Czech MEPs condemn ongoing pressure on Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
By Tomáš Vršovský
PRAGUE/BRUSSELS – Two Czech members of the European Parliament have sharply criticized the Russian Supreme court's verdict of approving a ban on a Russian NGO that reports on human rights violations in Chechnya.
MEPs Zuzana Roithová and Jana Hybášková have expressed their deep concern over the outcome of Tuesday's court hearings where the embattled Russian-Chechen Friendship Society tried in vain to appeal the harsh sentence. Recently the two Czech MEPs - along with dozens of other political figures and prominent international personalities - became members of the Russian organization in an effort to save the NGO from being dismantled.
“I find prohibiting the operations of any NGO seeking to improve Russian-Chechen relations very worrisome. First of all, it sends a poor signal for continuing to develop a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Chechnya. Secondly, it weakens democratic forces in the Russian Federation. And lastly, it disrupts informal foreign relationships with the West,” Zuzana Roithová told Prague Watchdog.
Jana Hybášková said that the verdict had made her very sad because she considers members of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society to be one of the last reasonable non-radical and modest islands of Chechen-Russian relations. “It’s convenient for the Russian regime if Chechen-Russian relations are overrun by radicals on both sides. Then it’s very easy to say that there are no democrats on either side, only fundamentalists and radicals.
But that’s not the way things really are. In all humane societies, even in Russian and Chechen ones, there prevails a silent yet democratic majority. Putin has proved that he doesn’t know how to deal with this silent majority; his policies have become those of radicalization and fundamentalism. Despite all the pressure from MEPs and prominent personalities, Putin and his henchmen continue doing whatever it is they want,” she concluded.
According to Hybášková, the regime’s radicalization and fundamentalism will lead to its gradual isolation. “And there’s nothing worse than an isolated Russia, not only for all the democrats in the world, but possibly even for all Czech citizens as well.”
Representatives of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society confirmed they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a move that has so far been used only by victims of human rights violations, which have been reported on by the NGO.
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· Russia's Supreme Court okays dismantling of Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (PW, 23.1.2007)