25 January 2000
The conflict in Chechnya
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Lord Judd, United Kingdom, Socialist Group
The report condemns the current conduct of military operations in Chechnya. It reminds that, as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia committed itself to settle internal as well as international disputes by peaceful means and that it is obliged to respect the European Convention on Human Rights on the whole of its territory, including Chechnya.
The report calls on Russia to stop immediately all indiscriminate and disproportionate military action in Chechnya, including use of young conscripts and to cease all attacks against the civilian population and to start immediately a political dialogue with the elected Chechen authorities, with the objective of achieving a complete cease-fire and a comprehensive political solution to the conflict.
The report recommends that the Committee of Ministers initiate immediately the necessary action to ensure the implementation of its recommendations, ensure a Council of Europe presence in the region. An appropriate support should be given to the Russian authorities for the implementation of policies aiming to resolve the conflict and to normalise the situation in Chechnya.
Failure to meet these requirements will inevitably necessitate a review of Russian continued membership of, and participation in, the Assembly’s work and in the Council of Europe in general.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly recalls its Resolution 1201 (1999) of 4 November 1999 on the conflict in Chechnya calling on Russia to avoid military raids against the civil population, to introduce a cease-fire and to start a peaceful dialogue with the elected Chechen authorities.
2. It also recalls the declaration of the Parliamentary Assembly’s Bureau on the situation in Chechnya of 13 December 1999 according to which « persistence in violations could lead the Parliamentary Assembly to put under question Russian participation in the Assembly’s work and in the Council of Europe in general » and takes note of the findings of its delegation during its recent visit to Moscow, Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia (16-20 January 2000).
3. Upon admission in 1996, Russia committed itself to settle internal as well as international disputes by peaceful means and to respect strictly the provisions of international humanitarian law, including cases of armed conflict on its territory.
4. As a member of the Council of Europe, Russia is obliged to respect the European Convention on Human Rights on the whole of its territory, including Chechnya.
5. The Assembly recognises the right of Russia to preserve its territorial integrity, to fight terrorism and crime and to protect the neighbouring republics of Chechnya from attacks and acts of banditism.
6. Nevertheless, it stresses that the means used to achieve such goals must be in accordance with the international commitments of Russia and must exclude, in particular, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force affecting the civil population.
7. The Assembly condemns, as totally unacceptable, the current conduct of military operations in Chechnya with its tragic consequences for large numbers of the civil population of this republic.
8. The Assembly regrets that during the period 1996-1999 the Chechen leadership was unable to ensure the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights and individual freedoms in Chechnya.
9. The Assembly urges the Chechen elected representatives to do everything in their power to obtain the release of all hostages, to stop all acts of terrorism and violence emanating from the Chechen side and to bring to justice the authors of these acts, as well as to ensure the respect of democratic standards on the territories under their control.
10. The Assembly reiterates its support for all efforts aimed at restoring the rule of law and respect of democratic principles in Chechnya as well as the social and economic structures of this Republic.
11. The Assembly recognises the deep rooted historical origins of the conflict and is convinced that a lasting and viable solution can only be based on the rejection of violence and the consent of both a convincing majority of the people and all the key parties to the conflict.
12. The Assembly notes with some satisfaction that the acting President of Russia, Mr Vladimir Putin, has accepted the proposal for a Council of Europe presence in the region. Its objective should be to monitor, in co-operation with the Russian authorities, the human rights and humanitarian situation and to make proposals in this regard.
13. It also welcomes the willingness of Russia to co-operate with the Council of Europe in the solution of this conflict and to take into consideration the proposals of the Organisation in this regard.
14. The Assembly calls on Russia:
i. to stop immediately all indiscriminate and disproportionate military action in Chechnya, including use of young conscripts and to cease all attacks against the civilian population ;
ii. to start immediately a political dialogue, without pre-conditions, with the elected Chechen authorities, with the objective of securing a complete cease-fire and achieving a comprehensive political solution to the conflict;
iii. to allow those wishing to leave Chechnya to do so in full security and dignity, regardless of their sex or age, and to ensure that they subsequently receive proper protection and support;
iv. to avoid any forced repatriations to Chechnya;
v. to respect strictly the fundamental human rights of the civilian population in the territories of Chechnya under its control, in particular with regard to human rights violations and harassment by the military and police forces ;
vi. to create conditions allowing for the unhindered delivery of international humanitarian assistance and for the effective operation of international governmental and non-governmental humanitarian organisations in the region;
vii. to ensure free access by Russian and international media to the region;
viii. to discuss with competent international organisations, including the Council of Europe, the ways in which they can contribute to the political solution of the conflict;
ix. to initiate a regional dialogue on the peaceful solution of the Chechnen conflict, with the participation of representatives of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia, as well as with competent international organisations, including the Council of Europe.
15. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. transmits to the government of Russia this Assembly recommendation and requests the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers to initiate immediately the necessary action to ensure its implementation;
ii. takes rapidly, in close co-operation with the Russian authorities, the necessary measures designed to ensure a Council of Europe presence in the region, respecting the activities of other international organisations;
iii. reviews, in close co-operation with the Russian authorities, the Council of Europe assistance and co-operation programmes with Russia, to ensure that they help and do not in any way directly or indirectly inhibit a solution to the conflict;
iv. provides appropriate support to the Russian authorities for the implementation of policies intended to normalise the situation in Chechnya, with particular regard to setting up local authorities, registration of the population, and ensuring that financial and material support effectively reaches those for whom it is intended;
v. takes the lead in calling a regional conference including Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia, as well as competent international organisations to co-ordinate supportive action for a permanent solution of the conflict in Chechnya;
vi. calls upon its member states to take effective measures to control the flow of arms into the area of North Caucasus.
16. The Assembly resolves to monitor closely respect for the requirements set out in paragraph 14 of this recommendation, at the same time emphasising that failure to meet them will inevitably necessitate, at the Assembly’s April 2000 part-session, a review of Russian continued membership of, and participation in, the Assembly’s work and in the Council of Europe in general. The Assembly therefore calls upon the Political Affairs Committee, the Migration, Refugees and Demography Committee, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Monitoring Committee to make arrangements for rapporteurs to revisit the region before the April Assembly’s part-session in order to report on whether such a review is necessary.
II. Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur
1. Since the Standing Committee adopted Resolution 1201 (1999) on the conflict in Chechnya a number of initiatives have been taken within the Council of Europe by the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General and the European Commissioner for Human Rights with the aim of helping to achieve an end to the hostilities and a peaceful solution to the conflict (a list of these initiatives appears in Appendix 1).
2. Seriously concerned about the continuation of the conflict, the Bureau of the Assembly decided on 10 January 2000, at the request of the Political Affairs Committee, to propose that the Assembly hold an urgent procedure debate on the subject and to form a delegation from the Assembly, led by its President, to make a fact-finding visit to Moscow and the North Caucasus (Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia). This visit took place from 16 to 20 January 2000 (the programme and a list of the members of the delegation appear in Appendices 2 and 3).
3. I would like to thank the authorities of the Russian Federation for having organised this visit, which included meetings at the highest level, in particular a three-hour discussion with Russia’s President in office, Mr Vladimir Putin. In Moscow the delegation also had meetings with the Speaker of the State Duma, Mr Seleznev, the Chairman of the Federation Council, Mr Stroyev and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ivanov.
4. Throughout the visit to the North Caucasus the delegation was accompanied by the Minister of the Interior, Mr Rushaylo. In Dagestan it visited the municipality of Botlikh, located in the region where a number of villages were destroyed during attacks by armed gangs from Chechnya in August 1999, and held a lively exchange of views with a number of inhabitants of the region. The delegation also had a meeting with the President of Dagestan, Mr Magomadov. In Chechnya it visited Gudermes, the republic’s second largest city, where it had a meeting with representatives of the provisional administration, and Tolstoy-Yurt, 15 kilometres north of Grozny. In Ingushetia it visited a camp of Chechen refugees and had a meeting with the President, Mr Aushev. Apart from the official meetings, the members of the delegation also had direct contacts – not involving intermediaries – with local people and displaced persons.
5. The delegation would have liked to have more opportunity to discuss the allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian law – indiscriminate attacks against civilians, forced repatriation of displaced persons or measures to limit population movements – with local people, particularly in Chechnya.
6. In Moscow the delegation also had a meeting with the Irish Ambassador, Mr David Donoghue, who reported on the discussions held on 14 January 2000 between Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Mr David Andrews, Chairman in office of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and Mr Ivanov, his Russian counterpart. It also met with representatives of Russian and international non-governmental organisations.
7. This report is largely based on experience gained during the visit of the Assembly’s delegation. In accordance with my terms of reference, I endeavour to focus on the political aspects of the conflict, with the purpose of contributing to its peaceful solution. The human rights situation and refugee-related issues will be dealt with in detail by rapporteurs for the relevant committees in their opinions.
II. Background, development and current status of the conflict
8. Appendix 4 contains a chronology of events concerning the conflict. In the light of the information obtained by the delegation during our visit, I shall attempt to describe the positions of the parties to the conflict in relation to these events and to give my own political assessment.
Position of the Russian government
9. President Putin made a very detailed statement to the delegation concerning Russia’s position. His arguments can be summarised as follows:
10. Following the 1996 agreements Chechnya, by law part of the Russian Federation, secured de facto independence. Russia gave permission for the holding of the 1996 elections. All Russian military and police forces were withdrawn from Chechnya, and, consequently, the State organs of the Federation became unable to fulfil their responsibilities there. The Chechen people did not benefit from this de facto independence, which led to the collapse of the republic’s social and economic systems. Wages and pensions were not paid. The Chechen authorities misappropriated for their own purposes the funds transferred by the central government. A crime-based economy emerged, founded on trafficking in arms and drugs, hostage-taking, counterfeiting of currency, etc. Some 2,500 people are still being held hostage in Chechnya, and hostages are often tortured. The country has also become a haven for international terrorists.
