Human rights in the North Caucasus: the most serious situation in the geographical area of the Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 31.05.2010 – The situation in the North Caucasus region, particularly the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia and Dagestan, is currently “the most serious and delicate situation” from the angle of protecting human rights and affirming the rule of law in the whole geographic area covered by the Council of Europe, as stressed by the text adopted this morning by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), on the basis of the report drawn up by Dick Marty (Switzerland, ALDE).

The unanimously adopted draft resolution paints a dark picture, particularly in the Chechen Republic, where the current authorities continue to nurture “a climate of pervading fear”, recurrent disappearances of opponents of the Government and champions of human rights “remain widely unpunished” and the judicial organs “plainly do nothing about the misdeeds of the security forces”.  All of this is happening in an atmosphere of personalisation of power which is “disgraceful in a democracy”.

In Ingushetia, the parliamentarians noted “an alarming upsurge of violence since 2009”, while in Dagestan, the outbreak of terrorist acts has prompted “prompted responses of the security forces which are not always lawful and productive".

The text adopted reaffirmed the Assembly’s aversion to any act of terrorism, a phenomenon which can only be fought effectively “while respecting fundamental rights”.  It also pays tribute to human rights advocates, lawyers and journalists working in difficult circumstances, and often in peril of their lives, to help victims obtain justice and denounce abuses.

The draft resolution calls on the Russian central and regional executive and judicial authorities to combat terrorism “by availing themselves of the instruments provided by the law-based state”, and to look for the causes of the radicalisation in progress and the growing hold of religious extremism; to prosecute and try “in accordance with the law all culprits of human rights violations”, including members of the security forces, and to co-operate more closely with the human rights defence organisations, while “protecting their staff members effectively against possible reprisals”.

In connection with enforcing the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights finding serious and repeated violations of fundamental rights, the text welcomes the “specific efforts made by the Russian authorities”, while observing that “appreciable results in the matter are still awaited”. The climate of overall impunity illustrated by the Court’s judgments “seriously undermine(s) the population’s trust in the security forces and the state institutions generally, and thus feed(s) the nefarious spiral of violence”.

In the parliamentarians’ view, the other Council of Europe member countries should co-operate with the Russian authorities in combating terrorism, “guarantee adequate protection to the Chechen exiles” whom they have received in their territory and “consider with the greatest care and caution extradition requests in respect of exiles
from the North Caucasian republics who would risk being killed, subjected to torture or an unfair trial”.

The Assembly will be debating the draft resolution in Strasbourg during its forthcoming summer plenary session (21-25 June 2010).