30 January 1995

Doc. 7230

REPORT

on Russia's request for membership

in the light of the situation in Chechnya

(Rapporteur: Mr MUEHLEMANN, Switzerland,

Liberal, Democratic and Reformers Group)


Summary

      The Assembly unreservedly condemns the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the Russian military, in particular against the civilian population.

      It favours continued dialogue with Russia, notably through its "special guest" delegation, and would equally welcome the continuation of the Council of Europe's intergovernmental assistance programme aimed at strengthening democracy and human rights.

      The Assembly resolves to freeze its examination, for the time being, of Russia's request for membership of the Council of Europe.

I. Draft resolution

1. The Assembly considers that although the political conflict between Chechnya and the central authorities of the Russian Federation is an internal matter, the means employed by these authorities violate Russia's international obligations.

2.       The Assembly thus unreservedly condemns the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the Russian military, in particular against the civilian population, which is in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Second Protocol as well as of the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security, accepted by Russia as recently as December 1994.

3.       These actions also constitute a grave violation of the Council of Europe's most elementary human rights principles, which Russia, by requesting membership of the Organisation, pledged to uphold.

4.       The absence of parliamentary control over the decisions of the Russian Security Council and the apparent non-implementation by the military of Presidential orders is contrary to our Organisation's standards on democracy and the rule of law.

5.       The Assembly lends its full support to those in Russia who, together with the international community, call for an immediate end to military operations and the opening of a political dialogue to solve the conflict peacefully.

6.       It favours continued dialogue with Russia, notably through its "special guest" delegation, and would equally welcome the continuation of the Council of Europe's intergovernmental assistance programme aimed at strengthening democracy and human rights.

7.       It also encourages the efforts of the OSCE to find a peaceful solution and of UNHCR and the ICRC to bring humanitarian assistance to the area.

8.       The Assembly welcomes the resolution of 19 January 1995 of the European Parliament and notes the Parliament's position that the European Union should in present circumstances not ratify a "partnership agreement" with Russia.

9.       The Assembly resolves to freeze its examination, for the time being, of Russia's request for membership of the Council of Europe.

II. Draft order

      The Assembly, further to its Resolution ... (1995), instructs the committees concerned to follow developments in the Russian Federation and to report at the first appropriate opportunity.

III. Explanatory memorandum

by Mr MUEHLEMANN

Introduction

1.       On 10 January 1995, the Political Affairs Committee discussed the situation in Chechnya. It decided to recommend to the Assembly the ratification of the credentials of the Russian "pecial guest" delegation at the opening of the next session of the Parliamentary Assembly, because of the opposition of both Houses in the Russian Parliament to the military operations.

2.       However, the Committee decided to freeze its examination of Russian's request for membership and to invite the Parliamentary Assembly to hold an urgent procedure debate at its next part-session in order to draw conclusions for the Council of Europe. The press statement issued by the Chairman of the Committee is appended.

3.       At its meeting on 16 January 1995, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights endorsed the decision of the Political Affairs Committee.

4.       The preliminary draft resolution presented by the Rapporteur is based on the discussion in the Committee and events that have since taken place.

The Chechnya conflict

5.       At the beginning of the year (from 1 to 8 January 1995), the Rapporteur on Russia's request for membership visited Moscow, Georgia and Moldova where he held discussions with several senior politicians and military leaders on the situation in Chechnya.

6.       Following the dissolution of the Soviet Empire in 1991, the Moscow authorities were confronted with a strong desire for independence, inspired also by Islam, of the Caucasian Republic of Chechnya. President Yeltsin never accepted the declared independence of the Russian Federation by President Dudayev three years ago and tensions steadily rose. It should be recalled that the desire of freedom of the Chechnyan people cannot be dissociated from the brutal deportations in the period 1943-1957 to Kazakstan, which partly explain their strong resistance to external pressure.

7.       On 5 March 1994, Minister Chakrai, responsible for nationalities, declared that Chechnya was becoming a key-problem for Russia. As a result the Russian Parliament demanded an immediate separate treaty on partial autonomy, following the example of several Republics such as the Republic of Tartarstan. However, negotiations between Yeltsin's Head of Administration Filatov and Dudayev's Deputy Minister Abkolatov failed as a result of the Chechnyan position that the Republic would never be a member of the Russian Federation. Subsequently, a civil war broke out between Dudayev's supporters and representatives of the Chechnyan opposition led by Avtochanov, Head of the so-called "Internal Council". In spite of financial and military support by Russia, military attacks by the opposition failed in November 1994, as a result of which President Yeltsin sought to "escape forwards" by ordering Russian troops to enter Chechnya on 10 December 1994.

8.       It is clear that Chechnya's particular case constitutes a major challenge to Russia. Before the Russian military intervention, President Dudayev blocked many rail and roadlinks from the north into the Caucasian Republics of Armenia, Azerbaïjan, Georgia. As a result, the Russian army of the Caucasus for instance had to be supplied by air. At the same time, Chechnya is an extremely important area for the Russians defence and oil industry. In Grozny's refineries 90 % of Russia's aircraft fuel was produced. Moreover, control over the major oilreserves in the Caspian Sea are at stake. Western firms plan to transport oil via Georgian territory instead of via Russian territory.