11. Basic democratic principles were disregarded, and human rights and fundamental freedoms were violated. Sharia law was applied in its most extreme and cruel form. Public executions took place. Women’s rights were denied. The authorities elected in 1996, including the Chechen president, Mr Mashkadov, were unable to control the country.
12. As a result of this situation, 220,000 Russian nationals and 650,000 Chechens left the republic between 1996 and 1999.
13. Chechen armed gangs invaded the neighbouring republics and regions, pillaging and taking hostages, before withdrawing to Chechnya, where they could not be pursued.
14. The threat posed to the rest of Russia by Chechnya became intolerable in 1999, when Chechen armed gangs entered Dagestan with a view to securing control and establishing a fundamentalist regime. Dagestan suffered four major attacks by a Chechen force of several thousand fighters equipped with heavy weapons. These were repelled thanks to the combined efforts of the population of Dagestan and the Russian army, but resulted in many casualties and significant material damage. Villages were pillaged and destroyed.
15. This invasion left Russia with no choice but to launch a military offensive to regain control of Chechnya. The Chechens’ numbers and their high level of equipment (tanks, heavy artillery, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft rockets, etc.), necessitated a large-scale deployment of Russian forces.
16. Russia is not applying indiscriminate force and is doing everything to spare the civilian population (safe corridors have been established to enable civilians to leave the combat zone, negotiations have been conducted with the civilian population to permit the peaceful occupation of their towns and villages). On no account are forbidden weapons being used.
17. The Russians can see no point in declaring a cease-fire, as the Chechen forces would use this to strengthen their positions. There was a cease-fire over Christmas and during Ramadan, but the Chechens took advantage of it to launch surprise attacks.
18. However, until 1st February an amnesty is in force for all those fighters willing to surrender who have not committed murder or similar crimes.
19. Russia is doing everything it can to return the situation to normal in the territories over which it has regained control, with particular respect to hospitals, schools, electricity, water and gas supplies and the payment of wages and pensions. Once the military operations are over, it is planned to establish provisional local authorities and to register the population with the aim of issuing identity papers and organising democratic elections. It is with these authorities that the negotiations concerning future relations between Russia and Chechnya will be conducted.
20. Civilian losses are minimal and have been considerably exaggerated by the media and certain intergovernmental organisations. Most of the casualties that have occurred are due to the fact that the Chechens deployed their forces in populated areas in order to screen them from the Russian attacks, using the civilians as human shields. Civilians who co-operate with the Russian forces are frequently executed.
21. The bombs exploded by terrorists in August and September 1999 cost 1,500 civilian lives. Russian soldiers in Chechnya have found a location where explosives of the type used in the attacks were manufactured.
The Chechen position
22. During the visit it was not possible to arrange a meeting with representatives of the Chechen separatists. This following summary of their position is therefore based on the exchange of views with Chechen representatives organised by the Political Affairs Committee in November 1999 and on discussions with the Chechen population.
23. After the signature of the 1996 agreements Russia did everything it could to prevent the Chechen authorities from functioning. The funds promised for the reconstruction effort never arrived. In these circumstances the Chechen authorities were unable to cope with the catastrophic economic and social situation, characterised by war damage, the halt of manufacturing industry, ruined infrastructure, high unemployment and more.
24. All this made it extremely difficult - if not impossible - for Chechnya’s institutions to function normally.
25. As for the immediate cause of the Russian offensive – the invasion of Dagestan – this was a provocation stage-managed by Russia. The invading forces were gangs of mercenaries having no connection with the Chechen authorities. Russia had withdrawn its frontier forces one week before the attack, to make it easier.
26. The Chechens disclaim responsibility for the bomb attacks perpetrated in August and September 1999 and accuse the Russian secret services of being the instigators. They claim that there is no physical evidence of Chechen involvement in these crimes.
27. The Russian army is applying indiscriminate use of force against the civilian population, including mass bombings and attacks on refugee columns. Chemical weapons are being used. Pillaging and summary executions are taking place. Civilians, in particular men, are often prevented from leaving the combat zone. Forced repatriation is taking place.
28. Some of these allegations have also been made by non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Watch.
My own observations as rapporteur
29. Extremely serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms were undeniably committed in Chechnya between 1996 and 1999, when the authorities proved unable to ensure respect for the rule of law. Russia must itself carry at least some responsibility for this.
30. Armed gangs from Chechnya certainly posed a grave threat to neighbouring republics and regions. During discussions with local people in Botlikh, Dagestan, the delegation heard very passionate and moving personal accounts from individuals who had been attacked by what they believed to be Chechen gangs, supported by others, losing family and friends and suffering material damage.
31. Russia is clearly entitled to fight terrorism and ensure the safety of its citizens. Nevertheless, whatever the situation between 1996 and 1999 in Chechnya, we must categorically reject the use of methods incompatible with international law and the principles of the Council of Europe in solving such problems.
