Opinion1

Doc. 9329 – 21 January 2002

Conflict in the Chechen Republic

(Rapporteur: Mr BINDIG, Germany, Socialist Group)

I.        Conclusions of the committee

      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights can only conclude that no tangible improvement of the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic could be observed during the past year. In view of the on-going serious human rights violations in the Republic, many of them perpetrated by members of the Russian federal forces during “mop-up operations”, and the clear lack of progress in investigating past and present crimes, and prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators, creating a climate of impunity, the Committee finds that peace, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in the Chechen Republic were not restored last year.

II.       Amendments to be tabled on behalf of the committee

A. To the draft resolution:

Amendment A:

In paragraph 6, third sentence, add after “the appropriate Russian” the following words:

      “and Chechen”.Am

Amendment B:

Replace, at the end of paragraph 12, the words “who give up their arms and who have not been charged or sentenced for having committed terrorist acts” with the following words:

Amendment C:

After paragraph 13, add the following new paragraph:

Amendment D:

Replace paragraph 15 with the following paragraph:

Amendment E:

Replace, at the end of paragraph 16, the words “especially the allegations concerning mass killings” with the following text:

      “especially into:•

Amendment F:

Add, after paragraph 16, the following new paragraph:

Amendment G:

Add, after paragraph 16, the following new paragraph:

Amendment H:

Replace paragraph 21 with the following paragraph:

      “The Assembly concludes that the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic remains dismal, and that peace, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in the Chechen Republic were not restored last year.”Am

Amendment I:

Replace the first sentence of paragraph 22 with the following sentence:

Amendment J:

In paragraph 22, last sentence, delete “while success cannot soon be guaranteed”.

Amendment K:

In paragraph 26, insert in the first sentence after “must remain present in the”:

      “Chechen Republic, and the”.Am

Amendment L:

In paragraph 26, replace “it believes that while the work for human rights will remain essential, it is necessary to extend the scope of the activities of the Council of Europe to the strengthening of the protection of democratic stability, the rule of law and the protection of human rights in the North Caucasus” with the following:

      “it believes that the work for human rights in the Chechen Republic will remain essential, but that the scope of the activities of the Council of Europe could also be extended to the strengthening of the protection of democratic stability, the rule of law and the protection of human rights in the North Caucasus”.B.

B. To the draft recommendation:

Amendment M:

Add, following the words “The Parliamentary Assembly refers to”, the following text:

      “its Resolution 1240 (2001), Recommendation 1498 (2001), and”.Am

Amendment N:

Insert in paragraph 1, after “long term Council of Europe presence” the following:

      “in the Chechen Republic and an”.Am

Amendment O:

Insert a new paragraph 2, worded as follows:

Amendment P:

Insert, at the end of the draft recommendation, the following new paragraph:

Amendment Q:

Insert, at the end of the draft recommendation, the following new paragraph:

      “urge the Russian authorities to continue to co-operate with all Council of Europe bodies, including the CPT, and to authorise without further delay the publication of those reports of the CPT on its visits to the North Caucasus region that are currently classified”.II

III.       Explanatory memorandum

      by Mr Bindig, Rapporteur

1.        One year ago, in January 2001, the Assembly adopted its last resolution and recommendation on the conflict in Chechnya. Following seven meetings of the Joint Working Group between the Assembly and the Russian State Duma, two consultations with Russian and Chechen representatives in Strasbourg, one information debate in the Assembly, two visits to Russia and one to Chechnya during the course of the year 2001, the Political Affairs Committee judged the time ripe for a renewed in-depth discussion on the situation in Chechnya on the Assembly floor. I could not agree more wholeheartedly.

2.       The meetings of the Joint Working Group were regularly attended by the members of this Committee, and the human rights situation was thus discussed at each meeting. It must be noted that the Russian members of the Joint Working Group showed more interest in and commitment to trying to help find a political solution to the conflict, than to improving the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic. However, it is my firm conviction – and, I think, Lord Judd’s, too – that these issues are linked: In fact, there can be no political solution without respect for human rights, and vice versa.

3.        The human rights situation thus deserves to be given centre-stage once more. Unfortunately, judging from all reports and my own observations on the ground, the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic has not changed much, at least not to the better, since January 2001. What has changed is the international environment following the terrorist attacks in the United States of America on 11 September 2001. Some governments – including the Russian authorities – have taken this opportunity to re-evaluate the balance between the need for respect of human rights, on the one side, and the need to fight terrorism, on the other; to the detriment of the respect of human rights. Our Committee has also already made clear in Mr Hunault’s report on the fight against terrorism and respect for human rights that terrorism cannot be fought at the expense of human rights. This applies all over the world. And I think it also needs to be made clear, although this may be an unpopular point of view at this moment in time, that the situation in Chechnya is not, and was never, comparable to the situation in Afghanistan.