9.       There are great differences of opinion both in the Russian Government and in Parliament, and even within the Security Council. Some fear a political destabilisation in Moscow, because the majority of the population, and the media, oppose the military action in Chechnya. Others believe that a prolonged partisan war could make the Caucasian powder-keg explode. Others want an immediate cease-fire, to be followed by a political stabilisation.

10.       It is unclear how the military conflict will end but it is clear that the Council of Europe cannot accept the use of military force against civilians. It is difficult to understand that the Russian Parliament has no influence on the decisions of the Security Council. A prolonged guerilla war which could also lead to destabilisation of the Caucasus and of the Russian Federation as such is in no one's interest. The democratic and reformist forces are to be strengthened by all means, since they favour an immediate peaceful solution.

Conclusions

11.       Whoever travels in the Russian Federation today with its 89 subjects, notes with satisfaction that 70 years of communist rule could not destroy federalism. The will to independence of each subject becomes dangerous however if it leads to full secession, as in Chechnya. Thanks to skillful diplomacy, with several subjects separate treaties, allowing for substantial autonomy were concluded, such as e.g., with the Republics of Tartarstan, Udmurtia and Bashkina.

12.       Unfortunately, President Dudayev refused to work towards similar solutions since he wanted total independence. A solution, as proposed by General Lebed, Commander of the 14th Army in Moldova, would have been preferable: after 3 years of "laissez-faire" or "laissez-aller", Chechnya could have been subjected to an economic embargo, and after some years of political pressure - should these measures not have proven successful - a well-prepared military operation might have been concluded rapidly and effectively while sparing the civilian population.

13.       Unfortunately, the Security Council at the beginning of December 1994 did not choose this path, but decided on an improvised attack which resulted in many victims and a provisional military stalemate.

14.       It is extremely important that this conflict should not be prolonged and spread to civil war in the Caucasus and Russia. All means for a peaceful solution should be exploited. The conflict must be solved by Russia itself, but the OSCE and the Council of Europe, together with humanitarian relief organisations such as UNHCR and ICRC should give support to all those who favour a peaceful political solution.

15.       The Council of Europe must carefully follow events, denounce consistently any further human rights violations, support the struggle for free media and insist on greater parliamentary control over the Executive. In particular it is necessary to keep close contact with the Russian "special guest" delegation and to hold meetings in the country to support democratic progressive forces.

16.       Until the Chechnyan conflict is solved peacefully, Russia's admission procedure cannot be continued. This delay is to be used to remedy existing shortcomings in the legal order. Only when a comprehensive report of the Russian President, the Government and the Parliament clearly indicates how the Chechnyan conflict will be ended, and its consequences remedied, can the procedure be taken up again.

17.       A rapid visit of the Rapporteurs to the conflict area should enable to examine on the spot and verify Russian statements about human rights violations.

18       The Chechnyan conflict will doubtlessly considerably slow down Russia's accession but should not definitively prevent it. By integrating Russia in the Council of Europe, it will be possible to detect similar conflicts at an earlier stage and resolve them. This should also prevent a destabilisation of Russia and possible civil war, which would have dangerous consequences for all of Europe.

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Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: to be assessed.

Reference to committee: Doc. 7222, Reference N° 1987 of 30 January 1995 - Urgent debate decided by the Assembly on 30 January 1995.

Draft resolution and draft order unanimously adopted by the committee on 31 January 1995.

Members of the committee: Mr. Kelchtermans (Chairman), Lord Finsberg (Vice-Chairman), MM Bàrsony (Vice-Chairman), Alvarez-Cascos (Alternate: Puche), Antretter, Mrs Baarveld-Schlaman, Mr Baumel, Mrs Belohorska, MM Bergqvist, Bernardini, Björn Bjarnason, Björck, Bloetzer, Bokov, Büchel, Bühler, Cerqueda Pascuet, Eörsi, Fassino, Galanos, Gjellerod, Gotzev, Gricius, Güner, Mrs Halonen, MM Hardy, Irmer, Iwinski, Kalus, Kaspereit, Kelam, La Loggia, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM van der Linden, Machete, Martins, Masseret, Mimaroglu, Mitchell, Mühlemann, Pahor, Mrs Papandreou, MM Pavlidis, Pozzo, de Puig, Radulescu Botica, Schieder, Schwimmer (Alternate: Mautner-Markhof), Seeuws, Severin, Sir Dudley Smith, M. Spacek, Mrs Suchocka, MM Thoresen, Vella.

NB. Les noms des membres qui ont pris part à la réunion sont imprimés en italique.

Secrétaires de la commission: M. Hartland, M. Kleijssen et Mlle Chatzivassiliou.