32. In the conduct of the two parties to the conflict, human rights violations have taken place, and are still continuing, on both sides. However, whatever atrocities the Chechen side might have committed, this can under no circumstances justify human rights violations by Russia, with the commitments undertaken as a member of the Council of Europe.
33. Russia must therefore immediately terminate all armed action which causes suffering, casualties and death among the civilian population. While visiting the refugee camp in Ingushetia, several delegation members heard descriptions of the use of force by the Russian army against civilians.
34. At the time of the visit refugees were continuing to arrive from Grozny and the surrounding area, including men of fighting age. However, the situation is in a state of flux, and the delegation were unable to gain first-had knowledge of what actually happens at the crossing points to and from the war zone.
35. The authorities are attempting to normalise the situation in the territories under Russian army control. This includes restoring water, gas and electricity mains, and paying the salaries of public sector workers and pensions. The delegation visited schools, which are resuming regular classes after a six-year period when teachers did not receive their salaries. But progress is slow, and many inhabitants complained of delays in pension and wage payments and that they had no identity papers with which to leave the region. Some inhabitants also reported instances of abuse of authority and violence by the armed forces and police.
III. Prospects of a political settlement to the conflict
36. The Russian authorities maintain that Russia is ready to negotiate on two conditions: release of all hostages and hand-over to the Russian authorities of all internationally wanted terrorists. Contacts have been made with representatives of President Maskhadov, but the delegation was told that he has not responded to this Russian proposal; when Mufti, the Chechen religious leader, agreed to talks, his own people had sentenced him to death and executed him.
37. According to the Russian authorities this confirms the current absence of any reliable interlocutor on the Chechen side capable of entering into and ensuring respect for any formal commitments. Consequently, they agreed that negotiations can only take place with the Chechen authorities to be established after termination of the military operations.
38. For their part the Chechen representatives state their willingness to begin negotiations immediately.
39. In my view political dialogue between Russia and the Chechen representatives could well begin with President Maskhadov and the elected Chechen leaders and could subsequently be extended to all the relevant interlocutors, whether or not Russia describes them as terrorists. Any agreement concluded must both have the support of all key parties and also enjoy majority consent of the population.
40. The need to initiate such dialogue is doubly urgent because as the conflict continues Chechen moderates are increasingly being driven into an alliance with the extremists.
41. Experience elsewhere suggests that international mediation, particularly through the relevant international organisations, including the Council of Europe, could greatly facilitate the initiation and continuation of such negotiations. It is significant that President Putin told the delegation that his country will adopt a constructive attitude to any proposal from the Council of Europe to assist in settling the conflict.
42. Regional dialogue should now quickly be initiated by the Council of Europe with an eye to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. This should involve representatives of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Northern Ossetia, as well as the competent international organisations, including the Council of Europe itself. The President of Ingushetia, Mr Aushev, has expressed his goodwill towards such a dialogue.
IV. Humanitarian situation of the region’s population
43. According to the Russian authorities, the bulk of the humanitarian assistance to the regional population affected by the conflicted is supplied by Russia. In my view, international humanitarian assistance should be increased, particularly that for displaced persons. This increase should be accompanied by a strengthened presence and protection of international humanitarian organisations on the ground. The Russian authorities should facilitate their access to the population.
V. Honouring of Russia’s obligations as a member State of the Council of Europe
44. On accession to the Council of Europe in 1996 Russia undertook to settle any domestic or international disputes through peaceful channels and to comply fully with the provisions of international humanitarian law, especially in the event of armed conflict within its territory.
45. Similarly, as a member state of the Council of Europe Russia is required to respect the European Convention on Human Rights throughout its territory, and therefore also in Chechnya.
46. Russia has maintained dialogue with the Council of Europe since the beginning of the conflict, responding to the Council’s concern about honouring its commitments. Russian Deputies helped formulate and adopt Resolution 1201 (1999), and the Russian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Avdeyev, has spoken to the Standing Committee and answered parliamentarians’ questions. The Presidents of both Chambers of the Russian Parliament have answered the letters from the President of the Parliamentary Assembly asking to be kept informed of any practical measures adopted in response to the requests set out in Resolution 1201 (1999). This explains the Russian position.
47. Minister Ivanov has replied in detail to the request by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer, for explanations on the human rights situation in Chechnya in the light of Article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the text of this reply is reproduced in Doc. 8613).
48. Russia has agreed the visits by Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, European Commissioner on Human Rights, from late November to early December 1999, by Minister Andrews, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, in January 2000 and by the Parliamentary Assembly delegation.
49. During his meeting with the Parliamentary Assembly delegation, President Putin welcomed the proposal of a Council of Europe presence in the Northern Caucasus. He did not think that security problems should stand in the way of such a presence, which would enable the organisation to observe for itself the realities in situ, listen to the local population and consider together with the authorities, appropriate measures to achieve a solution. A presence might be based in Ingushetia, or even Chechnya. President Aushev indicated to the delegation his readiness to see such a presence in Ingushetia, if so decided at the Federal level.