4.        In its Resolution 1240 (2001) and Recommendation 1498 (2001) last January, the Assembly regretted that:

In consequence, the Assembly expressed its concern lest a combination of ill-disciplined troops and the apparent failure to vigorously pursue alleged crimes committed by federal servicemen against the civilian population had generated a climate of impunity, resulting in further human rights violations. The Assembly demanded that this be immediately remedied, and recommended that Committee of Ministers monitor these issues. The Assembly also asked to be provided with a detailed list and the current status of all criminal investigations by military and civilian prosecutors into crimes against the civilian population committed by servicemen and members of special police forces in the Chechen Republic before the April 2001 part-session.

5.        Such a list was presented to the Joint Working Group on Chechnya by the Russian authorities in April 2001. However, an analysis of the list revealed that most of the most sensitive cases (killings, torture, disappearances, such as those mentioned in the Assembly’s resolutions) were not included in it. In addition, many investigations were being transferred from one prosecutor’s office to the other (military to civilian and vice versa), with no tangible results. Few cases made it to trial; most were suspended, transferred, or dismissed. Updates to the list were provided only on a piece-meal basis; often the information given by different authorities was contradictory.

6.        According to the latest information provided to me following the JWG’s visit to Chechnya in December 2001, only 102 cases were opened by the Prosecutor’s office between May and December 2001; of them, the majority were dismissed or transferred. Only 17 of the cases led to court proceedings, of which a single one ended in a conviction. Military courts had convicted 18 servicemen all in all for crimes against civilians. High profile cases, like the mass killings mentioned in the Assembly’s resolutions, the disappearance of Mr Alikhodziyev, or the mass grave (containing 51 bodies) discovered on the outskirts of Grozny in February 2001, were not amongst the cases solved.

7.        The figures provided by the Russian authorities on the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by federal servicemen against civilians pale in comparison to the hundreds of complaints of serious human rights violations which NGOs such as Memorial receive after each and every new mop-up operation, regardless of which federal forces carried them out (army, militia, or FSB). Several mop-up operations sparked criticism and promises of investigations even by military commanders (such as those in Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya in July 2001, or in Argun and Tsotsin-Yurt in December 2001/January 2002). As a result of some of the allegations raised in connection with the former cases, the Prosecutor General issued a decree (Order no. 46 of 25 July 2001), in accordance with which mop-up operations require the presence of a prosecutor. This decree seems now to be applied in the Chechen Republic, but has failed to stop human rights abuses to be perpetrated during these operations. The representatives of the prosecutor’s office seem to be unwilling or unable to prevent them happening, let alone to investigate them in due form afterwards and bring those responsible to justice.

8.        Indeed, the reports coming out of Chechnya have not changed much since January 2001: convincing reports indicate the continuation of abuses and harassment on a daily basis (although to a lesser degree at checkpoints), and of unexplained disappearances, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, ill-treatment and homicides.

9.        Chechen fighters carried out a wave of assassinations of local civil servants and religious leaders, targeted for their co-operation with the Chechen Administration or the Russian government. In 2001, according to NGOs, those murdered included at least 18 leaders of district and town administrations, at least 5 religious leaders, and numerous Chechen police officers, teachers, and lower-ranking civil servants. Sometimes, even family members were targeted by association. These despicable acts need to be investigated as urgently and as thoroughly as those perpetrated by members of the Russian federal forces, and those responsible brought to justice.

10.        In conclusion, I can but regret that there has been no tangible progress in the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic during the whole of the past year. I have heard so many convincing reports of on-going serious human rights violations in the Republic; I have myself been confronted with the evidence of the clear lack of progress in investigating past and present crimes, and prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators. I witnessed with my own eyes in December 2001 the resulting climate of impunity in Chechnya, and the continuation of hatred and war on all sides. I believe that any peace process is doomed to failure if the human rights situation is not radically improved without further delay. Peace, the rule of law, and respect for human rights were not restored in the Chechen Republic last year. The onus is on the Russian Federation, as the State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure its implementation in the Chechen Republic and change last year’s dismal record.

Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee

Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Reference No 2470 (Request of urgent procedure of 24.1.00), Res 1201 (1999), Rec 1444, Doc 8631, Rec 1456 (2000), Res 1227 (2000), Rec 1478 (2000), Res 1240 (2001), Rec 1498 (2001)

Opinion approved by the committee on 21 January 2002

Secretaries to the committee Ms Coin, Ms Kleinsorge, Mr Ćupina


1 . See Doc 9319.