalf of the Socialist Group congratulate the three rapporteurs, Lord Judd, Mr Bindig and Mr Iwiński on their great effort.
It is not for us simply to present a wonderful picture of the devastating situation. We must contribute to a solution, which is still some way off. The humiliating images of destroyed cities and bodies left on the ground give the lie to politicians’ attempts to convince us that there is absolute good will in solving the political conflict. I am deeply convinced, as are all members of the Socialist Group, that politicians and leaders on the other side who are trying to convince us of their good will are not simply lying, as the evidence is a destroyed country. Not everybody has been left on the ground. Ordinary people of the streets and soldiers recruited to the army have been ordered to fight on both sides of the conflict. Meanwhile, politicians and leaders who want to forget their responsibility for what has happened in Chechnya are sitting in comfortable armchairs somewhere, thinking of a bright future.
We must not forget the responsibility that such people should bear. The good will that is now visible, or at least tangible in certain circles on both sides of the conflict in the government and State Duma, as well as among the Chechen people, is tolerable, but the Council of Europe should state clearly that there is only one way forward: to return to the negotiating table. Yes, negotiations will be very difficult. We already know that; the problem would have been resolved already if that were not so. However, those who deny the necessity of negotiations are discrediting themselves in normal political life on this continent. They must be forgotten as political players in the Council of Europe and on European soil.
Those who envisage only a military solution must not only be forgotten as political players but punished with all the political tools at the disposal of the Council of Europe family – both inside and outside Russia. That message must be sent not only to government officials but to those acting as their counterparts in the Government of the Russian Federation. Responsibility must be shared not only among the Council of Europe family but by people and politicians.
THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I now call Mr van der Linden, who speaks on behalf of the European People’s party.
Mr VAN DER LINDEN (Netherlands) thanked the rapporteurs for their intense work. Little had changed in Chechnya and the situation was still very serious. He expressed concerns that since 11 September, Chechnya had slipped from the international agenda. He had been very disappointed when Chancellor Schröder had suggested that Chechnya should be regarded in a different light because of the ongoing fight against terrorism. He feared that would take the pressure off Chechnya and hence was particularly pleased to hear the views of the rapporteurs. It was good that relationships between the United States and Russia were improving, but the situation in Chechnya remained unacceptable from a humanitarian point of view. Human rights violations on both sides should be condemned and therefore the Joint Working Group’s presence should be supported and extended. Relations between the Assembly and the Russian Federation had improved and it would be possible to strive towards a political solution. The two reports produced by the Assembly on the conflict in the Chechen Republic had reached different assessments and therefore caution would need to be exercised. In such a critical situation it might be premature to apply more pressure.
THE PRESIDENT. – Mr Lippelt was to speak first, but he is not present. I call Mr Slutsky.
Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) queried why Mr Kovalev had not been called.
THE PRESIDENT. – I understand that Mr Kovalev asked for a change to the list of speakers. Mr Slutsky, you have the floor.
Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) said that the Joint Working Group had been created by the Council of Europe as an instrument for monitoring the situation in Chechnya. The reports from the Joint Working Group indicated that it was achieving results. Displaced persons were no longer living in railway cars, and most of the camps had been eliminated. More than half of the displaced persons had indicated their readiness to return to their homes or to the new accommodation that had been provided. Parliamentarians had succeeded in securing funds to improve the camps that remained. There were, however, as Mr Iwiński had said, a few camps which could still be improved.
That year would see the construction of a new Chechen Republic. The Consultative Council set up by the Council of Europe had met to assess the situation, and a draft constitution was expected soon. The events of 11 September highlighted the global evil of terrorism. Sanctions should not be imposed on those who had fought alone against terrorism for many years. The Parliament of the Russian Federation, the Council of Europe and the Joint Working Group needed to work together to further the improvements that had already been seen.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you.
I call Mr Jakič on a point of order.
Mr JAKIČ (Slovenia). – We always have a representative speaker from all the political groups at the beginning of these debates, so I must protest. Mr Kovalev is to speak on behalf of the Liberal Group. Please give him the floor.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – There is no problem. I understood that there had been a change. The Secretariat was told that Mr Lippelt was going to speak on behalf of the group. All changes must be notified.
I call Mr Serguei Kovalev on behalf of the European Democratic and Reformers’ Group.
Mr Serguei KOVALEV (Russian Federation) said that the Russian Federation was aware of the crime and bloodshed in Chechnya. For example, in February 2000, fifty troops had been involved in a mopping-up exercise in a small village. The guilty had not been identified and the army command were unable, or unwilling, to provide the relevant information. Similarly, in February 2001, another mopping-up operation had left evidence of torture, and once again no information had been made available.
