Doc. 8634

26 January 2000

Credentials of the delegation of the Russian Federation

Opinion1

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur: Mr György Frunda, Romania, Group of the European People's Party

I.       Conclusions of the committee

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights concludes that:

1.       The credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation were challenged on 24 January 2000 by Mr van der Linden and others, in conformity with Rule 8.1.a. of the Rules of Procedure.

2.       The credentials were challenged on substantial grounds, in accordance with Rule 8.2.a. of the Rules of Procedure, alleging a “serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of, and the Preamble to, the Statute” in connection with the conflict in Chechnya.

3.       The conflict in Chechnya is the subject of a separate report2, prepared by the Political Affairs Committee, and of an opinion3, prepared by this committee. The conclusions of the present opinion should not be in contradiction to the conclusions reached in this committee’s opinion on the conflict in Chechnya.

4.       The committee has established that, as a result of the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in the course of Russia’s military intervention in Chechnya – which, because of its scale, cannot be justified in terms of a pure anti-terrorist operation – innocent non-combatants in Chechnya are suffering most serious violations of such fundamental human rights as the right to life, the right to liberty and security. Russia is thus committing a serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of the Statute.

5.       The Assembly has a duty to defend the organisation’s principles and standards, and must react when they are violated in a serious manner, as is the case now in Chechnya. On the other hand, the Assembly should preserve its links with the Russian parliamentary delegation, and engage its members in a constructive dialogue.

6.        The committee therefore recommends that the credentials of the delegation of the Russian Federation be ratified, but that the members of the delegation be deprived of their voting rights in the Assembly and its bodies – in accordance with Rule 8.5.c. of the Rules of Procedure - until the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of the Statute are no longer violated by the Russian authorities in Chechnya.

7.       The committee accordingly proposes the following amendment to the draft report submitted by the Political Affairs Committee:

In paragraph 11, add at the end of sub-paragraph a. the following words:

“but deprive the members of the Russian delegation of their voting rights in the Assembly and its bodies until the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of the Statute are no longer violated by the Russian authorities in Chechnya ”.

II. Explanatory memorandum

1.       Russia, as a member state of the Council of Europe, is obliged to respect the organisation’s statute, Article 3 of which reads: “Every Member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms […].”. A definition of the Council of Europe’s understanding of human rights and fundamental freedoms can be found in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols, most of which Russia has ratified.

2.       These texts, inter alia, guarantee the right to life, the right to liberty and security, protect private property and prohibit torture and inhuman and degrading punishment and treatment to all persons within the jurisdiction of a State party, i.e. also to the persons currently in Chechnya (as a part of the Russian Federation).

3.       As documented in the committee’s opinion on the conflict in Chechnya, many of these fundamental human rights are being violated as a direct result of Russia’s military operation in Chechnya. Russia’s intervention has so far produced hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian casualties, and has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee the conflict zone. Many towns and villages in Chechnya suffered (and some still suffer) aerial bombardments and long-range artillery shelling; their peaceful inhabitants have become the victims of Russia’s indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force.

4.       In addition, many incidents of harassment by Federal forces, especially by Ministry of the Interior troops, have been documented. Bribe-taking and extortion is described as wide-spread, looting as systematic. Isolated incidents of arson, rape and murder have also been alleged.

5.       In these circumstances, the Assembly must give a clear sign of its disapproval and disappointment. It cannot limit itself to condemning the Russian military intervention. The Assembly has a duty to defend the organisation’s principles and standards, and must react when they are violated in a serious manner, as is the case now in Chechnya.

6.       On the other hand, the Assembly should preserve its links with the Russian parliamentary delegation, and engage its members in a constructive dialogue with the aim of promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict in Chechnya. Non-ratification of the credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation is therefore not an option.

7.       I would thus recommend that the Assembly, in accordance with Rule 8.5.c. of the new Rules of Procedure, ratify the credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation, but withdraw their voting rights in the Assembly and its bodies until the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of the Statute are no longer violated by the Russian authorities in Chechnya.

*

* *

Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee

Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Reference No 2469 of 24 January 2000

Opinion approved by the committee on 26 January 2000

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Plate, Ms Coin and Ms Kleinsorge


1 See Doc 8633.

2 See Doc 8630.

3

See Doc 8631.