50. As a human rights organisation the Council of Europe should urgently take the initiative in establishing this presence in co-operation with the Russian authorities. Obviously, this should be co-ordinated with the activities of the other international organisations. Such a presence would also facilitate the work of the non-governmental humanitarian organisations.
51. Various parts of my report have stressed legitimate concerns about respect for human rights in Chechnya. This is why I have set out a series of recommendations to Russia in the text to be adopted. I believe that we must underscore the seriousness of these recommendations and safeguard the Council of Europe’s credibility by instructing the respective Assembly committees to monitor compliance with the recommendations.
52. This monitoring process should involve a further visit by representatives of these committees to the Russian Federation before the April 2000 part-session. The results of this visit will help to determine whether or not the Assembly in April needs to return to the situation in Chechnya and the honouring of commitments by Russia. In the event of non-compliance with the recommendations the Assembly would inevitably have to reconsider Russia’s continued participation in the work of the Assembly and the Council of Europe in general.
53. At the same time I consider that the Council of Europe should also reconsider all its programmes and activities in and with Russia in order to ascertain the extent to which they should be modified, complemented or extended to help settle the conflict. Such a review should be conducted in close co-operation with the Russian authorities.
54. The Council of Europe’s main task is to defend human rights. This is the reason for widespread concern about the conflict in Chechnya. I consider that the use of force can of itself provide no lasting settlement to the conflict, that it will inevitably involve infringements of human rights and humanitarian law, and that political measures, including a cease-fire, should rapidly be implemented. Political discussions on the future of the Republic of Chechnya are an immediate priority.
55. Consequently, Russia should make full use of its capacity as a member of the Council of Europe and accept the co-operation, advice, aid and assistance of its fellow members. Such co-operation must obviously be undertaken with full respect for the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.
56. In this connection I welcome the statement by President Putin that Russia is prepared to co-operate with the Council of Europe and is prioritising such co-operation. I hope that compliance with the recommendations set out in this report will provide the incontrovertible evidence that Russia is determined to continue as a full member of the Council of Europe both in letter and in spirit.
Reporting committee : Political Affairs Committee
Reference to committee : Reference No. 2470 of 24.01.2000 (demande de débat d’urgence)
Budetary implications for the Assembly: none
Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 25 January 2000
Members of the committee : Mr. Davis (Chairman), Mrs Ojuland (Vice-Chairperson), Mr Toshev (Vice-Chairman) MM Arzilli, Atkinson, Bársony (Alternate : Mr Eörsi), Behrendt, Bergqvist, Björck, Blaauw, Bühler (Alternate : Mr Hornues), Clerfayt, Daly, Demetriou, Derycke, Dokle, Domljan, Dreyfus-Schmidt, Mrs Durrieu, MM Frey, Gjellerod, Glesener, Gligoroski, Glotov, Gross, Gül, Iwinski, Mrs Kautto, MM Kirilov, Krzaklewski, Kuzmickas, Lopez Henares, Lupu, Maginas, Medeiros Ferreira, Meier, Micheloyiannis, Mota Amaral, Mutman, Nedelciuc, Mrs Nemkova, MM Neuwirth, Oliynyk, Pahor, Palmitjavila Ribo, Prusak, de Puig, Mrs Ragnarsdottir, MM Saakashvili, Schieder, Schlotten, Selva (Alternate : Mr Evangelisti), Mrs Serafini, Mr Sinka, Mrs Smith, Mr Spindelegger, M Stanoiu, Mrs Stepová, MM Surjan, Thoresen, Timmermans, Vella, Volcic, Weiss, Zhebrovsky, N…….. (Alternate: M. Manchulenko).
N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics
Secretaries of the committee : Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Sich, Mrs Hügel-Maffucci
Initiatives taken by the Council of Europe
4 November 1999 Acting in the name of the Parliamentary Assembly the Standing Committee adopts Resolution 1201 (1999)1
From 29 November Visit by the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr
to 3 December 1999 Alvaro Gil- Robles, to Moscow, North of Chechnya, Ingushetia and to Dagestan
30 November 1999 Letter of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lord Russell-Johnston to the President of the Federation Council and the President of the Federal Assembly of the State Duma2 asking them to inform him of the concrete measures taken following the requests mentionned in Resolution 1201 (1999)
7 December 1999 Response of the President of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Mr Guennady Seleznev, to the Letter of the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly3
7 December 1999 Response of the President of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Mr Yegor Stroyev, to the Letter of the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly4
8 December 1999 Joint statement on Chechnya by Mrs Mary Robinson, Mr Walter Schwimmer and Mr Max van der Stoel5
10 December 1999 The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer, meets the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Vladimir Rouchailo
13 December 1999 The Bureau adopted a declaration6 in which it condemns the continued use of force affecting the civilian population in Chechnya and demanded that it be stopped immediately
15 December 1999 Letter of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer, to Mr Igor Ivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation7, asking him to provide an explanation of the human rights situation in Chechnya under the terms of article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights
16 December 1999 The Political Affairs Committee decided to ask the Bureau of the Assembly to hold an urgent procedure debate on the conflict in Chechnya in January 2000. Lord Judd (United Kingdom, SOC) is appointed Rapporteur.