Bodies of murdered relatives had been found and there were other instances of atrocities, including a colonel who had strangled a young girl. It seemed that the response of the Russian authorities to the murder of a Chechen was not proportionate. Experts had deemed the colonel not to be in his right mind at the time that he took the girl aside, undressed her and strangled her. He was also deemed not to be in his right mind when he ordered a soldier to shoot up a village and beat the soldier when he refused to obey the order. There were efforts to control the media as part of President Putin’s desire to have a managed democracy, something that could not work without a managed press. The international community needed to look more closely at the atrocities and how they were handled.
THE PRESIDENT called Mr Markowski, Mr Makhachev and Mr Blaauw but they were not present. She called Mr Rogozin.
Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) thanked the President for giving him the floor. It was important to note that not everyone in the Liberal Group shared Mr Kovalev’s view. It was obvious that the political extremes that gave rise to 11 September had to be ended. There was a need to seek out groups who would engage in a dialogue. Hundreds of thousands of people had fled the Republic making it difficult to find a representative grouping. There were two sides to the story. The fifteen hijackers on 11 September saw themselves as freedom fighters taking revenge on the United States. In Chechnya there were bound to be people driven to join extremists because of some family tragedy but there was a need to find a way to engage with such people. But nobody who saw the videotape of bin Laden would want to negotiate with terrorists. Terrorists and extremists should not be given aid and assistance.
THE PRESIDENT called Mr Grachev.
Mr GRACHEV (Russian Federation) said that, when the EPP had discussed the report, he had disagreed with the group’s position and felt that Mr van der Linden had introduced nuances into what he had said. The picture that was painted was that there were two sides to the argument; one side being peace-loving, the other based on terrorism. The majority of people who supported Mr van der Linden in the EPP had never been to Chechnya. He praised the Council of Europe, which had people on the ground in Chechnya who knew the situation well. The terrorists in Chechnya saw themselves as freedom fighters. There was a real threat to the world from bio-terrorism and there were far more dangerous pathogens than foot and mouth disease that could kill millions of people. The situation in Chechnya was brought about by bandits who sought to cut off access to the Caspian Sea. Responding to Mr Kovalev, he said very few people in the Duma felt that way.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Grachev. The next speaker is Ms Zwerver.
Ms ZWERVER (Netherlands). – I would like to thank the rapporteurs for their report and Mr Bindig for his excellent opinion on the conflict in the Chechen Republic. He observed no tangible improvement in the human rights situation last year. On the contrary, there are still serious human rights violations and mopping up operations as well as a lack of progress in investigating past and present crimes.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is not alone in this observation. Yesterday the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography met Médicins sans Frontières who gave us the same grim picture. In its opinion, the Council of Europe made the wrong choice in giving back voting rights to the Russian delegation without any conditions being met from all the reports on the issue. That is also the opinion of the Chechen people and international and national NGOs. Murders, disappearances, torture, robberies and the destruction of property are still going on. These atrocities took place under the observation of the Chechen prosecutor’s representatives. No action was taken. For that reason I am not happy with the opinion of Mr Iwiński that the prosecutor’s office should be present in the camps.
The High Commissioner of the UNHCR was in the region this month. He concluded that the situation of the refugees was still very bad. There are leaking tents, the food is bad and people do not want to go back because of security reasons.
Mr Iwiński states in his report that 30% of the internally displaced persons in Ingushetia should no longer be considered as IDPs but rather as economic migrants because they have set up small businesses and, most probably, will not return to Chechnya at all. I cannot agree with that point and nor can the UNHCR. IDPs are IDPs and the UNHCR gives them the means to set up small businesses. However, that can never mean that they lose their status as IDPs.
Lord Judd argues in his report against sanctions. He is in favour of persuasion through cooperation and he wants “to assist and strengthen the work and influence of those within Russia who share our concerns and objectives.” I would like to ask Lord Judd why human rights activists such as Skavalov and an NGO such as Memorial are not his principal partners and a source of objective information about the situation in Chechnya and the approaches to solving it. Human rights organisations would not condition their co-operation with the absence of sanctions against Russia. Does that mean that they are not partners any more?
We need the withdrawal of the Russian army from Chechnya and the start of serious peace negotiations with Maskhadov. Mr Lubbers, the High Commissioner of the UNHCR, believes that Maskhadov is not a terrorist.
A political solution is needed with pressure being put on the parties. The Council of Europe should live up to its own standards. This institution is about the principle of human rights. That gives the Council of Europe certain responsibilities which we should live up to if Russia does not meet those standards, and if we see no improvement in human rights in the Chechen Republic we should put sanctions on Russia.
Otherwise, we will have such debates for years to come. In my opinion this is a political way of dealing with the problem.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The next speaker is Mr Gönül.