10 January 2000 The Bureau of the Assembly decided to recommend to the Assembly to hold the urgent procedure debate and authorised a visit of a Parliamentary Assembly delegation to the Russian Federation.
14 January 2000 Irish Foreign Minister, Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe David Andrews, visited Moscow and urged Moscow to halt its four-month-old military campaign during talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
16-20 January 2000 Visit of a Parliamentary Assembly delegation, led by the President of the Assembly, to Moscow, including meetings with Russia’s acting President Vladimir Putin, the Speaker of the State Duma, Mr Seleznev, the Chairman of the Council of the Federation, Mr Stroyev and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ivanov.
The delegation also visited North Caucasus, including Russian-controlled part of Chechnya and neighbouring Republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia.
A report prepared on the basis of this visit will be presentend to the Assembly on 27 January 2000 by Lord Judd, Rapporteur.
Draft programme of the visit to Moscow and the North Caucasus
(Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia)
on 16-20 January 2000
Sunday 16 January 2000
6.00 pm Meetings with NGOs
7.30-9.00 pm Meetings with international organisations
9.00 pm Informal dinner with the Irish Ambassador in Moscow, Mr David Donoghue
Monday 17 January 2000
9.30 am Meeting with Duma Speaker Guennadi Seleznev
10.45 am Meeting with Speaker of the Federation Council Yegor Stroev
12.00 noon Meeting with the Acting President of Russia V.V. Putin
1.00 pm Informal lunch hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs I.S. Ivanov
5.30 pm Press conference
Tuesday 18 January 2000
11.00-11.15 Arrival at Mahachkala, Dagestan
12.00-13.00 Departure for the Botlih region
14.30-17.00 Meeting with witnesses of the hostilities in the Botlih region
17.00 Flight back to Mahachkala
18.00-20.00 Meeting with the leadership of Dagestan, including President of Dagestan, Mr Magomadov
Wednesday 19 January 2000
Visit the Chechen Republic
8.30-10.20 Helicopter flight to Gudermes
10.20-12.00 - Meeting with Mr N. Koshman, Representative plenipotentiary of the government of the Russian Federation
- Visit to a school
12.00-13.00 Flight to the village of Tolstoy Yurt
13.00-15.00 - Tolstoy Yurt, visit of the temporary Office of the Ministry of Interior
- Visit to a school
15.00 Departure for the Magas Airport (Ingushetia)
Visit to Ingushetia
16.00 Arrival in Magas
16.30-17.30 Visit to a camp for forced migrants from the Chechen Republic
18.00-19.00 Meeting with President of Ingushetia, Mr R. Aushev
21.00 Return to Moscow
Thursday 20 January 2000
9.30 Press conference
Ad hoc Committee to visit the Russian Federation
from 16 to 20 January 2000
Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON (President of the Parliamentary Assembly)
MM. HALLER, Bruno (Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly)
AKÇALI, Cevdet (Turkey)
BINDIG, Rudolf (Germany)
FYODOROV, Nikolay (Russia)
GROSS, Andreas (Switzerland)
IWINSKI, Tadeusz (Poland)
Lord JUDD (United Kingdom)
MM. LAAKSO, Jaakko (Finland)
PRUSSAK, Mikhail (Russia)
Mrs OJULAND, Kristiina (Estonia)
Mrs WOHLWEND, Renate (Liechtenstein)
MM. DRONOV, Valdimir, Head of Division
SICH, Petr, co-Secretary, Political Affairs Committee
GRUDEN, Matjaz, Cabinet of the President
Mrs KLEINSORGE, Tanja, co-Secretary, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Mrs BÖRNER, Micaela, Press officer
Chronology of the latest developments in Chechnya
After the break-up of the USSR in 1991, Chechnya declared independence from Russia. Three years later, the first armed conflict between the Russian federal forces and Chechnya started in December 1994 and resulted in over 70.000 casualties. It was brought to an end on 30 August 1996, as General Alexander Lebed and Aslan Maskhadov signed a declaration, which provided that an agreement on the status of Chechnya should be reached by 31 December 2001. In 1997, Chechnya held internationally monitored democratic elections in which Aslan Maskhadov won the presidency.
To date, the Chechen regimes have been nationalistic as well as anti-federal Russian, which forced thousands of russian-oriented persons to flee the country in order to protect themselves from all kinds of discrimination, degradations and physical assaults.
The Chechen regimes seemed to have been unable to control the different armed factions and clans, to reduce criminality, to halt the degradation of public order and of the economic and social situation of the local population.
One of the Chechen field commanders, Shamil Basayev, launched military operations in neighbouring Dagestan. An estimated 1.000-1.200 fighters seized and caused serious damages to several villages and small towns on the Chechen-Dagestani boarder. In responds, Moscow warned it would strike Islamic bases “wherever they are, including Chechnya”.
Russia requested Chechnya’s assistance with the Dagestani insurgency in a letter to the Chechen President. The Chechen leadership replied it refuses to send troops to assist in quelling the rebellion in Dagestan.
Russia brought new troops, weapons and supplies into Dagestan and conducted fourteen airstrikes on rebel positions on 1999. Two days later, the Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov declared a state of emergency and denies involvement in the Dagestan crisis.
Chechnya reported that Russia staged two airstrikes against Chechnya and warned that Russia may be resuming hostilities towards Chechnya. Four days later, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lord Russell-Johnston called the Russian authorities to put an end to indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes which have caused a high number of civilian victims.
The first in a series of bomb explosions in Moscow killed a person in a shopping mall.
Shamil Basayev sweared to continue the “holy war” against Russian forces. While militants invaded Dagestan again, Russia bombed suspected militant bases in Chechnya. Russian warplanes attacked five Chechen villages close to the Dagestan border, killing 45 persons.
The Chechen Security Council met and reported more attacks against villages in Chechnya, though denied by the Russian authorities.
A second bomb exploded in Moscow killing 94 persons. In total, several bomb explosions in Moscow and Vlogodonsk caused 293 deaths in August and September.
The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Chechnya of harbouring militants and terrorists responsible for the recent Moscow bombings. By then, between 20.000 and 30.000 Russian soldiers are positioned around Chechnya’s borders. At the same time, over 15.000 people gathered in Grozny to protest Russian military operations and Chechnya asked the international community to halt Russian aggression.
Moscow launched bombing raids on the Chechen capital for the first time since the end of the Chechen war in August 1996. In the two weeks that follow, Russia intensified its air campaign, hitting oil facilities, communication networks and the airport of Grozny. Federal troops amassed on the Dagestani border with Chechnya and Minster Vladimir Putin promised to destroy all terrorists in Chechnya. Refugees began pouring out of the region. According to the neighbouring Ingushetia’s migration service the number of refugees went up to 60.000-70.000 by the end of September.
At the beginning of October 1999, Russian federal forces entered Chechnya. The official goal of the military operation was to eliminate the terrorists, who are, according to Moscow, responsible for incursions into Dagestan and for the bomb explosions. President Aslan Maskhadov asked the Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to act as negotiator between Russia and Chechnya, but the Russian authorities refused external negotiation.
Russian troops advanced on Grozny from the west, with continued bombing and shelling of localities around the city.
By the end of October, one third of Chechen territory is under control of the federal forces and the anti-terrorist operation has then led to hundreds of deaths and some 180.000 displaced persons. While Chechen officials claimed 50 refugees got killed in a Russian rocket attack on a convoy heading for Ingushetia, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ruled out a compromise with Chechen “terrorists”.
At the beginning of November 1999, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, James Rubin, said Chechens are fleeing to Ingushetia at a rate of 4.000 a day. One week later, the United States accused Russia of violating the Geneva Conventions on the customs of war with attacks in which many civilians were reported killed. Moscow responded that its offensive in Chechnya is an “internal matter” and President Boris Yeltsin sweared to continue operations in Chechnya “as long as a single terrorist remains on our territory”.
During the second half of November 1999, the international criticism on the Russian operations increased. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs Sadako Ogata, went to Ingushetia to visit refugee camps. She held talks with Emergencies’ Minister Sergei Shoigu to defend the situation of the refugees. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated that “Russia has no war aims. There is no war in Chechnya”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, issued a statement saying that Russian actions in Chechnya have brought “serious human rights violations” and called on Moscow to “take immediate measures to protect the civilian population”. Despite, on 25 November, Russia opened the most intense bombing campaign against Grozny to date.
The Chairman-in-office of the OSCE, Mr Knut Vollebaek, met with Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow. Mr Knut Vollebaek offered OSCE mediation in the conflict but his offer was refused. The visit of the OSCE Chairman to Chechnya was postponed.
According to the authorities of Ingushetia over 213.000 Chechens have fled to Ingushetia since the start of the Russian military operation, which is two-third of the total population of Chechnya. Russian forces totally surrounded Grozny according to Russian generals.
From 29 November to 3 December 1999, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, visited the north of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. He reported that the detention centre he had visited in the north of Chechnya was “the worst thing he ever saw in his live”. He met several Russian ministers, who according to the Commissioner “do the maximum to show their willingness to co-operate with the Council of Europe”.
Russia gave the civilians of Grozny an ultimatum: they were to leave the capital of Chechnya before 11 December. Leaflets dropped by Russian warplanes warn that all remaining in Grozny on 11 December will be considered as terrorists and bandits and will be destroyed by artillery and aviation. A safety corridor through the village of Pervomaiskoye will remain open until the end of the ultimatum. The leaflet said that those who leave Grozny would be offered housing, food, medicine and “most importantly, life”. According to Chechen officials, nearly 50.000 persons are still in the capital. Russia denied this figure, saying the city is almost entirely occupied by separatist fighters.