Mr GÖNÜL (Turkey). – Please allow me to congratulate the distinguished rapporteur, Lord Judd, on his excellent report. The report is extremely helpful in giving us a valuable insight into the situation in the Chechen Republic which is not getting better.
The Northern Caucasus continues to be an area of instability. Unfortunately the Chechen Republic is totally devastated and today reminds me of events in the late nineteenth century when nearby Circassia was devastated and the whole population forced out of their homes after the defeat of Şeyh Şamil’s forces by the Russian Imperial Army. Unfortunately, at that time we did not have the Council of Europe to defend the rights of those suffering people and the term human rights was unfamiliar to the rulers.
I would like to remind you that it is the responsibility of the Russian authorities to let justice reign in the Northern Caucasus and to let the rule of law prevail in the Chechen Republic. But that is not enough. We all have a collective responsibility in terms of bringing the situation back to normal. We must prepare the necessary conditions to enable civilians to return to their homes and to normal life. In this respect, we should not ignore the problem of the Chechen refugees in the whole region. They continue to be a source of concern and the pretext of illegal activities by certain groups.
It is our task to create an atmosphere conducive to healing the wounds of the present aggravated humanitarian situation in the region caused by the military operation. In this regard, we welcome the recent human rights seminar concerning the Chechen Republic organised by the Council of Europe, which is a positive step in the right direction.
At the seminar it was pointed out that there is a lack of confidence and trust among the Chechen civilian population towards the Russian authorities. A solution should be found to this problem and Russian federal and local authorities in the region should deal carefully with the issue. To regain the trust of the population, the Russian authorities should bring before the law the people responsible for violations. We expect a transparent investigation process for those accused of the violations.
It is also important for the Russian authorities to adopt a more co-operative attitude vis-à-vis international organisations in monitoring human rights and addressing problems. On the other hand, in every search for a solution Mr Maskhadov, the last elected representative of the Chechen people, must be involved.
I wish to dwell on one more issue – the reconstruction work that will be carried out in the Chechen Republic. The consultative council of Chechen administration can be used for this work. Chechens who return home could take part in it. That will reduce the high unemployment rate, and the administrative structure and the industrial sectors will start working again. However, achieving that is conditional on establishing sufficient security, which still is not the case, and that is the primary responsibility of the Russian authorities.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Gönül. Mrs Vermot-Mangold is not here. I now call Mr Shishlov.
Mr SHISHLOV (Russian Federation) commended the work of Lord Judd which would be of help both to Russia and the Council of Europe. At one time his party, Yabloko, had been the only party in Russia in favour of political dialogue rather than the use of force in Chechnya. That view was now shared by all serious political parties and the majority of people. Since 11 September, Russia had been working more closely with the rest of the world. However, it was important not to apply different standards in Chechnya. While there had been some improvements there, they were still very limited. He noted that the events in Chechnya were also related to the issue of the freedom of the media in Russia and elsewhere, and thanked those who had recently spoken in favour of freeing a member of the independent press in Russia. Political willingness to deal with Chechnya was being shown and he hoped it would continue.
THE PRESIDENT called Mr Neguta.
Mr NEGUTA (Moldova) highlighted the need to bring culprits in Chechnya to justice, culprits both from the military and others involved in violence. He commented that the Assembly was increasingly focusing on the terrorist aspects of the situation, especially since 11 September. That was important: he felt that the Assembly was moving closer to the right way to consider Chechnya. Six months before it would have been hard to imagine that negotiators from Chechnya, the Russian Duma and the Council of Europe would be sitting around a table. Chechens at national level were now willing to take matters into their own hands, and the importance of that development should be recognised. Tangible progress was being made and the political dialogue needed to continue.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Neguta. The next speaker is Mr Andican.
Mr ANDICAN (Turkey). – I thank the rapporteur and his colleagues for this well-prepared report. What happened in Chechnya has long been out of the headlines. The attention of the international media and the public has rightly been diverted to issues elsewhere. Especially after the events of September, hardly anyone spoke about that part of the world. However, that does not change the fact that Chechnya’s problems continue. Those problems concern all of us closely, because they are related to the protection of human rights.
This Assembly has still not been furnished with enough evidence that the grave human rights violations that took place in Chechnya have been or are being investigated effectively. Nor have we been assured that the Russian authorities are doing their part in bringing those who are responsible for the human rights violations to justice. It is true that the Russian authorities have taken several measures to deal with that issue. The special representative of the Russian President, Mr Kalamanov, who is responsible for the human rights situation in Chechnya, has been in office for more than a year now. We understand that the special representative has been co-operative with the Council of Europe. The Krashninikov commission was set up by the federal authorities to investigate complaints about violations of human rights.
However, I return to what I said a moment ago. What is the result of the work of all those bodies and of their investigations? How many of those responsible for what happened in Chechnya have been found guilty, and how many have been brought to justice? We still know very little about the mass killings that took place there. Unfortunately, we must admit that we have no satisfactory answer to any of those questions.
Let us all remember that it is the responsibility of the Russian authorities to let justice reign in that part of the world and to allow the rule of law to prevail in Chechnya, but we should not forget that it is our collective responsibility and the responsibility of this Assembly to put pressure on the Russian authorities to find and punish those responsible for violating human rights in Chechnya. Unless those responsible are found and tried, we cannot say that we have been successful in our task of upholding the principles of the Council of Europe, and we cannot be convincing in our efforts to persuade others that our work is credible. We must put pressure on both sides to reach a solution through negotiations.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Andican. I call Ms Gamzatova.
Ms GAMZATOVA (Russian Federation) thanked the rapporteurs for their work, and said that their names would be lovingly remembered in Chechnya for providing assistance to her people. She said there was a saying in Chechnya that “wherever a bullet hits, it hits the heart of a mother”, and she had entered politics because of her deep concern about events in Chechnya. Chechens were suffering not only human rights abuses but the violation of all rights. It was not possible to understand the situation there without first-hand knowledge. The conflict had caused suffering on both sides, for fighters and civilians.
The war was started by greedy people with grubby ambitions. It was hard to believe there were such outrageously aggressive people in the world. Unless the Council of Europe understood that aspect of the situation, it would be unable to find a solution. The Assembly should discuss the situation with whoever possible and whenever possible. Any assessment of the situation should recall that not only fighters but also women and children were suffering. Support for one side in the conflict would not assist the search for peace.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – I call Mr Guimond, an Observer from Canada.
Mr GUIMOND (Observer from Canada) thanked the Assembly for its contribution, and, in particular, Lord Judd for his objective assessment. In reality, little progress had been made to enforce the rule of law and protect the human rights of the whole population in Chechnya. There had been small steps towards a resolution, but the protagonists were still a long way from the end of armed conflict.
He welcomed the imminent negotiations, and reminded the Assembly of the humanitarian priority of protecting women, children and the elderly. There were reports of extreme suffering, scarce medicine and foreign aid being siphoned off. The extremists would not engage in the search for a political solution, but fed on violence. The Council of Europe needed to ensure that the Russian Federation acknowledged human rights violations and brought the guilty to justice. A political solution was the only solution and the events of 11 September could not justify continuing violence in the name of combating terrorism.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Guimond.
We take account of those who are on the list of speakers and who are present when their names are called, but not those who are absent.
I give the floor finally to Mr Zavgayev.
Mr ZAVGAYEV (Russian Federation) said that, as a representative of Chechnya, he thanked the Assembly for the enormous amount of work that had been carried out by Lord Judd, Mr Bindig, Mr Iwiński and Mr Kalamanov. It was one year since Resolution 1420 had been passed and there had been a great deal of progress. Over 2 000 people who had fled Chechnya had been encouraged to return, fifty-three hospitals were operating, 192 teachers were working in over 100 schools and over 100 000 new jobs had been created. That was all helping to bring stability to Chechnya but a great deal more needed to be done to overturn the harm done by ten years of rule by Maskhadov during which 700 000 people had fled the Republic. Many of those people believed in the same rights that Mr Kalamanov was working for and knew what was behind the terrorist and bandit activity.
In order to create a proper former Soviet state, issues of organised crime in the Russian Federation and its neighbours had to be addressed. The serious situation in Chechnya touched everyone in that country with criminal actions and mass killings. The national consciousness and feeling were absent because of violence which had to end. But refugees and criminals continued to commit crimes. Arms needed to be put aside before the problems could be solved. It was apparent that a settlement needed to be sought as President Putin had made clear on the 24 September when he said peace was important. Military atrocities had occurred on both sides of the conflict. Any effort to find peace should not give new energy to Maskhadov, a bandit regime. The explosions in houses in Moscow and other events including 11 September were also terrorist events. A collective effort was needed to tackle terrorism.
(Mr Schieder, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mrs Durrieu.)
THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Zavgayev.
The debate is closed. Replies and votes on the draft resolution and the draft recommendation and the amendments will be taken this afternoon at about 4.45 p.m.
It is now almost 12 noon. Does any member still wish to vote in the election of a member of the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Georgia? You can do so for two minutes more, then the ballot will be closed.
The counting of votes will take place under the supervision of the tellers, and I invite them to go at the end of the sitting to Room 1087.
The results of the election will be announced at the beginning of the next sitting.