The same day that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Igor Ivanov, confirmed that Russia is negotiating “with representatives of the Chechen society who want a peaceful settlement”. Also, Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles stated that the ultimatum has been “misunderstood”.
Further, Russia has authorised a mission of the OSCE to visit Chechnya, for purely humanitarian aims only, on 14 and 15 December 1999.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Moscow has not attained certain structural economic objectives and that, subsequently, the IMF blocked the credits promised to Russia (the second slice of 640 million dollars). No reference was made to the military operation in Chechnya when pronouncing the decision. However, Moscow said that the IMF had taken a “political decision”, which “casts doubt on the non-political status of the organisation”.
A joint statement on Chechnya was made by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Mary Robinson, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer and OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Mr Max van der Stoel on 8 December 1999. They expressed their concern for the civilians in Grozny and emphasised the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights and humanitarian law.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Igor Ivanov declared that the Chinese President Jiang Zemin “totally supports” the intervention of the Russian army against Chechnya.
During the Helsinki Summit, the European Union made a text in which it condemned the bombing of Chechnya and threatened to revise trade and funding ties with Russia unless Moscow stopped bombing Chechen towns and revoked its ultimatum.
Russia backed away from threats to launch an all-out assault on the capital of Chechnya, but continued to warn civilians to flee. The estimates of the number of civilians left in Grozny vary. The Russian military officials put the number at 12.000, the officials of Ingushetia at 25.000 and the Chechen officials at 40.000.
The Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, Mr Knut Vollebaek, went to Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, where he met Mr Magomedali Magomedov, the president of this Russian republic in the North Caucasus, and insisted on the need to establish a cease-fire as soon as possible.
Russian troops entered Chali, the last unoccupied major town along with the capital, Grozny.
The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, proposed to grant Chechnya “a degree of autonomy (…) in accordance with the Russian constitution” after the war.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer, requested8 the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs to provide an explanation of the human rights situation in Chechnya under the terms of Article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that “On receipt of a request from the Secretary General of the Council of Europe any High Contracting Party shall furnish an explanation of the manner in which its internal law ensures the effective implementation of any of the provisions of this Convention”.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it most strongly condemned continued Russian military action against the civilian population in Chechnya. The Members of the European Parliament considered that the war in Chechnya gravely compromised democracy and the rule of law in Russia and was already having a huge influence on the State Duma election campaign.
NATO condemned Russia for the threats it held over “unarmed civilians” in Chechnya, though made no mention of sanctions against Moscow.
17 December 1999
The European Union granted emergency aid of 1 million euros for the civilian population in Chechnya.
Russian forces took another district of Grozny, Tchernoretchié, and there was fighting between Russians and Chechens in the north, south and east of the capital, while Grozny and the mountain areas to the south of the self-proclaimed independent republic continued to be bombarded.
Boris Yeltsin resigned as President of the Russian Federation. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was appointed acting president.
Russian and Chechen forces accused each other of using chemical or prohibited weapons during the fighting in Grozny and the bombing of southern Chechnya.
The Russians declared a cease-fire over Christmas and during Ramadan.
The Russian army launched a new land offensive to take control of the centre of the Chechen capital where the last remaining fighters were still defending their city.
Chechen fighters launched a vast counterattack in the northern suburbs of Grozny and took back part of the Khankala district. Moscow rejected an offer by the president of the secessionist republic, Aslan Maskhadov, for a three-day cease-fire starting on Saturday 8th, which is, according to the latter, justified by the need to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Russians on 29 December 1999.
The Russian forces took control of the railway station of Grozny, in the centre of the besieged capital, causing 80 deaths on the Russian side and 100 on the Chechen side, according to Moscow. Since the beginning of the Russian land intervention in Chechnya the official assessment is nearing 500 deaths. According to the experts this figure is played down.
The former Chairman of the OSCE, Mr Knut Vollebaek, exhorted the international community, to exert pressure on Russia to stop its offensive on Chechnya.
Between 10.000 and 40.000 civilians remained trapped in cellars in Grozny.
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov reiterated calls for a political dialogue with Russia before the situation in the rebel region goes totally out of control.
In Washington, a “working level” State Department official met Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government. Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov declared that holding these talks with a senior Chechen official risks to encourage “terrorists and separatists”.
Afghanistan’s ruling Taleban Islamic movement recognised the Chechen Republic.
1 Resolution 1201 (1999) is to be found in appendix 6
2 See appendix 7
3 See appendix 8
4 See appendix 9
5 See appendix 10
6 The Bureau’s declaration is to be found in appendix 11 as well as the letter of transmission to the Committee of Ministers.
7 See appendix 5
8 The letter from the Secretary General to the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs is presented in appendix 5.